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Familiar faces

Published July 24. 2010 09:00AM

The familiar faces continue to disappear from Eagles training camps at Lehigh University.

Last year it was Brian Dawkins, and this year Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook will be no shows when camp opens July 26. Losing arguably your best quarterback and running back in franchise history certainly signifies times are a changin' for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Going in to Eagles training camp, the biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball is of course going to be how [quarterback] Kevin Kolb performs in his first season as the Eagles starter," said Josh Moore, an NFL analyst at, a fantasy football Web site.

Many think the offense won't miss a beat with Kolb taking over for McNabb, who was traded to the Redskins this spring. Kolb even has some support deep in the territory of one of the Eagles biggest rivals, too.

"We Texans know plenty about Kevin Kolb, who played his high school ball in Stephenville before punching his NFL-ticket down south at the University of Houston," said writer Jeff Owens who freelances for the Dallas Morning News. "The dude can throw the ball, something easy to say when you pass for 718 yards in your first two NFL starts."

By now everyone knows that Kolb is considered a 'more accurate' passer, but doesn't have the deep-ball arm strength of McNabb.

Moore backed this up with some stats comparing the two. In three games last season, granted a small sample size, Kolb completed 64.6-percent of his passes while McNabb finished 20th in the league in that category, completing just 60-percent. McNabb, however, averaged nearly 1.5 yards more per completion than Kolb, Moore said.

Meanwhile at running back, Westbrook's ankle and knee injuries, along with two concussions over the last few years, forced the Eagles to cut ties. He has yet to find a new home in the NFL, but was getting plenty of interest. A much younger LeSean McCoy is apparently ready to take the next step in the backfield for the Birds.

"LeSean McCoy should excel with an increased workload," Moore said. "Last season McCoy averaged over a full yard per carry more in games Brian Westbrook did not play 4.46 vs. 3.35 yards per carry. McCoy will be asked to catch more balls out of the backfield."

McCoy is sharing the backfield with free agent signee Mike Bell, who played with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints last year. Bell, though, had just four catches for 12 yards last season, but should help the Eagles between the tackles. All-pro fullback Leonard Weaver will also be a part of the backfield.

The turnover at running back has left doubts in some minds, though.

"I see the shortcomings in this heated-rivalry turning up in the same categories," said Owens. "I'm not sure two part-time backs [McCoy and Bell] can give Andy Reid enough offense to keep him from pulling the plug on the run-game before halftime, as he sometimes does."

The Eagles do look pretty good at wide receiver with already-established stud DeSean Jackson alongside of second-year player Jeremy Maclin. Veteran Jason Avant is a real nice option at number-three and Brent Celek emerged as one of the NFL's best tight ends in 2009. All-in-all, Kolb looks to be surrounded by some quality talent in his first full season as the starter.

Chances are, Kolb will need every bit of that talent if the Birds are going to compete for the playoffs and even an NFC East division title. Looking at the schedule, the league seems to think it's going to come down to Dallas and Philly with two prime-time, late-season matchups within a month: Dec. 12 at Dallas, and Jan. 2 to close out the season in Philly.

"The most intriguing game on the schedule for me is another week 17 matchup with Cowboys," Moore said, "which could very likely again be for the division title."

"Dallas is a heavy favorite to be the first-ever team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium," said Owens. "But first they must get past the NFC East, which, to me, looks like another battle between Dallas and Philly. And I must not be the only one seeing that. The NFL scheduling geniuses have these two teams facing off both times the last month of the season."

The Eagles have a difficult schedule in 2010, at least on paper. On top of an always challenging NFC East, the Birds draw what will be several tough matchups with the Packers, Vikings, Colts, Titans, Texans and 49ers.

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