Eagles success depending on how defense performs
BETHLEHEM As the Eagles finish up another week at Lehigh, this time they're preparing for their first preseason game at home against Jacksonville on Friday night.
While Kevin Kolb taking over the starting quarterback position is probably the biggest story of training camp, the success of the defense will have a lot more to say about how far the Birds go this season.
So even when the starters are long gone against the Jags Friday, there will still be a lot of notes to takes for coaches and even fans.
"What I want to see is us to continue to develop as a defense," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott Wednesday, "watch the players build the chemistry that they started to build in camp and execute the scheme and fundamentally be smart."
That chemistry has been building since draft weekend 2010 when Andy Reid and management took nine defensive players with their 13 overall picks.
The biggest face to watch is probably that of free safety Nate Allen, who has most likely already won the starting job as a rookie out of South Florida. Allen was the fourth pick in the second round, 37th overall. As if that's not enough pressure, that was the pick the Eagles received in the trade with Washington involving Donovan McNabb.
"Nate is a very mature young man and he has to this point been very unshakable," McDermott said. "I think that (S) Quintin (Mikell) and (CB) Asante (Samuel), (CB Joselio) Hanson and (CB) Ellis (Hobbs) all have a lot of trust in Nate. Especially at this point, we're not very far along, and he's done extremely well up to this point."
Allen is also taking over for one of the team's biggest icons in the history of the franchise, Brian Dawkins, who departed for Denver as a free agent before last season. Dawkins was known for his passion, hard-hitting and of course his leadership. While Allen will never be Dawkins, he can make his own name and is excited to get started.
"It's a big one for me. This is my first NFL game, even though it is preseason, I'm still going into it like it's the Super Bowl. I'm excited," Allen said Wednesday. "I'm just ready to go out there and make plays, whatever it is, interceptions, big hits, just go out and make plays."
First round pick out of Michigan, defensive end Brandon Graham, also figures to see a lot of action, maybe even with the first team. Entering Friday's game, Graham is listed on the second unit on the depth chart, behind Jaqua Parker on the left end and opposite all-pro Trent Cole. The Eagles figure on doing a lot of rotating this season with all of their defensive linemen, but probably envision the speedy Graham opposite Cole as much as possible.
Head coach Andy Reid said Thursday morning that (DE) Victor Abiamiri, (G/T) Todd Herremans and (C) Jamaal Jackson, who are on PUP list, along with (RB) J.J. Arrington, (WR) Hank Baskett, (RB) Mike Bell, (C/G) Nick Cole, (DT) Antonio Dixon, (CB) Macho Harris and (T) Fenuki Tupou would not play Friday.
NEST NOTES … Tight end Cornelius Ingram is seeing his first game action in nearly two-and-a-half years ... Former Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka figures to get a lot of playing time and took a lot of snaps with the third team at Wednesday's practice … The temperature was 99 at the conclusion of Wednesday afternoon's practice, 98 when it started … The team took part in a mock game on Thursday morning before heading back to Philly. It was closed to the public. Camp resumes Sunday and the final day at Lehigh is Tuesday, Aug. 17 … Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said that as of early this week, to his knowledge, WR Jason Avant hasn't dropped a ball in drills, reaching a streak of 80 ... Kolb, Avant and Brent Celek can often be seen throwing and catching balls from coaches when the first team isn't doing drills.
THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE ... Some funny stories being talked about at camp this week: The reported altercation between receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin was apparently over which WR had the better worth ethic ... Brent Celek missed Wednesday morning's practice because he apparently ate a piece of cheesecake that had been sitting in his car for five hours ... On Wednesday morning, and there are conflicting stories, someone from Eagles security apparently asked a camp-goer in the VIP section to remove a white, Donovan McNabb Redskins jersey when reporters started migrating to him during the morning session. Security claimed it was causing a distraction. This reporter had the person pointed out to him during the afternoon session and he was wearing a red Kolb jersey.