The Eagles went through a lot of changes this offseason- both the players on the field and the people who coach off of it.
The mass changes in the coaching staff will have a big part and creating even more change amongst the players. New defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and defensive line coach Jim Washburn have no loyalty to any player. No favorites will be played. The jobs will be won over the next few weeks by the play, not the relationship.
With that being said, here are some of the top training camp battles to keep an eye on.
Right Tackle: Winston Justice vs. King Dunlap
Going into last seasons playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, there was no battle at this position. But after Winston Justice played so poorly that he was pulled in favor of King Dunlap, Justice’s grip on the position is not as tight as it once was. The fact that Justice had offseason surgery does not help either. This position is perhaps the most important on the line, as whoever wins will be in charge of protecting Michael Vicks blind side. Andy Reid said today that the job was Justices, but don’t buy it- this position is very much up in the air.
An injury and late season benching have Justice in a battle
Center: Jamaal Jackson vs. Mike McGlynn
Take away the fumble Mike McGlynn had a part in causing against the Titans last season, and McGlynn did an outstanding job taking over for Jamaal Jackson at center. But now that Jackson is back from a torn tricep, Andy Reid said that Jackson is the starting center. While the job may be his for now, things could change very quickly. Jackson has not played a full game in over a year and a half. McGlynn, on the other hand, played what Eagles expert Ray Didinger said was some of the best football an offensive lineman played over the second half of last season. While Jackson has had more experience at the position, McGlynn is the one who Michael Vick is used to. The fact that Howard Mudd has no loyalty to Jackson only adds more intrigue to this training camp battle.
Third String Running Back: Noel Devine vs. Graig Cooper vs. Eldra Buckley
The Eagles first two running back spots are wrapped up with LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis holding down those spots. The third running back position, is very much up in the air. Eldra Buckley held that position last year, due to his stellar special teams play. Buckley also brings more of a power running style then either McCoy or Lewis. But Noel Devine and Graig Cooper have more talent then Buckley, which should add some intrigue to this battle. Both Devine and Cooper have the ability to take it to the house when given empty space. Devine is stronger then Cooper, but both excel in the return game- something Buckley does not. This will come down to one thing: if either Devine or Cooper can make an impact on special teams, Buckley could be gone.
Nickel Cornerback: Joselio Hanson vs Trevard Lindley
Hanson could win the job- or be cut all together
You would think they found a knife in Trevard Lindley’s locker the way he has been blamed for the firing of Ex-Coordinator Sean McDermotts firing. Many people around the Eagles feel that Lindley was not able to grasp the defensive system well enough to get on the field, and blamed it on McDermott. This season, big things are expected of Lindley, who will battle with Joselio Hanson for the nickel cornerback spot. Hanson is in serious danger of being cut as a cap causality, which makes this battle even more important. A poor training camp by Hanson could find him out of a job.
Defensive Tackle: Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws vs Mike Patterson, Broderick Bunkley
Antonio Dixon came on like a gangbuster towards the end of last season, as he play led him to be the best defensive tackle on the team in many people eyes. The same could be said for Trevor Laws, who arguably saved his NFL career last season. Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson, both former first round picks, started last season off strong before fading away at the end. The wrap on Bunkley and Patterson have been their inability to collapse the pocket on the opposing quarterback. Dixon did a good job of that last season, and Laws came up with big players during his time on the field. While it would be shocking to see both Bunkley and Patterson go, a strong training camp by Dixon and Laws could spell the end for either Bunkley or Patterson in Philadelphia.
Weak Side Linebacker: Moise Foku vs Casey Matthews
Perhaps the only reason Moise Foku is still here is his low salary, as it seems every other member of last years linebacker crew has been jettisoned off. Foku battled last season with Akeem Jordan for this job, but with Jordan likely out of the picture, he now has 4th round pick Casey Matthews to contend with. Make no mistake about it: while this job is an open competition, the Eagles want Matthews to win it. Matthews is quicker then Foku, and shows a better knack of being around the ball. With that being said, Matthews is still a rookie. Unlike a rookie defensive lineman, a rookie linebacker caught out of position could spell disaster for a defense. Foku can win his job by playing solid, mistake free football.