2008 Philadelphia Eagles Mini-Camp Questions

(Photo by Lloyd Vance, Eagles Training Camp – 2007)

(Philadelphia, Pa) — As I head over to the palatial Philadelphia Eagles NovaCare Complex for mini-camp, there are a bunch of questions surrounding this team that will need to be answered.  I know it is extremely early before a season where the first meaningful game will not be played until September and that a lot of people doubt the value of practice sessions where players run around in jerseys and shorts.  But mini-camps and organized training activities (OTA’s) are essential in building the foundation of a cohesive football team.  Many times when I talk to players during the crucial end of season November and December playoff stretch run months, they point to OTA’s and training camp as a key time where everyone can bond.

I particularly like the post draft mini-camp, because veterans comeback to Philly from a variety of places and fresh-faced drafted and undrafted rookies get their first taste of being a professional.  Regardless if someone is a first round pick, 10-year veteran, or 2nd year guy coming from the practice squad, they all know this is their opportunity to “get on the same page”.  The main beneficiaries of these sessions are the coaches and front office as they finally get the opportunity to see “What they have or Don’t have” before the long break prior to the team heading up to Lehigh University for training camp in July. 

There are still moves that can be made and who knows if we will see Andy Reid and GM Tom Heckert quickly huddling to get someone in to fill a need.  There is always trades, NFL cut day on June 1st — where usually quality veterans with big ticket contracts are either let go for traded for cap reasons – and other avenues like Arena Football League veterans to explore before the training roster is finalized.

Here are my Top 5 questions for Eagles’ Mini-Camp.

1) Is Donovan McNabb happy with his “playmakers”? — At the end of the NFL season around the Super Bowl, the Eagles signal caller pleaded for more “playmakers” in the line-up. McNabb was not alone in asking for game-breakers as running back Brian Westbrook was also quoted asking for more. These OTA’s will be a start in seeing if the current receivers group is believed to have enough playmakers or if more changes are needed. 

2) Is Cornerback Lito Sheppard coming or going? – According to reports Sheppard was shopped around to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville during the draft without the Birds coming away with a deal. Now the Eagles and Sheppard will have to endure questions about him showing up at mini-camp when Andy Reid “supposedly” handed his job to Asante Samuel back at the start of free agency. The whole situation makes you wonder can the Eagles keep Sheppard, Samuel, and Sheldon Brown together and happy.

3) How happy is Brian Westbrook with his contract? – The two-time Pro Bowl player has outperformed his current contract and there is talk that a training camp holdout maybe in the works. In 2007 Westbrook made 2 Million from the contract extension that he signed in 2005 that included a 12 Million dollar signing bonus at the time. His ’07 salary ranked him 20th behind players like LaMont Jordan. B-West and his agent Fletcher Smith have been real quiet lately and we all know the Eagles are not obligated to do anything especially with Westbrook at 28 years of age and nearing the magical age of 30. However something needs to be done to get the multi-purpose threat in the neighborhood of at least Houston Texans running back Ahmad Green (four-year, $23 million contract that includes between $6 million-$7 million in guarantees). 

4) Who is going to be the main punt and kick returner(s)? — In today’s NFL most teams place an importance on having a game-changing homerun threat at the return man position. For a while I wasn’t sure if the Eagles agreed with that statement as they usually thought “ball security” was more paramount. But after the drafting Cal speedster DeSean Jackson, signing Patriots free agent return man Bam Childress, and bringing in others the Eagles seem to have finally dedicated themselves to fixing their field position problem (25th ranked starting position of 29.08 yard line). Plus I will not mention that the Birds have not had a kickoff return (since 2001) or punt return (since 2003) for a touchdown in some time… oh sorry I did mention it.

5) How will the free agents signed and rookies fit in? — We all know that an NFL lockerroom is a tight knit area, so any new “outsiders” especially rookies will have an adjustment period. I will be interested in seeing what abilities free agent pick-ups FB Dan Klecko, TE Kris Wilson, CB Asante Samuel, and LB Rocky Boiman bring to the table as all of them are considered quality veterans who are coming from winning organizations.

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