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Day 1: Rookies, Selected Vets In

Posted Jul 22, 2013

If the NFL season is a ladder, welcome to the first rung. Rookies and selected veterans report today to the NovaCare Complex, the first of many steps to come as the 2013 Eagles season begins ...

Reporting day is, in and of itself, a routine matter. It's check-in day, an opportunity to settle down, and focus on the task at hand, which is simply this: Bring it every day in Training Camp and make the 53-man roster.

We are here, finally. The Chip Kelly Era takes steps into new territory as the Eagles begin camp today with report day at the NovaCare Complex. Thirty players are due in, including five quarterbacks. The rest are rookies and a select veteran or two coming off an injury. Today's check in and position meetings are followed by two days of practices that will last an hour or so and will serve to refresh what was taught in the spring Organized Team Activities and minicamps.

All of those questions you have, and there are many, start forming answers today.

In the big picture, yeah, every single decision and every player is under intense scrutiny. For the next few days, however, the scope is more limited. Here is what to look for in the rookie/selected portion of camp ...

LANE JOHNSON: HOW FAR ALONG IS HE?

The team's No. 1 draft pick is good to go after agreeing to terms on a four-year contract on Saturday night, and that's great news. Now Johnson can focus on football and on helping the Eagles this season. He's a high draft pick, and he's mature enough to understand the situation. The Eagles plan to have some competition for the right tackle job as Johnson battles second-year man Dennis Kelly, who showed some promise as a rookie. Johnson isn't walking in as the starter.

The last several weeks has at least given Johnson a bit of a break since the hectic pre-draft and post-draft period. Johnson had a chance to catch his breath, work out and build some strength and conditioning and prepare himself mentally for the challenge of his first camp and first NFL season.

QB Matt Barkley

The first real test for Johnson comes when the veterans report, the pads go on and the team has one-on-one drills and live segments in practice. This week provides a primer for Johnson's weeks ahead.

QUARTERBACKS KNOCK OFF THE RUST

All five of the quarterbacks are going to take part in camp from the very first repetition, giving them a chance to get into their rhythms before the veterans report. Who is the leader in the quarterback derby? The group is matched very closely now and Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley are gaining all of the attention. Dennis Dixon is going to get a lot of reps. G.J. Kinne will have a chance to impress.

Most in the media and in the fan base believe that either Vick or Foles will be the starter when the regular season begins, and we shall see if that is the way the race unfolds. Kelly honestly is holding an open competition. May the best man win.

These next few days are important for the quarterbacks to go over the X's and O's from the previous practices and to loosen up the arms and work on some mechanics in a less-hectic environment.

A LOOK AT JAMES CASEY, MAN OF MYSTERY

Much has been said about the role James Casey will play in the offense, primarily one that involves moving around the formation and creating favorable matchups. Casey was a player the Eagles targeted in free agency and they went out and made him a Day 1 signing.

Casey runs very well, catches the ball well and has the athletic ability and intelligence to line up in many different positions -- tight end, fullback, H-back, displaced receiver. His job is to get open and catch the darn ball, to narrow things down. The Eagles love the versatility he brings to the offense.

The expectation is that Casey will be a large part of the offense in a variety of ways. He reports today after having a surgical procedure in the spring. We're going to get a good sense of where Casey is physically in the practices on Wednesday and Thursday, to see how he runs and where the Eagles want to use him in the offense.

ROOKIE RETENTION: WHO GETS IT?

Much of what these first few days are about comes down to the mental game. How much have the rookies retained from the spring practices? For veterans learning the new terminology and schemes, there is a change and a learning curve, but at least those players have been ingrained in the NFL ways for years.

For rookies, this is all new. And they're going to be feeling the heat mentally. So just how much have the rookies stayed sharp mentally in the last five weeks or so since they've been in the classroom?

THE FASCINATION WITH CHIP KELLY

Everyone who loves the game of football and who watched Oregon football the last four seasons appreciated what Chip Kelly did propelling that program to the elite of college football. Kelly made the move to the NFL in February, and the world noticed.

Kelly has garnered a lot of attention since then, and now it's time to see the plan he has in mind. The fan base has responded with amazing enthusiasm and more than 200,000 tickets have been distributed for the open practices at Lincoln Financial Field. The new era is here, with Chip Kelly leading the way.

Now, what's his plan? Kelly is a very smart man with a brilliant football mind. He's in it for the challenge of winning, for the love of the game and not for the glory of the headlines. Kelly knows it takes an entire team to win football games at the very highest level and he has a tremendous amount of respect for the difficulty of winning in the NFL.

There are a lot of moves to be made, decisions to be considered and a roster and mentality to build. The fan base hasn't been this juiced in a long time. The energy is evident, and Kelly is the reason. It's "go" time for the coach, who has his camp agenda in order and the first steps right in front of him with a group of eager rookies and veterans starting now.

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