Eagles players recount training camp stories as training begins.
By Dave Spadaro
If you ever packed up the family and headed to West Chester University back in the 1980s and through the mid-’90s or if you made the trek up the Northeast Extension to Lehigh University for nearly two decades after that, you remember the training camp days of full contact, sweat-spraying-on-your-T-shirt feeling when summer made a special turn with Eagles football underway and with 10,000 fans in attendance enjoying every bit of it.
The Eagles moved camp from Lehigh to the team’s headquarters at the NovaCare Complex upon Chip Kelly’s arrival as head coach, so the scene is different. About 500 fans are able to watch each day there, while Lincoln Financial Field should be just about filled for the two open-to-the-public practices on Aug. 5 and Aug. 11. The old days, it ain’t. But it’s still pretty darn awesome.
And this year, as the Eagles step on the field for the first time as a full team in full pads late this week, the added attraction of being defending Super Bowl champions makes it all the more exciting.
What do you need to know about training camp this year? Here is a primer …
CAMP’S BIG STORY: It starts with quarterback Carson Wentz, of course, and his recovery from knee surgery. Can he win the race against time and get back on the field for the regular season opener against Atlanta on Sept. 6? He will take some reps in camp, but how many is unknown. It’s highly unlikely that Wentz will play in the preseason games. But there are other key players coming back from injury, including left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. How whole can the Eagles be for the Falcons?
BEST POSITION BATTLES: Cornerback promises to be fascinating, as the Eagles have collected a young and very talented group. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are the incumbent starters, but they’ll be pushed by Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, second-year players who the Eagles think can really come on this year. De’Vante Bausby is the leader at the moment for the very important nickel cornerback job and will see competition from rookie Avonte Maddox, a fourth-round draft pick.
BIGGEST CONCERN: Injuries aside, the Eagles have to be keeping an eye open for help at linebacker. Nigel Bradham is suspended for the opener. Hicks is coming off an Achilles tendon injury. There is no clear-cut leader for the weakside job. Who is playing linebacker for the Eagles? While the roster is in really good shape, the Eagles don’t have any young, proven depth at safety and they’ve got some age along the talented defensive line. Also, punter is a position to watch. Cameron Johnston is the leader to replace Donnie Jones. Johnston has no NFL experience and must prove he can be consistent as a punter and a holder on field goals.
THE OUTLOOK: The Eagles are deservedly strong contenders to go all the way again. Health is always the №1 priority in the summer. If the Eagles can emerge from the preseason in good health, they’re going to be right there in the NFC. The 2018 Eagles look better on paper but, as we know, the game isn’t played on paper. This is going to be fun. ••