2008 Eagles Training Camp Battles

2008 Eagles Training Camp Battles

Resident Eagles expert Kulp has broken down some of the key training camp battles to keep an eye on starting next week. Enjoy.

It’s July, and that means football season is right around the corner.
Soon enough, Andy Reid will be forced to break the hearts of 26 young
men and Jerome McDougle, and he’ll do it after they’ve spent about
three grueling weeks living in the dorms of a small university in
Bethlehem, PA. I’d still rather be training camp retread Michael
Gasperson than the poor saps that visit Eagles Training Camp like it’s
really something to see.

There
are always some roster spots to be won and starting jobs to be lost, so
I’ve highlighted three of the more high profile competitions, and six
more for some filler.

WIDE RECEIVER
Greg Lewis v. Hank Baskett

Can
G-Lew beat the odds and make it to his sixth season wearing midnight
green? Will Hank Baskett become a dangerous red zone threat? Ha ha, no.
You were probably expecting DeSean Jackson here, but he instantly
becomes the primary slot receiver if he can only pull his head out of
his ass. The real question with this set of receivers is who sticks on
the upgraded punt coverage unit. Jason Avant is almost a lock as he
moonlights in a possession receiver role, which means one of Philly's
least favorite sons is about to go. In a minor upset, I say they are
both out in favor of Bam Childress.

RUNNING BACK

Correll Buckhalter v. Tony Hunt

I
initially thought the addition of Lorenzo Booker meant the end for
Buck. Now I'm not sure it isn’t young Tony Hunt getting shown the door.
Last season, he underwhelmed the coaching staff to the point where he
was banished from the field on gamedays. Maybe it was his
look-the-other-way method of blitz pickup. On the other hand, Buck has
managed to stay healthy the past two seasons, and he's been fairly
effective with limited touches. His versatility (FB, KR) probably earns
him a roster spot as a situational running back. The Eagles have never
seemed interested in using a short-yardage back, but they may keep Hunt
if they carry four backs.

FULLBACK

Jason Davis v. Luke Lawton

Madden
players will likely stick to one-back sets the first few weeks after
the game ships, because Dan Klecko will be the only fullback on the
roster (rating: 66!). This battle became a lot less interesting after
the converted D-tackle was taken out of the running, but the Eagles
appear desperate to replace Davis. They actually traded to acquire
Lawton, a subtle nod that he’s probably their guy. I hear his other
skills include long snapping, so Jon Dorenbos better watch his back too.

STRONG SAFETY

Sean Considine v. Quintin Mikell

This
news might make some people sick to the stomach, but Sean Considine is
going to get one more shot at this, simply because there is always some
excuse for his poor tackling. First, he wasn’t able to lift weights
after shoulder surgery. Last season, it was because the shoulder never
healed properly. Hopefully special teams captain Quintin Mikell gets a
fair chance to win the job, otherwise Considine can look forward to
being the Carlos Ruiz of the Eagles defense when he really should be
looking for work.

TIGHT END

Matt Schobel v. Brent Celek v. Kris Wilson

Matt
Schobel is another guy I assumed couldn't make the team, but he's going
to Lehigh anyway. Here's an interesting statistic: Schobel's reception
totals have declined every season since his rookie year in 2002, this
despite the fact that he started six games in 2007, and according to
Pro Football Prospectus, the Eagles throw from the two tight end set
more than any other team. Unless there is a team REALLY desperate for a
tight end (looking at you, Buffalo), that trend should culminate in
2008 when he finally catches zero passes, ending six years of futility.
Now Kris Wilson attempts to live his dreams of playing tight end in the
NFL, something he didn't quite get to do with the Chiefs. Not to worry,
because if you don't beat Brent Celek, we're still looking for a
fullback.

DEFENSIVE END

Darren Howard v. the field

It's
not always easy to spot a defensive end who has outlasted his
usefulness, but one indication is when the player comes up with more
pass deflections than sacks. That was exactly the case for Howard last
season, and he returns slimmed down and ready to attempt another go
with the Eagles. He actually should have considered gaining weight and
trying to make the team as a defensive tackle, because it would be much
easier beating out Kimo von Oelhoffen for a roster spot than the
combination of Chris Clemons, Juqua ???, and rookie Bryan Smith. The
Eagles wish him luck in his future endeavors.

LEFT GUARD

Todd Herremans v. Max Jean-Gilles

Andy
Reid would love it if Max Jean-Gilles could win the starting job over
Todd Herremans because it would add another 50 pounds of raw power to
the already mammoth O-line. MJG is absolutely enormous and he run
blocks like there is a buffet table in the end zone. Herremans is the
better pass blocker, though you probably can't tell at times. We all
know Andy thinks the fastest way to the buffet table is through the
air, so the coach's affinity for the passing game indicates this is
Herremans' job to lose. That being said, MJG is talented enough to take
over right now if he cuts out a few extra servings at dinner.

RIGHT CORNERBACK

Sheldon Brown v. Lito Sheppard

We
get it, Lito. You're pissed off because you want to be a starter and
receive the financial recognition that comes with it. Sometimes you
need to just go out and take what’s yours. The $57 million dollar man
obviously won't be riding the pine, but right corner is up for grabs.
How else will you feed your family, Lito? To survive, you need to show
up and compete for playing time. Sheldon Brown is a respectable challenge,
but if you expect to see those big time bonuses next summer, you need
to put him in his place: the nickelback.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”