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Camp's Questions To Ponder

Posted Jul 8, 2013

Back from vacation. Had a lot of time to think. A fascinating season is ahead of us all, and I look forward to sharing the journey. I won't predict the future, but there are questions to consider ...

We're still a couple of weeks away from the rookies reporting to the NovaCare Complex for training camp, but that doesn't stop the speculating. Who will be the rookie to make an immediate impact? What will the depth chart look like? Who are the players who will lead the Eagles back to the top of the NFC East?

Questions, questions. Here are some from this perspective ...

WHO WINS THE QUARTERBACK JOB?

I've been asked this question dozens of times, if not more, in the last couple of weeks. And the answer I also give is this: Whoever wins the job this summer.

I don't know that there is a leader in the clubhouse right now. I don't think head coach Chip Kelly has a favorite. I think he wants to see how his quarterback crop reacts when the pads go on and the practices are more game-realistic and when there is another team on the other side of the ball during the preseason games.

In other words, Kelly speaks the truth when he says it is an open competition.

The quarterback competition will be the focal point of training camp and of the preseason for many fans and the media, of course. It's going to be beyond interesting to watch Michael Vick and Nick Foles and Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne get their reps and move the offense. The truth is this: May the best man win. As Kelly says, decisions like these usually play themselves out on the field over the course of time. Time starts ticking when training camp opens.

WHICH ROOKIES WILL STEP RIGHT IN AND CONTRIBUTE?

No. 1 draft pick Lane Johnson ended the spring mini-camp taking reps with the starters at right tackle, so it's fair to expect him to have a long look there in late July and August. Beyond that, who really knows? The rookies have a few days of practice prior to when the veterans arrive for training camp to become re-acclimated to the ways here, and then the battles really begin.

Whether or not other rookies start, the Eagles could get some immediate contributions from the draft class. Up and down the line, the Eagles like this group a lot, and they are excited to see the players in pads and with the tempo higher and tackling permitted.

The rookie class came through with impressive performances on and off the field in the spring. It's a different game with training camp and the preseason, and it will not surprise anyone if a handful from a highly rated draft class moves up the depth chart early in the preseason.

HOW FAR AWAY IS THE DEFENSE FROM COMING TOGETHER?

The Eagles have been vague about whether they are playing a 3-4 front or a 4-3 base, and we're likely to analyze this on a game-by-game basis. More important is how defensive coordinator Bill Davis deploys his personnel and how the players form chemistry. Trent Cole is facing a new perspective as he moves around the defense and, at times, lines up in space. Mychal Kendricks was a SAM linebacker a year ago and now he's moving inside. The entire secondary has new faces. Connor Barwin is here to be a playmaker at linebacker. Second-year man Fletcher Cox will be asked to do different things than he did a year ago.

LB Connor Barwin

You get the idea. There are a lot of moving pieces here. Davis has introduced much of his scheme to his roster, but there is a lot of work to be done, and once the hitting is live, Davis is apt to learn from scratch -- I'm stretching it a bit here, OK -- what his players are capable of doing in the system.

On paper it would appear that the defense has a lot more ground to cover, what with the new faces and the new scheme. But games are played on the field, not on paper, and Davis was very pleased in the spring with how his players responded to the early lessons in the classroom and on the field.

WHAT IS THE OFFENSE'S PERSONALITY?

Kelly says he has an "equal-opportunity" philosophy, and he wants the Eagles to be dangerous in every way when they have the football. It sure appears the Eagles are loaded at running back with LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and Felix Jones leading the way, so does that mean the run/pass ratio will skew more toward the former than the latter in the season ahead? Are the Eagles going to be more run-dominant in their personality?

Or maybe the influence of all of these athletic tight ends will move the needle for the offensive balance? Possibly?

It was hard to get a firm grip on what Kelly's intentions are when the spring practices were open to the media. He has a lot of players in and out of picture and he has a wide array of options in his playbook.

Again, this is a wait-and-see-how-it-develops deal. So much of this team is unknown, and that's a lot of what makes training camp and the preseason so pressing to watch.

DID FREE AGENCY ADD ENOUGH TO THE ROSTER?

As active and aggressive as the Eagles were in free agency and through trades, the team did not take a lot of risks and throw money around needlessly. The decisions made were sound and purposeful, but they did not put the Eagles into any challenges moving forward with the salary cap.

Of course, some strong play from short-term contracted players like Kenny PhillipsDonnie Jones and Felix Jones could mean some difficult decisions down the road for the team, but that's a good thing. The Eagles would love those veterans, and others, to step up and play as elite performers. That only helps the team win football games.

This is a massive transition, in every way. The Eagles are moving forward with great confidence and teamwork, and also with a lot of questions that only time -- and play on the field -- will answer.

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