Live From Eagles Camp - Bethlehem, PA
Over the last two years, the faces of Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, have really changed. Last season, there was no Brian Dawkins and this year it’s Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook who have moved on. Those are big names that will remain familiar in the history books for a very long time.
So that’s brings up the big question for the 2010 season: can first-year starter Kevin Kolb step in and take over for McNabb at quarterback?
In two games last year, Kolb proved he’s got some skills. Against the Saints and Chiefs he threw for 718 yards and four TDs. But, he completed 64.6-percent of his passes overall, and that could be the biggest difference between Kolb and McNabb.
When you combine the Eagles offense with the talent on the team, fantasy-wise, Kolb has a ton of potential to be a top-notch QB this season. But, there will be growing pains and that’s what Kolb can hopefully learn about this preseason.
"I think that we made huge steps the last four or five days,” Kolb said Wednesday. “I thought the offense has really come together and we want to be sharp on game time and hopefully we can get our work done and get out of there."
On Aug. 9, head coach Andy Reid described a perfect example of what he’s seeing out of Kolb and how he’s improving.
“You saw where (CB) Asante (Samuel) read a play over on the right side; offensive right side. (WR) DeSean (Jackson) had run an eight-yard hitch route and Asante squatted on it, just like we saw the other day,” Reid said. “Kevin reared back, he went to throw it and then he held up; he pulled it back.
“He threw it the other day, came back today and learned from it. Pumped it, checked it down, plus eight. That's what he's doing. When Kevin makes a mistake, he learns from it and he makes progress. That's a very important quality to have. The guys that make them over and over and over and over again, those guys can't play at this level. It doesn't work for them. He studies it, he sees it, which is important, and then he reacts to it, which is even more important.”
For those of you who wait on taking a QB, Kolb can be a nice bottom-of-the-top-10 option. There’s a lot of unknown about him, but what we do know is the Eagles throw the ball a lot, so he should get his numbers. Expect the Birds to throw more short quick passes, than last year - playing up to Kolb’s accuracy, and allowing the talented receivers to pick up yards after the catch.
When Kolb’s not working with the first team, he can often be seen on the side staying lose and getting his throws in, mostly to WR Jason Avant and TE Brent Celek. Kolb and Celek are good friends off the field. Kolb has also been forthcoming, taking blame for mistakes and talking about getting better which has been a refreshing change of pace.
Even when Kolb isn’t throwing, Avant and Celek are still catching balls from coaches while most other players are taking a break. That says a lot about their dedication, because afternoon temps this week were as high as 99-degrees, post-afternoon practice even.
There’s a rumor going around camp that Avant hasn’t dropped a pass so far in training camp. Avant is a great slot option for the Birds this season. He’s got great hands and can be a dependable guy for Kolb going across the middle, especially as a safety valve when he’s under pressure.
“I'm not sure I've ever had a receiver that has had quite this type of camp, as far as catching the ball,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg on Aug. 10. “I just looked at the numbers about a day and a half ago and he has caught up near 80 balls - now this is under competitive, this doesn't include the competitive 7-on-7 – zero drops. I'm not sure I've ever had a man do that."
Last year, Avant had a nice fantasy run. Week 10 he had 156 yards, Week 11 he had a TD with 26 yards and followed it up with a Week 12 performance of 94 yards. Avant probably won’t be a week-to-week guy in your lineup, but don’t be surprised to see a similar run in 2010 at some point. He’s probably not worth drafting in most leagues, but if DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin get hurt, Avant should step right in. Just something to keep in mind.
Some guys who will be top-notch fantasy pass catchers are WR DeSean Jackson and TE Brent Celek, with second-year man Jeremy Maclin a sleeper to have a big-time impact fantasy year. Jackson’s speed makes him a top-10 fantasy WR coming into 2010. Last year, including punt returns, he had 10 plays of 50-plus yards, eight of which resulted in touchdowns. That equals big points in quick fashion for fantasy owners.
Celek busted out last year as well, and you knew about it here first at 4for4.com. After a big NFC Conference title game against Arizona in 2008-09, Celek produced 971 yards and 8 TDs and was a mid-to-late round fantasy steal last year. Expectations are high this summer, but he won’t stick around too long in drafts this time I would suspect. Here at 4for4 though, we’re telling you not to reach for a TE this summer – it’s that deep of a position. So despite the chance for Celek to put up similar numbers, what we’re saying is let him come to you and don’t spend an early pick - on him or any other TE for that matter.
Speaking of wide receivers, fifth round pick out of Florida, Riley Cooper, has taken full advantage of injuries to Jackson and Maclin this summer at camp. He’s caught just about everything thrown his way when working out with the first team and has instantly become a fan-favorite.
“Riley was one of those guys that we really liked going into the draft and then we got to a point where we're going, ‘I can't believe he's here on the board,’” said Reid last week. “So, he was the best player on the board, in our opinion at that particular time for how we had it stacked, so Howie (Roseman) and I made the decision to take him and he's come out here and played very well. Now, we expected him to [play well in camp]. I wouldn't say by draft round, that shows that, but we expected him to be very effective in the National Football League. He's big, fast and strong, strong with the ball and he has a pretty good feel for the game.”
Cooper should make the team as a WR4 or WR5 on the Birds. Hank Baskett and Kelley Washington are battling for probably one remaining spot, and special teams play this preseason could make the difference. I don’t expect any of the three to be impact fantasy players without injuries. But Cooper has been fun to watch at camp, and his laid-back attitude and haircut remind me of a California boy, rather than one from Oklahoma.
At running back, LeSean McCoy is getting a bulk of the first team reps, mostly because Mike Bell has been banged up. McCoy, who is entering his second year, is considered a Westbrook prototype, a guy who can turn the corner and also catch passes, but doesn’t have a lot of size to bang inside play-after-play. Last year, McCoy had trouble picking up the blitz and as a result, Leonard Weaver saw a lot more carries and snap than many expected.
McCoy should be an asset in PPR leagues, but I’m not quite sure how the carries will be divided up. Bell figures to get his share and most likely goal line carries, so he’ll at least have some value in scoring leagues. Philly just doesn’t run the ball enough to make any of these guys an RB1, or probably even RB2 options on fantasy teams.
At practice this week, though, I did see McCoy getting goal line carries in drills, as was Weaver. Keep in mind, Bell was still sidelined. Eldra Buckley was running with the second team. He made the team last year out of San Diego and the Birds even gave him a shot in short yardage, a place they really struggled last year.
In red zone drills, Mike Vick was seeing time with the first team, although it wasn’t in a Wildcat, or Spread Eagle formation. He was throwing the ball. Despite that, Vick could take away plays from Kolb in the red zone and looks to have some of his elusiveness back.