May 17, 2007

Camp Battles

Competition for jobs buoys Reid

Several spots, including defensive end, set for training camp battles

By GEOFF MOSHER, The News Journal

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles' first minicamp ended Monday, but don't try to figure out who has the inside track on jobs, especially at defensive end.

A depth chart? Forget it.

For most of the three-day camp, Jevon Kearse practiced only in the morning, while Trent Cole and Darren Howard traded spots on the first team between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Who knows where Juqua Thomas, Victor Abiamiri and Jerome McDougle will be when the season opens Sept. 9 at Green Bay?

Not coach Andy Reid. He has three more minicamps and training camp to figure that out.

"I think as long as the unanswered questions, you have good answers for when
it's all solved, then that's a good thing," he said. "I think we have good
players in competition with one another. I guess time will tell on that, but I
think that's the important part."

Reid craves this kind of competition -- good players pushing each other for playing time. It helps the team in the long run, he believes, even if the odd men out wind up elsewhere.

"I told the guys that it's open," Reid said. "They understand that there is
great competition that will do nothing but make us better. So, there are a few
different positions out there that will be challenged. I think that's healthy
for the football team"

The only lock is Kearse, at left end. The Eagles brought him here in 2004 to harass quarterbacks.

And though he hasn't registered a double-digit sack season in Philadelphia, he notched 3.5 in fewer than two games last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

"I'm looking forward to getting back on the field," Kearse said Monday, "and back toward 100 percent."

Who starts opposite Kearse at right end is still undecided and won't be determined until training camp.

Reid said Howard, another big-money defensive end, played at a Pro Bowl level early in the season but wore down from tendinitis in both knees. Cole, who had five sacks after three games, fell off when he took Kearse's spot in the starting lineup and finished with eight sacks.

The Eagles Web site depth chart, which is unofficial, lists Cole ahead of Howard. When asked about the competition, Cole took it all in stride.

"You got to get in where you fit in," he said.

Howard isn't panicking.

"I think teams just do what they feel is best for the team at the point and time when they're making decisions," Howard said. "You try to make the best decisions for your team right now and let the chips fall where they may."

Besides, Howard added, snaps are generally divided equally among defensive linemen in the Eagles' frequent rotation. Each player gets a chance to make his case.

"Don't get me wrong; [there is] a difference between starting and not starting, but it's not as big as other teams," Howard said. "Everybody plays a lot of reps. I even get extra reps on the inside on the nickel and dime [defenses], so it's not as big of a deal here as it would be somewhere else."

The Eagles' best pass rusher in the second half of last season, Thomas, is unlikely to become a starter this season. Three of Thomas' career-high six sacks came in December, when the Eagles went 5-0 to win the NFC East. He twice sacked elusive Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, but he's earmarked for a reserve role.

As for Abiamiri, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame last month, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said he's "picking up the system very quickly."

Where does that leave McDougle? The former 15th overall draft pick barely played last year after missing all of the 2005 season to recover from gunshot wounds he suffered during a robbery just before training camp began. His time is running out, and he knows it.

"My whole career has been pretty much filled with injuries," McDougle said. "I'm just trying to control what I can control. I really don't think about it [the competition]."
Contact Geoff Mosher at

Looks like it's Darren Howard vs Trent Cole. I think Cole wins here, because he just seems to play with hunger, and is a very high energy guy. I think Howard's best days are behind him, and less snaps would be helpfull for him.

If the Eagles can get back to that rotation they had early in the year, with the defensive line, then it really wont matter who the starter is. The run defense suffered, when they got away from that.

I see McDougle knows he is toast as well. I'm sure they can find a nice job for him handing out gatorade.

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