In this weeks column, Dave Spadaro breaks down five essential steps the Eagles must do to remain competitive.
By Dave Spadaro
In the old days, when NFL teams trained at remote locations and television cameras waited as the players parked their luxury automobiles and piled into their pint-sized dormitory rooms carrying fans and enough personal belongings to get them through six weeks of football drudgery, training camp carried with it a hard-scrabbled, it’s-time-to-pay-the-price feel.
Now, most teams in the league hold training camp at their every-day facilities. Instead of thousands of fans arriving early to stand through the heat of the day and watch from the sidelines, there is room for only a few hundred.
No longer do teams beat the living snot out of the players on the field; the tackling is now conducted more judiciously to avoid excessive injury.
So it’s a different world. But the purpose of the Rite Of Summer that signals the waning of summer and teases of the season to come remains the same: Weed through the roster and find the best 53 players to go out and win football games when September rolls around.
The Eagles have some very clear objectives for training camp, which opens on Sunday, July 24, when rookies and selected veterans report to the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia — there are two open-to-the-public practices scheduled for July 29 and Aug. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field — as head coach Doug Pederson begins his second year at the helm.
1. Find A Starting Left Offensive Guard
There aren’t many true open competitions for starting jobs within an offense that is expected to be vastly improved, but left guard is absolutely one of them. The Eagles have a couple of very clear-cut candidates in veteran Allen Barbre, the incumbent who has been a journeyman for much of his NFL career, and second-year man Isaac Seumalo. The Eagles like Barbre’s versatility and they love the upside of Seumalo, who showed great promise as a rookie. Seumalo has the edge in terms of pure ability. Another candidate to watch is Chance Warmack, the 10th pick in the 2013 NFL draft (Tennessee) who is looking to regain his dominance now that he’s reunited with his college line coach, Jeff Stoutland, now with the Eagles.
2. Prepare A Young CB Group For Challenging Season Ahead
The biggest question mark on the team? The cornerbacks, without a doubt. This group is young and loaded with intrigue. Who starts? Are the Eagles good enough here?
3. Get QB Carson Wentz Hot, Hot, Hot
Carson Wentz is The Franchise, and the Eagles added veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, and then selected Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson in the draft. Wentz is expected to take a significant leap in his second season. How high does he jump? Are we talking superstar in Year 2?
4. Separate Fact From Fiction Among Rookies
The fantasy world of no-pads football in spring is long in the past. Now it’s the real deal. And the Eagles are going to find out how good №1 pick Derek Barnett is with the pads on. They need to find out if running back Donnel Pumphrey can play with the big boys. The game changes in a big way in training camp.
5. Stay As Healthy As Possible
This is the ultimate objective, of course. The Eagles have three weeks of camp, a visit for three days of practice from the Miami Dolphins and four preseason games to keep their fingers crossed and stay healthy. It’s a must-have if the team has any chance for a playoff spot in 2017.
The season is here. The action is live. Now we’re going to start seeing what kind of team the Eagles have for the season to come. It’s been a long, long wait. ••