Eagles camp report: Rookie Matthews in line to start Week 1

Brian Garfinkel / Associated Press
Casey Matthews, picked on the third day of April's draft, has the inside track for the Eagles' starting MLB job.

Steve Wyche recently visited Eagles camp in Bethlehem, Pa. Here's what he saw.

Observation deck

1. Michael Vick isn't relaxing. Entering his third season with the Eagles, Vick is completely comfortable with schemes, the goals and himself. Earlier in his career, that would have been a bad type of comfortable, where he felt he was so in control that he wouldn't have to work as hard. Now, he's outworking everyone. He's taking what he knows and making sure everyone else is up to speed. Watching him work with his teammates and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is vastly different than how he interacted with coaches and teammates in Atlanta.

2. Vince Young needs some time. I'm not going to judge Young on one day's practice, especially when he's learning a new system and the demands on details are different than what he was used to in Tennessee. That said, he looked really out of sorts on the day I saw him. His accuracy was awful, his reads weren't always the best, and his mechanics were really poor. Frankly, he looked like a rookie. That said, two weeks from now, he could be a totally different player. Coach Andy Reid said the Eagles' offense is so particular that things seemingly as simple as a three-step drop aren't easy to learn because on different plays, the specifics of a three-step drop are different. Different depths are required, different timing is needed. So Young is swimming in it. He did look decent in team drills, as opposed to seven-on-seven and individual drills. He is taking nearly all of the second-team snaps, though, with second-year player Mike Kafka getting far fewers opportunities.

3. There are two other wideouts to watch. At some point, the Eagles figure to have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin back in the mix -- if Maclin gets medical clearance. While they provide the star power, the backbone of the group is slot receiver Jason Avant, arguably the best slot receiver in the game outside of Wes Welker. Avant is reliable and poised, and he could emerge as more of a go-to guy in clutch moments. Another player who could become a favorite target of Vick's is Riley Cooper. The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder had just seven catches in his rookie season, but his role should increase. Vick likes big targets when it's time to move the sticks. In Atlanta, Vick loved going to 6-5 Brian Finneran, the No. 4 receiver, on third down. The Vick-Cooper combo could be the same.

4. An area that's been a concern for years will be a strength this season -- safety. GM Howie Roseman was gushing over the depth they've compiled at the position. They expect big things from last season's pick, Nate Allen, who was off to a solid rookie season before tearing his patellar tendon in his knee and having season-ending surgery. A seventh-round pick who started toward the end of last season, Kurt Coleman, is working as a starter and has really been sharp, according to Roseman.

New guy to watch

» The bloodlines don't end here. Casey Matthews, he of the Matthews NFL pedigree, looks as if he'll be the starting middle linebacker in the 4-3 front. Though he doesn't run like his brother Clay, he is the prototypical north-south stuffer the Eagles like as their Mike linebacker. Roseman told me the front four could create so much concern for opposing teams that Matthews should be able to make or force a ton of plays. The reason Matthews already is working with the first unit is because he is so instinctive, he's already around the ball, Roseman said. They have so much confidence in Matthews, he's calling the plays in the huddle and setting the defense pre-snap. "They have trust in me leading the huddle out there, and I love the challenge," Matthews said.

» First-round pick Danny Watkins is rotating in at right guard, but the plan is for him to start, Roseman said. Watkins' ability to learn quickly and the fact that, at 26, he's already physically up to speed puts him in a good position to succeed, Roseman said.

» Seeing free-agent defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove line up along that defensive line is frightening. With all of the talent they have on that line, to add a workaholic, high-strung playmaker like Hargrove is only going to make the Eagles that much better. He is working as the 3-technique tackle, but he'll also play end in some sets. Hargrove got his career back on track and did some really good things for the Saints the past two seasons. I'm surprised they let him get away.


The versatility that running backs LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown provide won't just result in some likely variations of the Wildcat. Both players will also be used as receivers, sometimes as wideouts, to force defenses to balance the field with their safeties and linebackers. That will open up lanes for a variety of players to exploit. As far as McCoy, he figures to have a bigger role in the offense. I've been wondering why a player with his skill set and production isn't touching the rock more, but in Philly there are a lot of players to please. Add Brown to that equation.


The pretzel logic -- but well-proven theory -- is that it's hard to buy a championship in the NFL. The Redskins have tried countless times and ... So, with all the moves the Eagles have made, it seems they would be destined to come up short, somehow. Frankly, I'm having a hard time sticking with that logic unless Michael Vick gets hurt and is out for a long time. Though it's hard to say Philadelphia will win the Super Bowl, they'll be in the mix.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89



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