With training camp starting today there is a lot to be excited about as an Eagles fan. I will discuss below five important questions that we will learn the answers too throughout training camp.
1. What position will Marcus Smith be playing?
Throughout OTAs and minicamp Eagles first round pick Marcus Smith exclusively learnt Connor Barwins position in the defense; known as the “JACK” linebacker. Many expect him to rotate with linebacker Trent Cole during the season and he would then have to learn Coles position during training camp; known as the “PREDATOR” linebacker. If Smith continues to exclusively learn the “JACK” then I do not expect to see much of him in 2014 as I cannot see Barwin being replaced very often. I would like him to learn the “PREDATOR” position so he can replace Cole on occasions next season, it would be helpful for the defense if he was on the field at the same time as Barwin as both are solid in coverage.
2. Will the safety competition be fair?
3. Will we see Mychal Kendricks blitz more?
Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks is a tough player to evaluate. He is extremely athletic and still very young; he is only 23 years old despite going into his third season. Kendricks misses far too many tackles and is really poor in coverage despite his athleticism. However, Kendricks is very good at getting after the quarterback but does not get as many opportunities as he should. Last season, linebacker DeMeco Ryans rushed the quarterback 139 times and Kendricks rushed 129 times. This cannot happen again, Kendricks is far better at rushing the quarterback and the Eagles should utilize his ability more. Ryans had 4 sacks last season and Kendricks had 3 but these stats do not tell the full story. Per Pro Football Focus, Kendricks had 19 total pressures (3 sacks, 5 hits and 11 hurries) whereas Ryans only had 8 total pressures (4 sacks, 1 hit and 3 hurries). I really hope we see Kendricks blitz more throughout training camp.
4. How fast will the Eagles offense go?
Throughout OTAs and minicamps the Eagles offense was running plays at an extremely fast pace compared to last season. With the majority of players having played in Kelly’s scheme for a year now; the offense should be moving at blistering speed throughout training camp to get in as many reps as possible. The quicker the Eagles are in practice the quicker they will be during the games. I am excited to see just how fast this Eagles offense can run plays throughout training camp.
5. Will Matt Barkley or Mark Sanchez step up?
Eagles quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Mark Sanchez will be competing for the backup job behind Nick Foles. I expect Sanchez to win the job but the Eagles will need one of them to step up in training camp and in the preseason games. Reporters were not impressed by either Barkley or Sanchez during OTAs and minicamp and this is worrying. Head coach Chip Kelly always makes the point that you need to have two good quarterbacks in this league because there is a high chance your starter will miss some game time. Last year, Foles performed admirably when he came in for the injured Michael Vick and ended up keeping the starting job. Neither Sanchez or Barkley will do this but one of them needs to step up and perform well just in case Foles has to miss any time next season. It is crucial that the Eagles continue to win games even if Foles cannot play.