A couple of days ago a reader brought up the point of how versatile the Eagles roster is. There really are a lot of guys who can do multiple things.
Start with the WRs. DeSean Jackson is a weapon, not just a WR. He's deadly as a punt returner. He's deadly on short passes and deep balls. He also is so gifted as a runner that he gets mixed into the run game on a regular basis. Jeremy Maclin showed this kind of potential in college, but we sure didn't see it last year. Now that he's got a year under his belt I'm hoping that he's more natural as a RS and when he gets to run the ball. Even Jason Avant is a bit unusual. We ran a WR screen to him against the Bears. It wasn't the usual screen. Avant came in motion to the formation. He blocked the DE, then released and caught the pass. Avant ran 13 yards for a TD. That's almost a TE kind of play. You can't use that type of screen with just any WR.
Brent Celek is a pure TE. Cornelius Ingram and Clay Harbor are athletic guys who can be moved around. Ingram can split out wide like a receiver. He lacks ideal speed, but at times will look like a WR. Harbor can be an H-back or FB as well as TE. We can get very creative with how to use him, depending on his blocking skills.
LeSean McCoy isn't Westy, but he looks like he can be an above average receiver out of the backfield. Leonard Weaver and Charles Scott can both play RB and FB. Weaver is a gifted receiver. Scott doesn't have much experience, but Dave Spadaro was impressed with his hands in the recent rookie camp.
The O-line isn't really fair to cover. Those guys have to be versatile.
We have a lot of versatile guys in the front seven on defense. Juqua Parker, probably the most underrated Eagle, can play DE, LB, and has even logged snaps at DT for us. Trent Cole can play some LB in certain sets. I think Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham will also be guys that can move around for us. Ricky Sapp and Alex Hall are getting looked at in multiple positions as we try to figure out where to play them. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will play as much at DT this year as he will at DE. If healthy, Victor Abiamiri's main contribution will be at DT in the Nickel/Dime.
Stewart Bradley was drafted to play SAM, but is now our MLB. Omar Gaither has started at WLB and MLB. Akeem Jordan is training to play at all 3 LB spots. Moise Fokou is our SAM, but has practiced at the other spots as well. Rookie Jamar Chaney can play MLB or WLB.
The secondary is almost too complicated to cover. I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the show M*A*S*H. Klinger takes a letter to Col. Blake's office to ask to go home. His father is "dying". Then Col. Blake pulls out Klinger's file and reads previous letters. Each letter has a family member sick, pregnant, or dying and requests his return to help. Then Blake pulls out his favorite letter from the file..."half the family pregnant, half the family dying." Classic.
Half our secondary are Safeties that can play CB. The other half are CBs that can play Safety. At least that is the way it feels.
This versatility gives the coaches a lot of freedom to be creative with their schemes and gameplans. I expect Marty Mornhinweg and Sean McDermott to be very creative this year. You can argue whether that's a good or bad thing. I think some people mistake complex schemes for good schemes. Tampa won a SB with a very simple defense in 2002. Pittsburgh won with a basic offense back in 2005. They mixed in trick plays, sure, but it wasn't generally complicated. The simple runs plays lulled you to sleep and allowed the tricks to be effective. The Giants offense in 2008 wasn't exactly Martzian. Last year the Saints ran a very complex offense and did some great things. Their defense got complicated as needed and had some very effective gameplans.
As the old saying goes, to thine own self be true. Our coaches like complex concepts. We have smart and versatile players. That will allow the coaches to do the things they like. Now it is up to the coaching staff to develop good ideas and teach them during the spring and summer. Then we find out if the players can execute them during the year.
There will be some really interesting camp battles this year. We're hearing a lot of good things about WR Riley Cooper. WR Chad Hall is another guy of real interest. Could they force out a veteran like Hank Baskett? You bet.
A few people have wondered about RB Mike Bell. I think he'd have to really struggle in order not to make it. Remember, the Eagles aggressively went after him. They don't cut guys like that unless the situation clearly calls for it.
We can sit here and predict cuts, but the reality is that we have to watch the players in action. Jobs will be won and lost on the field. Quintin Demps could go from zero to hero with a good showing this summer. Trevor Laws will either earn more playing time or a pink slip based on how he plays. Performance is the name of the game. Juqua Parker was brought here in 2005 as a longshot free agent. He's still here. JP earns a roster spot every year by playing his butt off up at Lehigh. One thing I love about the way the Eagles do business is that everyone is given a fair chance. Sure, I'll label some guys as camp bodies. That doesn't mean they won't be given a chance to make it. The odds are against them (limited reps and lots of good competition), but we see guys surprise us every year by earning a roster spot or Practice Squad spot. That's the beauty of Training Camp.