While the majority of the players at Philadelphia Eagles training camp won’t be competing for starting positions, there is still much to be decided.
Andy Reid and staff will use training camp as a time to identify valuable reserves and backups who will earn their way onto the roster, and then, ultimately the field.
While there are plenty of established players who aren’t just living on the roster bubble, there are three players who will need to outshine their teammates to solidify a role on the team.
When Jaiquawn Jarrett was leaving Temple to enter the NFL Draft, he sold the Philadelphia Eagles on being a big hitter and smart player. This evaluation received serious questioning when Jarrett saw the field during his rookie season, as he looked extremely tentative and lost in coverage.
Since he hasn’t had the benefit of an entire offseason, it’s a bit premature to label the former second-round selection as a “bust”. However, if Jarrett doesn’t show any improvement in play recognition, his lack of instincts and elite straight-line speed will definitely keep him from seeing much action in 2012.
Although the Eagles brought in veteran safety O.J. Atogwe as an insurance policy, Jarrett can still win the starting strong safety spot if he can atone his mental miscues.
Aside from Michael Vick’s completely overblown “dynasty” comment, the most notable offseason quote belongs to defensive end Brandon Graham.
After being selected 13th overall in the 2010 NFL draft, the former All-American was expected to contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and develop into a consistent pass rusher opposite of Trent Cole.
An impressive rookie preseason showing had been halted due to nagging knee and ACL injuries that have forced Graham into missing extended action. His two-year total of 17 tackles is just one greater than his number of games played, and is what prompted him into proclaiming, “right now, I’m a bust.”
If he can carry this demeanor into training camp and combine it with the guidance of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, then Graham should flourish in the Wide-9 rotational system.
Since Michael Vick has finished a complete set of 16 games only once throughout the entirety of his career, third-year pro Mike Kafka will need to step up during training camp and solidify his grasp on the backup position.
Aside from Kafka, the other contenders for the backup spot are third-round pick Nick Foles and journeyman Trent Edwards. Out of this trio, Kafka is the only one who threw a meaningful pro pass in 2011.
During their Week 2 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, Kafka was asked to replace an injured Vick on the game’s final drive. All the Northwestern alumni did was complete seven of nine passes for 72 yards, and if it weren’t for a fourth-down drop by Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles’ season might have turned out differently.
Although that’s all in the past, it shouldn’t deter fans if we’re forced to see Kafka in the near future.
Reports out of OTAs have noted that Kafka has looked much bigger and stronger—ready to shoulder to burden that comes along with the title of “backup”.