Monday Musings: Thoughts from Training Camp
1. Dramatically Different DeSean – Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has completely turned around his attitude from last year. Jackson seems much more focused and friendly, whether he’s dealing with teammates, media or fans.
I think wide receivers coach David Culley was dead on when he said that Jackson’s issues last year were completely contract related and should disappear in 2012. I’ve actually been saying that for nearly a year on 97.3 ESPN FM.
I believe Jackson will be much more productive for the Eagles this year, although with so many weapons that may not purely show up in the numbers. Still, Jackson’s attitude will be significantly improved, and that should be key for the Eagles.
2. Crazy Storms – It seems like Eagles training camp is becoming a hub of crazy weather. For the second year in a row, a group of the media was trapped in the media trailer during a severe storm, tweeting about their impending doom. For the second year in a row, I had slipped out just in time and made it back to the safety of my hotel. This storm was no joke, as seen in this picture from the Twitter timeline of Geoff Mosher, the Eagles beat reporter from the Wilmington News Journal.
3. Demonstrative DeMeco – It’s looking more and more like middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will give the Eagles the leadership presence their defense has been lacking since the days of Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter.
“I’m [going to] lead by example first and if it calls to be vocal, I’ll do that also,” Ryans told me when asked to describe his leadership style. It’s already being noticed by the Eagles’ younger linebackers.
“He’s very demanding, I’ll tell you that,” said Brian Rolle. “He’s not afraid to speak his mind. When he wants something one way, it’s going to be that way. Today he said something to me and Kendricks about a certain way to play something, and the coaches didn’t have anything to say about it because you know you have a guy, Pro Bowl guy, Rookie of the Year guy. If he says something, he knows he’s been through it and we’re going to do it just like that.”
4. Battle at Backup QB – Coming into training camp it appeared it might be all but a formality for Mike Kafka to beat out Trent Edwards, who struggled mightily in mini camps. Edwards has improved significantly, though, and Kafka has struggled at times.
Kafka still doesn’t have the arm strength to hit the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin deep downfield, but his strengths are his mastery of the offense and ability to connect on short timing routes.
With a starter like Michael Vick, who has played 16 games in a season just once, it’s an important position and could garner more attention as the preseason continues.
5. Afternoon Practices in Sweltering Heat – Head coach Andy Reid says part of the motivation in moving the Eagles’ full practice to the afternoon was to allow players to get two meals in and be better hydrated. The trade off is that it’s significantly hotter, and it’s taken its toll.
So far, no players seem to prefer the new schedule to the old, and there seem to be just as many dealing with heat-related issues like cramping and vomiting. It’s a storyline to keep an eye on as camp rolls on in the heat of August afternoons.
6. Graham’s Goals Different – Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham enters this training camp with a different mindset than in years past. The former first round pick called himself a bust this offseason and claims he’s focusing on proving he deserves a roster spot first, then garnering a starting job and elevating his play to a Pro Bowl level.
Graham dropped 20 pounds this offseason, coming in at about 270 pounds. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn said it’s similar to year 2.5 for Graham, who was still coming back from knee surgery last year and barely got onto the field.
Graham has shined thus far in camp, particularly while getting extra snaps due to Jason Babin’s calf strain.
7. Bethlehem BrewWorks – If you’re looking for a spot to grab a beer and a meal after visiting training camp, or in between the morning and afternoon session, Bethlehem BrewWorks might be the place. The microbrewery has a wide selection of beer on tap, and the menu is solid – I recommend Nana’s Pierogies as an appetizer.
8. Eagles Fans Earn Reputation – Growing up a Philadelphia fan, I’ve been quick to defend the City of Brotherly Love fan base. Next time, I might not be weighing in on the same side of that conversation.
I was on the wrong side of Eagles fans’ vile vitriol at training camp, being heckled mercilessly for blocking the views of the front row of fans while I was simply standing there doing my job.
Ease up, folks, we media folks are just trying to do our jobs, which in many cases means working 12-14 hour days at training camp for far less money and appreciation than we get during the season. If we move out of your way, we’ll just be standing in someone else’s way. So chill.
9. World’s Fastest Lumberjack – Last year, right guard Danny Watkins said that Jason Kelce looked like the “World’s Fastest Hedgehog,” due to his build, speed and beard. This year, Kelce’s beard is seemingly out of control, so Watkins updated his comparison at my request.
“He looks like the World’s Fastest Lumberjack, I don’t even know, I don’t know what you call that,” Watkins said.
Kelce laughed when told of Watkins description and said, “That’s probably an accurate assessment, I don’t know how nimble lumberjack are on their feet.”
10. All About Vick and McCoy – It’s hard to see this team not going to the playoffs, barring injuries to Michael Vick or LeSean McCoy. Those are two key spots where the Eagles don’t have much depth, but elsewhere the Birds are talented and deep.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.