2011 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Notebook: July 30th Morning Session

 
 
Taking It to the House’s Matt Lombardo was on the scene again at Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp and filed this report on the Birds
 
The NFL lockout may have created some uncertainty as to whether or when the NFL would return, but given the truncated free agency signing period that began this week, it created quite a stir at Lehigh University. Just 14 hours after the Eagles shocked the football world by signing Nnamdi Asomugh after all indications were he was Jet or Cowboy bound. The practice fields were abuzz when Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie took the practice field in midnight green for the first time. Fans cheered as Vince Young strolled the sidelines and watched alongside Jason Babin while observed his old pal Jim Washburn bark signals to the defensive line.
 
Given that this practice was the last morning session before the pads go on for the first time Sunday, little was learned in terms of talent evaluation but that doesn’t mean that it was an uneventful day in the warmth of the Lehigh Valley. The DeSean Jackson watch stretched into its third day as the electrifying receiver continues to hold out in search of a new deal. Also absent from practice were first round pick Danny Watkins and Asomugh who had yet to arrive from Oakland. Meanwhile Babin and Young were in street clothes since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that free agent signees cannot practice until August 4th when the Union’s expected to recertify.
 
The storylines are bound to continue to develop as this young camp progresses. As for the action on the field Saturday there certainly were some eye catching moments.
 
Juan Castillo has moxy: Many question the hire of Andy Reid’s long time offensive line coach as defensive coordinator replacing outgoing Sean McDermott. But on Saturday, Castillo showed flashes of why he deserves the job. There was a tangible intensity to the individual workouts and a faster pace than was the case under McDermott. After several key plays during seven on seven drills and one on one passing drills, Castillo sprinted to his defensive back after making a big play and got in his face, high fiving and congratulating him on a job well done. One such play was made by Rodgers-Chromartie along the sidelines when he dove to break up a pass against Sinorice Moss which sent the crowd and Castillo into a frenzy. Rightful questions still remain about Castillo’s ability to call a game on the fly in the pressure cooker situation of a Philadelphia Sunday, but in terms of motiviating and getting the most out of his players, Castillo seems to be passing the test.
 
Matthews in the middle: Not lost on the minds of fans and observers of the Eagles during this free agency spending spree is the lack of a move at the linebacker position. During most of the reps with the first team it was fourth round pick out of Oregon Casey Matthews anchoring the MIKE linebacker position. Matthews has the size at 6-2 232 pounds, he has the intensity but as a rookie does he have the ability to call the signals? That remains to be seen. Jamar Chaney, who turned heads across the league with his stellar play down the stretch last season took reps on the strong side.
 
Vick’s arm strength impresses but shows rust: Look, very few of the players you see on the practice field in the early stages of this camp are in football shape. The fact is these guys have been away from the game for nearly 150 days. However, Michael Vick looked strong as ever but struggled with timing with his wideouts on several plays. That consistency will come as camp goes along.
 
Trevard Lindley the Ball Hawk: Lindley flew to the ball today. The second year quarterback out of Kentucky broke up several passes and was as physical as someone can be wearing a helmet and gym shorts. With the bounty of talent at the corner position, his role is likely to be very limited on this team but he impressed this morning.
 
LeSean McCoy is ready: During the off-season the Eagles franchise running back made headlines by getting into Twitter wars with division rivals, controversies involving appearances at bars and legitimate questions were asked about where his mind was at during the work stoppage. On the third day of practice, he began to put those questions to bed. His cuts were sharp, he showed good burst through the line and seemed to be running with a purpose.
 
Henry’s got a boot: Rookie punter Chas Henry rounded out practice during the special teams portion and showed why he was one of the most accomplished college punters in recent memory. Henry launched punts of 75 yards, 60 yards, 65 yards..But also flubbed some 35, 42 and 30 yard duds. Offensive lineman yelled “Way to go Sav!” after one such flub.
 
GAME BALL
 
Trevard Lindley: I have to give the kid credit for playing as hard as he did today. He was physical in coverage against receivers, flew to the ball and was involved in several plays. Who knows where he stands with the Eagles at this point, but he put some great footage on the ‘ole coaches tape today.
 
NEEDS WORK
 
Mike Kafka: I’m really not sure what to make of this kid. Seems like he doesn’t have a great sense for the game and you can notice drastic drop off in arm strength even from camp body Jerrod Johnson to Kafka. His reps will be limited, I’m sure, once Young is allowed to practice.
 
Jorrick Colvin fielding punts: Colvin had a couple of nasty drops in the special teams drills. One such drop along the near sidelines on a corner kick prompted Noel Devine to yell ‘I hope you’re watching that one coach!’ and an offensive lineman to taunt ‘may not be two 38’s for long’ (both Devine and Colvin wear 38 in practice). Turns out the lineman was right as hours later Devine was released.
 
The Fans at Lehigh: The Eagles broke camp attendance records in 2004, drawing over 20,000 fans and typically draw tens of thousands of fans each day. Yet Saturday was almost sedate, especially for the day after the team makes some of the biggest splashes in the league on Friday. And to the fan who nicknamed me “Rico Suave” and was persistent in using the nickname whenever I walked by, may I suggest some glasses or contacts?

2011 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Notebook: Joe Banner Press Conference

Taking  It to the House’s Matt Lombardo was back at 2011 Philadelphia Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA on Saturday July 30th for the Birds first public training camp session.  One of the highlights of the day was Eagles executive Joe Banner talking about the team’s new “All-In” attitude.  Checkout Matt’s footage of Banner’s Press Conference

2011 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Notebook: Vince Young Press Conference

Taking  It to the House’s Matt Lombardo was at Philadelphia Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA for the introduction of former NFL Rookie of Year and Pro Bowl QB Vince Young –new backup to starter Michael Vick — to the “Gang Green” Nation.  Checkout Vince’s first press conference as a Philadelphia Eagle

Eagles Position Themselves Well with Early Moves by Matt Lombardo

Former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl QB Vince Young is the latest addition to the Philadelphia Eagles’ growing and impressive nest  of talent

Back when the NFL season was in doubt and even a truncated off-season hung in the balance, the Eagles continuously floated the idea that they were going to ‘push the chips all in’ and make a dramatic push for the Lombardi trophy in 2011. Now, less than one week into the free agency period the groundwork for such a plan is being laid by the front office. The initial moves have lacked the luster of what the Patriots, Dolphins and some other teams have already executed, but the Eagles roster is transforming before our eyes.

The worst kept secret in the NFL since before the lockout even began, was that Kevin Kolb was Arizona bound. Three days into free agency, Howie Roseman got the best possible deal for Philadelphia’s one time quarterback of the future. By prying Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and a second round pick from the Cardinals, the Eagles added a significant piece at a position of immediate need as well as the prospect of adding a starting contributing player with a second round pick in the draft next year. Kolb, a 2006 second rounder’s legacy in Eagles history is limited, but the investment in him now yields the possibility of two impact players on this roster for the coming years.
While the Cardinals should feel satisfied with landing a franchise quarterback, certainly filling a gaping hole while simultaneously placating soon to be free agent superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Roseman deserves accolades for selling Kolb’s potential based largely on back to back 300 yard passing games in 2009, for an impact corner and a draft pick. 
 
The Eagles are now expected to sign former Titans quarterback Vince Young to a one-year deal to back up Michael Vick. Young has been on the Eagles radar for some time, and despite an acrimonious end to his days in Tennessee, he provides the depth and talent that Philadelphia needs behind Vick and his reckless abandon style under center. In his career, Young has amassed a 30-18 record as a starter.
 
While the Kolb trade overshadowed the Eagles first foray into free agency, signing former Titans defensive end Jason Babin to a five year $26 million deal, it can’t be overlooked. The Eagles defensive struggles last season are well documented so it’s no surprise that adding a pass rush and rebuilding the secondary are obvious priorities. Rodgers-Cromartie clearly addresses the team’s anemic pass coverage in 2010, and by signing Babin, the birds have added another fastball opposite Trent Cole. Babin and Cole are hunting buddies in the offseason and now plan on hunting down the quarterback in 2011 and beyond.
 
The Eagles have had Babin in their crosshairs since hiring former Tennessee defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Babin recorded 12.5 sacks for the Titans last year while playing under defensive line guru in Washburn. Reuniting with him was clearly a priority for him.  “He wants the best out of every player and for every player,” Babin told me on 97.3 ESPN FM in South Jersey on Thursday. “I was inspired, he’s not afraid to apply common sense to life and football situations.”
 
After adding Babin, in all likelihood the Eagles will turn their attention to the linebacker position that is in a state of flux. It’s clear that newly minted defensive coordinator Juan Castillo saw the need for change at the position when the Eagles released Stewart Bradley, Omar Gaither, Ernie Sims and Akeem Jordan. The move signifies a departure from the attack style blitzing scheme of Jim Johnson and a shift towards a more zone oriented, Tampa two type of coverage system. Given Bradley’s ACL troubles, and weakness against the pass it was time to move on. Gaither, Sims and Jordan all lacked the cover skills necessary to succeed in a system that makes covering running backs out of the backfield and tight ends a priority. After the moves, the Eagles six linebackers on the roster have a combined experience of one and a half years in the NFL.
 
It’s expected that at some point the Eagles will address the linebacker position soon. Names to keep an eye on are Stephen Tulloch, Nick Barnett and Barrett Ruud. Tulloch is a solid stay at home linebacker who has steadily improved in coverage in recent years, making 158 tackles in 2010 and would likely be the best fit of the free-agent bunch. The Eagles are also high on second year middle linebacker Jamar Chaney who will start in the middle this year and have high hopes for rookie Casey Matthews who they used a fourth round pick on.
 
Fans can leave it to their own druthers whether or not the Eagles have ‘Gone All In” with their initial free agency moves. But as the foundation for a grander plan, and by simply addressing key needs on both sides of the ball early in the off-season carousel, Howie Roseman and company have emerged as early winners. Questions remain, but with the slew of talent about to hit the waiver wire as early cuts are made, the Birds have positioned themselves well to add complimentary players to a roster that remains a work in progress. 
 
 

 

Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL

Finally the NFL Lockout is Over by Lloyd Vance

Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith were both all smiles on Monday July 25th.  After 135 Days, the NFL Lockout is finally over and America’s Most Popular Game can leave the courtroom and return to the field

Today, NFL player representatives and the league’s owners signed a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) to end a lockout that had started in March shortly after the Packers’ Super Bowl victory and threatened to harm part of  — if not all of the — 2011 season. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looked relieved while saying, “Football’s back!”.  Goodell added “(The new 10-year deal) is extraordinarily great for our game.”  Of course, fans had heard Goodell say similar words after the owners agreed (31-0) on Friday, but everything wasn’t done until the players had their say.  Finally an 11 AM conference call where the new deal was agreed to by the league’s players really did bring back football to a starving public, who wouldn’t know what to do without “America’s Passion”.

Terms were not immediately specified, however NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith — still need to re-certify the organization, but that is topic for another day — also seemed to beaming just as much as Goodell.  Smith said of the new deal, which included a legacy fund for retiree, safety issues, and much more.  “We managed to talk about things that make football better and safer.”

According to the NFL, some of the highlights in the agreement included:

  • New rookie compensation system with a salary cap of $142.4 million per club in 2011 
  •  Additional retirement benefits
  • The limiting of practice times and full-contact practices.
  • Clubs receiving actual stadium investment and up to 1.5% of revenue each year.
  • Medical plan for life for players, under the owners’ plan.
  • Enhanced injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.

Colts’ center and player representative Jeff Saturday, who was at the forefront of the negotiations said, “The lockout has been a roller coaster for the fans.  With dialogue, things began to happen and …now instead of these meeting rooms, I get to be in football meeting rooms (at training camp).”

Now, the attention of everyone in NFL Universe from the players to team GM’s to the  media to Fantasy Football players will now return to the league’s quickened calendar.  Training Camps will shortly open (probably Wednesday) and Free Agency will also begin at a furious pace.

So now everyone can put away all the legal talk and focus on getting ready for September 8th in Green Bay, Wisconsin when the season offically kicks off with the Super Bowl Champion Packers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

Debunking Favre to Philly and Examining Eagles Backup Plan by Matt Lombardo

There has been a lot of “Favre to Philly Talk ” around, but Taking It to the House isn’t buying it

The next four days figure to be the busiest in NFL history as nearly 1,600 moves are expected to be made across the league in less time than it takes to wait between regular season games. Simultaneously, training camps across the country will be opening and players reporting as rosters are finalized by sure to be sleep deprived general managers.

Assuming the Eagles deal Kevin Kolb toArizonaor elsewhere, which they are expected to do in short order once the league year begins. All signs point to Kolb landing inArizonain exchange for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and possibly a draft pick. With that in mind, many wonder what Andy Reid and company will do to address the backup quarterback position.

On Saturday night Howard Eskin reported on NBC10 in Philadelphiathat the Eagles have interest in former Viking, Jet and Packer Brett Favre. The report was given some credence on Sunday when Michael Vick tweeted “I would be honored to have Brett Farve as a backup. That will be amazing Learning how to toy with defenses the way he did his whole career.” However, Vick conspicuously deleted the Tweet hours later.

Not to discredit Eskin and his story, but this move isn’t one that works for either side, and after speaking with several sources looks to be the longest of long shots.

There’s no doubt that The Eagles are in the market for a quarterback given that Vick hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2006. However, Favre may be the least logical solution of any available signal caller. The thought of the 42 year old veteran winding up inmidnightgreen is predicated on him being content in a backup role for the first time in his career.

Let’s just say that’s highly unlikely.

Some point to Favre joining the Eagles to mentor Vick, which is a ridiculous notion in and of itself. Vick has been a starter at a high level in the NFL for eight years, well past the point in his career when he would benefit from the tutelage of a player who plays the quarterback position as differently as one can imagine from him. Besides, lets not forget that this is the same Favre who had no interest in mentoring Aaron Rodgers when the Packers used a first round draft choice on the eventual Super Bowl MVP in 2005.

Eagles beat writer Les Bowen used his Eagletarian blog Sunday to bring some logic to the situation saying “why would Favre want to hold a clipboard in Philly? The money, under the tighter new cap, wouldn’t be lavish. His ego is as legendary as his arm,” Bowen said. “The only way he comes out of retirement for this job is if he thinks he somehow ends up at the helm of a Super Bowl contender, and even that scenario assumes Favre has some interest in trying to play again. Vick doesn’t need this. The Eagles don’t need this.”

While it isn’t a stretch to foresee Favre holding the NFL hostage once more and un-retire again, the situation in Philadelphiais far from an ideal one for him to rewrite is farewell story.

However, The Eagles have options they’ll likely pursue in the free agent frenzy to fill their need for a backup quarterback. Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger and Tarvaris Jackson are all available in one form or another if Philadelphia chooses not to entrust Mike Kafka as Vick’s top understudy. Given Vick’s reckless abandon under center, and the ‘win now’ mentality permeating fromOne NovaCare Way, undoubtedly the birds will at least kick the tires on some or all of these options as an insurance policy.

Young has been an enigma in recent years, going so far as leaving the team in 2008 and disappearing after being booed by his home fans in a loss to the Jaguars. Then Titans coach Jeff Fisher ultimately coaxed Young back to the team. Last season in 11 games Young threw for 1,255 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions for the Titans.  Tennessee is expected to release Young shortly after the league reopens for business and he would be an attractive option for the Eagles once he becomes available.

Andy Reid has developed a reputation for both developing outstanding play from the quarterback position and also as a mastermind at overseeing reclamation projects at that position. Both of which would certainly benefit Young, who despite the questions surrounding his motivation, still has the raw talent to succeed in the right situation.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if [The Eagles] acquired Vince Young after the Titans cut him.” Said a source close to the team.

Meanwhile, Bulger will likely draw interest from teams such as the Dolphins, Seahawks, Browns, Redskins and others as a starter and probably would not settle for a backup position. Yet his familiarity with the West Coast Offense and the allure of playing for a contender could put the Eagles in play if the former Ram who spent last season backing up Joe Flacco inBaltimorefails to land a starting gig. Bulger hasn’t been a full time starter since 2008 when he completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,720 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Rams.

Should the Cardinals fail to deliver the kind of bounty the Eagles are seeking for Kolb, the Seahawks could make a push to acquire him. The Seahawks brass could also turn the keys to the franchise over to Charlie Whitehurst who is currently the only quarterback on their roster. One thing is certain though, Hasselbeck will not take another snap inSeattle.

Like Bulger, Hasselbeck is attractive to teams in need of a starter. The 35 year old spent his entire career in the West Coast Offense and has ties to Reid. The Eagles could certainly do worse than Hasselbeck’s 3,000 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, stepping in should Vick fall to injury.

Finally there’s Jackson who would likely make the easiest transition to the Eagles offense since he played under former birds offensive coordinator Brad Childress inMinnesota.Jacksonhas been a part time player in recent years but at 28 and being the most mobile of the available quarterbacks, he’s an intriguing option especially given his familiarity with the Eagles system.

Clearly the Eagles have plenty of options available to back up Vick once the league reopens and the free agent shuffle kicks into high gear. One thing is almost certain though, Favre is not a fit and there is certainly a higher upside to any of the other signal callers on the market.

 

 

Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL

 

Kevin Kolb a hot commodity in post lockout NFL by Matt Lombardo

Taking It to the House is predicting that the NFL Lockouot will be ending within the next week.  And the biggest commodity after the deal is completed will be Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb

Kevin Kolb’s days in Philadelphia are numbered.

 That much is certain if the recent surge of optimism towards the NFL lockout being lifted in the next seven to ten days is to be believed. By now it’s no secret that the Eagles will be active in the NFL shuffle once the league year begins, and Kolb’s name is already front and center on the wish list of several teams in need of a starting quarterback, whose need was left unsatiated by what appears to be a mediocre quarterback draft class. With Michael Vick entrenched as the starter and confidence growing within the Eagles organization in second year backup Mike Kafka, along with Kolb’s impending free agency, the fourth year quarterback out of Houston has become an expendable commodity that the Eagles are set to sell to the highest bidder.

Several teams have surfaced as possible landing spots for Kolb who figures to be one of the most pursued players and quickest moved once the league opens for business. The Cardinals, Dolphins, Browns, 49ers and Seahawks have all been rumored to have expressed interest in Kolb who completed nearly 61 percent of his passes in four years for 2,082 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 19 career games.

“Kevin Kolb will be dealt to Arizona, San Francisco, Cleveland, or Seattle, it’s a matter of when, not if.” Eagles beat writer Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Daily Times said. “The only question is who backs up Vick.

The Eagles brass is in a very lucrative position of having three teams in the woefully mediocre NFC West all vying for Kolb’s services to be their starting signal caller in the post-lockout world. Howie Roseman and Joe Banner, ever the poker players, would be wise to play the offers against each other to garner the largest bounty for their 2007 second round pick and one time quarterback of the future.

Each of the teams interested in Kolb offer the chance for the Birds to fill gaping holes in their roster both now and looking ahead to the future. However, as a settlement to the lockout appears to be nearing by the day, the team most likely to land Kolb looks to be the Cardinals.  Arizona has been interested since it became clear that Kolb was on the market, and theSunDevilStateis a natural fit as their quarterback situation has been in flux since Kurt Warner’s retirement in 2010.

The Cardinals are the ideal dance partner for the Eagles, offering corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the centerpiece in a Kolb deal. Rodgers-Cromartie is an ideal compliment to cornerback Asante Samuel in a secondary that was anemic against the pass in 2010. The 6’1, 182 pound Rodgers-Cromartie made his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and finished last season with 44 tackles, three interceptions and he returned two for touchdowns. Needless to say, Rodgers-Cromartie is a dynamic playmaker who would allow the ballhawking Samuel to flourish on the other side of the field.

While other teams certainly have expressed interest; Seattle reportedly offering a first and third round choice for Kolb, the obvious Eagles connection in Cleveland and the Niners who recently walked away from the failed Alex Smith experiment among them, the Cardinals and Eagles share a common thread of a shared sense of urgency to make a deal and make one quickly once the league allows. After all, receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been openly pining for the Cardinals front office to bring Kolb west.

Adding fuel to the Kolb to Arizona speculation, Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic appeared on the Weisman Trophy Radio Show on July 11th and reiterated the Cards interest in the current Eagles backup.

“I think [The Cardinals’] first call, the first thing they’ll do when the lockout is lifted, is to talk to the Eagles and see if they can acquire Kolb.” Somers said. “They’re very interested in trading for him. They’re wary, however, the Eagles are going to command a ransom for him. They’re not going to be willing to give that up, but they do like him an awful lot. They like almost everything about him and they think he could be a quarterback really for the next 10 years. So, it makes a possible teal intriguing. What do you give up for that guy? Especially for Kolb when he hasn’t proven himself.”

There is strong sentiment growing throughout the league that the lockout could be lifted and the league reopened for business by July 21 with a truncated free agency period which makes for frantic player movement in a short period of time before training camps open and pre-season games begin.

All signs point to Kolb finding a new address before the first footballs fly in formal workouts across the league. 

 

 

Matt Lombardo is a reporter for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ.  Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL