Eagles go into another training camp looking to develop a WR

2007 season recap

Consistently inconsistent: The Eagles came into last season with Super Bowl aspirations, having won six of the last seven NFC East titles. Instead, they started 0-2 and had to close the season with three straight wins just to finish at 8-8. They feasted on non-playoff teams, going 6-1 against the schedule's lesser foes, but they struggled to compete with the upper echelon clubs, losing seven of nine games vs. playoff teams. In the end, the Eagles missed the postseason for just the third time in coach Andy Reid's nine seasons.

Key camp questions

Can the Eagles develop another offensive weapon?
Philadelphia has struggled to find playmakers in recent seasons. RB Brian Westbrook has become one of the best dual threats in the game, but aside from him and McNabb, the team lacks consistent offensive performers. Veteran wideouts Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis have shown flashes they can be elite receivers, however they have yet to play at that level on a weekly basis. L.J. Smith was developing into an elite tight end before injuries derailed him last season. Rookie reciever/returner DeSean Jackson is fast and talented, but lacks size and has to learn the offense. The Eagles will be looking for one of those players or a reserve like WR Hank Baskett or RB Lorenzo Booker to really impress during camp.

Will Lito Sheppard accept his role as the nickleback?
Though Sheppard has struggled with injuries throughout his six-year career, he has also been one of the league's best cover corners; he is a two-time Pro Bowler and has 17 career interceptions. He missed five games last season, but still recorded 51 tackles and had two picks. With the offseason addition of Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel, Sheppard is now being put into a reserve role. He skipped some voluntary offseason practices and it remains to be seen if he will be content playing as a backup behind Samuel and Sheldon Brown. If he does take to the spot in training camp and thrive as a nickleback, the Eagles may have the best trio of corners in the league.

Will the Eagles improve on special teams?
The kicking game is often overlooked, but it quietly has a major impact on teams' success. Last year, the Eagles had one of the league's weaker special teams units. They did not rank in the top 13 in any special teams category (14th in kickoff coverage, 29th in net punting, 24th in kickoff returns, 24th in punt returns and 27th in field goal accuracy). Jackson's potential as a dangerous return man should instantly improve the Eagles' special teams, but they need to find some coverage guys and make sure K David Akers is still capable. After hitting at least 80 percent of his field goal attempts for five straight seasons, Akers has failed to reach that percentage in the last three.

Key position battle

S Sean Considine vs. S Quintin Mikell: Considine was the starter last season before going down in Week 9 with a shoulder injury. Mikell began the season as a backup, but wound up starting 11 games in place of both Brian Dawkins, who was hurt early in the season, and then Considine. He played well enough in relief that he is now slated as the starter entering training camp. Considine has designs on regaining his starting job, however, so the competition could be tight at the strong safety position. With Dawkins, Samuel, Brown and Sheppard considered amongst the best at their position, if the winner of this battle can shine then the Eagles' secondary should be dominant.

Rookie spotlight

DT Trevor Laws:Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson likes to rotate his defensive linemen during the game to keep them fresh and Laws figures to be a major part of the rotation. He has the athleticism and quickness to excel in the Eagles' pressure schemes and will be counted on along with free-agent addition DE Chris Clemons and veteran DT Montae Reagor to provide a boost off the bench.

Player on the spot

WR Reggie Brown: For the second straight season, Brown enters training camp as the team's No. 1 receiver. He struggled to live up to the expectations last season, finishing with 61 catches for 780 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers are adequate for a second or third wide receiver, but in the Eagles' pass-happy system, the top wideout has to come up with better production. The Eagles chose not to acquire any receivers in the offseason aside from the rookie Jackson, once again leaving Brown as the team's primary receiving option.

Fantasy focus

QB Donovan McNabb: A combination of injuries and inconsistent production has caused McNabb's draft value to fall. He's still a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but McNabb is an obvious risk-reward selection. Owners who do take a chance on him should be sure to also add a solid reserve quarterback as insurance.

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