Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bears DT calls McNabb comments 'a joke'

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris insists he was joking when he said in Philadelphia last week that the Bears would win a championship with Donovan McNabb at quarterback, rather than current signal-caller Rex Grossman.

Attending McNabb’s charity golf tournament, Harris told reporters that he would love for the Eagles quarterback to play for the Bears and that the Bears would win the Super Bowl with McNabb leading the offense.

"I will be careful the next time I joke around," Harris said Monday in Lake Forest. "Donovan was behind the camera laughing. We were joking around and it escalated to more than what it was. I apologized to the rest of my team. I was very embarrassed with how much it blew up with the media. My team forgave me, so that's all that matters."

For his part, Grossman said it was no big deal. Asked if “it was over,” Grossman said: “Yeah. It was never really started. It’s not that big a deal.”

Link to: Chicago Bears report
Link to: Chicago Tribune article

Friday, June 15, 2007

Full Mini Camp Report

Minicamp has come to an end without much fanfare. Over the eight-day camp, veterans and rookies worked out for the first time together and new veteran acquisitions began learning a new playbook in preparation for any football player’s favorite two words – training camp. Rookies and select veterans will report to Lehigh on Friday, July 27 while the full team must report by July 30th. The interesting story lines that began to develop at minicamp which will play out at Lehigh range from a rookie quarterback selected in the second round on a team with a franchise quarterback to an Aussie with a powerful leg.

Donovan McNabb found some time this week between his eating chunky soup and growing his Abe Lincoln beard to practice for the first time since his season ending knee injury on November 19, 2006. McNabb, who practiced for 4 days this week looked healthy and brought a new energy to minicamp not seen during the first week of practice.

Eagles General Manager Tom Heckert found his franchise quarterback a new weapon this off-season after the departure of Donte Stallworth. Newly acquired wide receiver Kevin Curtis took his first throws from Donovan McNabb this past week and looked to be adapting to the new offense well. Curtis is no stranger to the NovaCare Complex. Since being acquired by the Eagles, Curtis has been working out at the facility and studying the Eagles’ playbook to be ready for the season opener.

On the other side of the ball, one missing face from minicamp was pro bowl safety Brian Dawkins. Often seen as the team leader on defense, Dawkins was excused from minicamp for personal reasons by Coach Reid. ‘Weapon X’ -- as his locker room namecard would have you believe -- is expected to be ready to participate in training camp by July 30.

With the release of Dhani Jones, the Eagles made drastic changes at the linebacker position. Jeremiah Trotter will be joined by second year strong side linebacker Chris Gocong and 10-year veteran Takeo Spikes, who was obtained in an off-season trade with the Bills. Trotter has been given the unique role of tutoring backup middle linebacker Omar Gathier, who is the presumed replacement for Trotter over the next year or two, and helping Takeo Spikes fit into the Eagles’ defense. Spikes and Trotter spent a great deal of time together at minicamp as they hope to bolster the linebacking core.

Last year the Eagles’ ranked 23rd in punting average and 26th in punting percentage inside the 20-yard line. First-year special teams coordinator Rory Segrest has the job of watching a position battle unfold at punter. According to Segrest, incumbent Dirk Johnson has made "great strides in the off-season." However, the Eagles signed former Australian Rules Football player Sav Rocca to compete for the position in mini camp and training camp. In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets have signed Australian Rules Football players to punt with great success. Last year the Cowboys and Jets ranked 1st and 13th, respectively, in punting average. The Cowboys ranked 2nd and the Jets finished 4th in punting average inside the 20-yard line. This position battle is far from over with one extra twist. Pro bowl kicker David Akers is very picky when it comes to his holder. The punter Akers is most comfortable with at place holder could weigh heavily on the ultimate roster decision.

Philadelphia Daily News beat writer Les Bowen told me "the Eagles’ wide receivers are very underrated." If minicamp is any litmus test for the season, Bowen was right on. It appears as if the starting wide receivers will be Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett, with Jason Avant competing for more snaps. Last year, Brown finished the year with a team best 816 yards and 8 TDs. Baskett, who was the resident downfield receiver last year, finished the year with a team best 21.1 yards per catch. Second-year receiver Jason Avant could fit in nicely at the slot position. The line on Avant coming out of Michigan last year was that he doesn’t drop passes, which was proven with his tremendous display of talent at minicamp this week. Avant made acrobatic catch after acrobatic catch and never seemed to miss one. Kevin Curtis comes from a vertical offense in St. Louis, but he is finally ready to step out of the large shadow cast by Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt. Last season, Curtis caught 40 passes for 479 yards and 4 TDs as the fourth receiving option behind Bruce, Holt, and running back Steven Jackson.

When asked if he had a feel on this year’s team, Coach Reid replied, “I have a feel, but I’ll have a better feel at training camp.” Well, Andy, only 42 days to wait.

*Projected Eagles Depth Chart (subject to change due to injury and performance)*


QB: Donovan McNabb, AJ Feeley, Kevin Kolb (Rookie – Houston) (There doesn’t seem to be room for Kelly Holcomb)

RB: Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, Tony Hunt (Rookie – Penn State)

FB: Thomas Tapeh, Jason Davis

WR: Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, Hank Baskett, Jason Avant (Greg Lewis and Jeremy Bloom will be fighting for any opening)

TE: LJ Smith (recovering from sports hernia), Matt Schobel (Injuries to both limited the ability to analyze this position).

LT: William ‘Tra’ Thomas, Winston Justice

LG: Todd Herremans, Max Jean-Gilles

C: Jamaal Jackson, Nick Cole

RG: Shawn Andrews, Scott Young

RT: Jon Runyan, Pat McCoy


LDE: Jevon Kearse, Darren Howard, Victor Abiamiri (Rookie – Notre Dame)

LDT: Mike Patterson, Monte Reagor

RDT: Broderick Bunkley, Ian Scott

RDE: Trent Cole, Juqua Thomas (Jerome McDougle has probably seen his last snap as an Eagle)

SLB: Chris Gocong, Tank Daniels, Stewart Bradley

MLB: Jeremiah Trotter, Omar Gathier, Dedrick Roper

WLB: Takeo Spikes, Matt McCoy

LCB: Lito Sheppard, Joselio Hanson, Dustin Fox

RCB: Sheldon Brown, Will James, Rashad Barksdale

SS: Sean Considine, Quintin Mikell

FS: Brian Dawkins, C.J. Gaddis

-Special Teams-

K: David Akers

P: Dirk Johnson, Sav Rocca

PR: Jeremy Bloom

KOR: Jeremy Bloom

LS: Jon Dorenbos, Mike Bartrum

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Westbrook shows extra effort

Last week Brian Westbrook spoke about his leadership role on the team. His emphasis was leading by example. As mini camp comes to an end tomorrow, Westbrook continues to display veteran leadership on the practice field at the Nova Care Complex.

Morning drills typically consist of each running back taking hand-offs from coaches at the 10 yard line. They take the ball, make their cut, and run. Westbrook however has started a new trend among his backfield teammates. Since the start of camp, each time Westbrook takes a hand-off, he makes his move and sprints to mid-field. Other players would begin their run back to the huddle around the 30 yard line. Westbrook said he would lead by example - and he has. Backups Correll Buckhalter, Ryan Moats, and rookies Tony Hunt and Nate Ilaoa have begun following Westbrook's example.

Ilaoa spoke about working with Westbrook throughout this two week mini camp.

“He’s defiantly helped me out in all phases. He’s always open for questions we have for him and he always gives us tops every time he sees something. He plays a ‘coach-player’ role especially with me and (fellow rookie) Tony (Hunt)”.

Ilaoa recognized the extra effort Westbrook has shown throughout camp and says he has tried to emulate his role model.

“It’s only smart to follow suit on what he’s doing. He’s got the formula for success and you just want to mimic that and run with it”.

This extra hustle and determination showed this early in mini camp could give the Eagles running game an extra boost come September 9th in Green Bay.

-Extra Points-

Donovan McNabb practiced for the third consecutive day with the first team offense. Today, Andy Reid allowed McNabb to practice from 11:10 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. (the longest practice this week).

Tomorrow, Donovan McNabb will address the media for the first time during this June mini camp. Both McNabb and Coach Reid will hold press conferences tomorrow as mini camp concludes.

Eagles’ cornerback Will James showed off his red zone skills today. James deflected three passes in the end zone during one drive.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

McNabb on the field again

For the second consecutive day, Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb has participated in the mini camp drills at the Nova Care Complex. McNabb looked sharp throwing to his receivers as he continues to rehab from his season ending knee injury.

During his first workout yesterday, McNabb hit his favorite target, Brian Westbrook, for a few screen plays and Hank Baskett for a few catches over the middle. Today, however, McNabb tested his arm and threw 30 yard routes to Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett, and Greg Lewis. Donovan's knee looks healthy and his arm looks great as he is throwing accurate down field passes.

Yesterday, Andy Reid spoke about limiting Donovan to only one hour of practice. "He wanted to stay out there. He wanted to do the red zone drill". Today, McNabb got his wish. McNabb worked with the first team offense in the red zone completing a strike to Reggie Brown in the end zone. Jeremiah Trotter, encouraged by McNabb's progression yelled out to his quarterback at the start of the red zone drill. "I see you 5!". Following the drill, McNabb left the practice field at 12:19 p.m.

Mini camp ends on Thursday, but McNabb will continue to practice on his own. Donovan plans to hold his annual pre training camp regiment in Arizona before flying back for training camp in July. New starting wide receiver Kevin Curtis says the two will work out together before training camp to perfect their timing and chemistry on the field.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Donovan McNabb Practices

For the first time since his November 19th knee ligament injury against the Tennessee Titans, Donovan McNabb put on his helmet and ran on the field to practice.

McNabb, who looked healthy, worked out with fellow quarterbacks A.J. Feeley, Kelly Holcomb, and Kevin Kolb in three drills during today's mini camp. Eagles' wide receivers caught passes from McNabb for the first time in their route running drill. McNabb worked with the first team offense which consisted of Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett, and tight end Lee Vickers. McNabb looked sharp on all of his passes and showed no element of a nagging injury.

Donovan did not speak to the media after his first practice of the year. Instead, he released the following statement through the Eagles Media Relations Office:

"It felt great to get back out there on the field with all of the guys. It's just part of the rehab process and hopefully good things will continue to come. It is important to continue to monitor my progress, but also to be smart about the whole situation".

-Extra Points-

Both Sheldon Brown and new linebacker Takeo Spikes looked sharp during first team defense drills. Brown made an interception in stride while Spikes forced a fumble and caught a pick.

With a depleted tight end position, Lee Vickers continues to work out with the first team offense while LJ Smith, Matt Schobel, and Brent Celek continue to rehab injuries.

Brian Dawkins continues to be excused from this mini camp by Coach Reid for personal reasons.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Brian Westbrook from Mini Camp

Eagles pro-bowl running back Brian Westbrook spoke to reporters after practice about his emerging role as a team leader.

"I can do it", Westbrook said. "I just try to be a little more vocal and let the guys know that I support them and want them to do the best they can. I try to show them by example as well".

Donovan McNabb's absence since week 11 last season has significantly altered Westbrook's role on the team. Westbrook has stepped into the prominent leadership role on the offense while McNabb focused on his rehab. "I try to give the guys a little push that they would normally get from Donovan", Westbrook claimed.

Aside from his new leadership responsibilities, Westbrook became the primary offensive threat under the post-McNabb offense last season. With Jeff Garcia under center for the Eagles' two playoff games, Westbrook rushed for 257 yards and 3 TDs. With McNabb returning to the helm in 2007, Westbrook wants to continue running the ball as he did at the end of the 2006 season. "If they allow us to run the ball a little bit, we'll continue to show people that we're one of the elite teams ay running the ball in this league".

Although Westbrook is not excited about the grueling training camp at Lehigh, he brings a winning attitude to the 2007 season. On the winning culture within the Eagles organization, Westbrook said, "I think it starts at the top, and that's Mr. Lurie and Andy Reid. They want us to know that the goal is the Super Bowl, and along the way we'll get the NFC Championship and the NFC East title...Win a Super Bowl. That's our goal".

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Eagles' Mini Camp Report

The Eagles finished day 3 of mini camp today at the NovaCare Complex as the veterans continue to work with rookies before next month's training camp in Lehigh.

With L.J. Smith and Matt Schobel already inactive for camp, the Eagles are thin at tight end. Today, fifth-round draft pick Brent Celek limped off the practice field in pain after a 7-on-7 drill. He called over a trainer as he walked toward the locker room, saying "It's my hip," and pointed to his right side. The injury did not appear serious, but the Eagles were left with only rookie Lee Vickers at TE for the remainder of practice today.

Today, wide receivers Jason Avant and Kevin Curtis both appeared ready to step into starting roles. Avant made two spectacular catches in tight coverage, while Curtis showed speed and talent throughout the drills.

Cornerback Will James almost came up with an interception in traffic. Key word: almost. Secondary coach Trent Walters called James over to the sideline and told him, "You were just one step too slow." James, who is the lone veteran who voluntarily attended rookie camps for extra practice, acknowledged his mistake and dropped down for 15 push-ups. Dedrick Roper didn't miss his opportunity. Roper picked off a pass in heavy inside traffic during the 7-on-7 drill, drawing whoops and cheers from his teammates and coaches alike.

New linebacker Takeo Spikes continued to spend time learning the Eagles' defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was complimentary after the practice, calling the 10-year veteran "a pro's pro."

Aside from the linebacker drills, Spikes has been spending a lot of time learning and working with fellow linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, also a 10-year veteran and past pro bowler.

After spending his entire career with bad teams in Cincinnati and Buffalo, Spikes is impressed with the attitude of the Eagles, top to bottom.

"They expect to win," Spikes said. "It all starts at the top with Andy Reid and it goes all the way down to the very last man."

McNabb looks loose, healthy at mini-camp

Donovan McNabb isn't participating in drills during the current mini-camp, where veterans reported Tuesday and the first full-squad workouts of the 2007 season are taking place through June 14 at the NovaCare Complex, but he has been in uniform and on the field during the first three days of camp.

McNabb shows no signs of a limp or any other impairmant as he jogs around the field and jokes around with teammates. He looks physically fit and his spirits seem high. McNabb, who missed the second half of last season after knee surgery, has said that his recovery is ahead of schedule.

Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg agreed with that assessment yesterday, saying that if he hadn't known McNabb had knee surgery, he wouldn't have been able to tell by seeing him around the practice facility.

Not content to stand on the sidelines while others went through passing drills, on Thursday McNabb was shagging throws from assistants on the field and lobbing them back to quarteracks A.J. Feeley, Kelly Holcomb and rookie Kevin Kolb as the trio moved through the drills.

Earlier, McNabb played the role of an over-aggressive defensive back on another drill by holding, grabbing and generally mugging an assistant coach playing inside receiver as the quarterbacks threw deep balls to receivers going down the sidelines.

"Get him off me, get him off me," McNabb shouted with a laugh, perhaps recalling his his college basketball days at Syracuse. "He's holding me, man!"

On Wednesday, McNabb was one of the last players out of the showers as the team prepared for its playground rebuilding project in North Philadelphia after a shortened practice session. Sitting at his locker in a towel, McNabb complained about the schedule for the event.

"I can't believe they told me the bus is leaving in 10 minutes," he griped as he prepared to get dressed.

"Don't worry," a reporter quipped as he was leaving the locker room. "The bus isn't leaving without you."