QB competition begins this week at Camp Kelly

Chip Kelly opens his first training camp as coach of the Eagles this week in Philadelphia. He has said he won’t name his starting quarterback for the season opener until after the preseason games.

The Philadelphia Eagles haven't entered a training camp with this much excitement and intrigue in nearly a decade.

New coach Chip Kelly has been trying to install a new offense while also attempting to change the culture for a team that hasn't won a playoff game since the 2008 season and finished a woeful 4-12 a year ago.

As a result, preseason interest in the Eagles has reached a level last seen in 2004, when quarterback Donovan McNabb, wide receiver Terrell Owens and defensive end Jevon Kearse joined the rest of the team at Lehigh University to prepare for a season that ended with a trip to the Super Bowl.

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This season's training camp will be much different on several levels. First, the location has changed. After 17 summers at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., the Eagles will train at their home base, the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia.

The personnel also has been overhauled. Of the 90 players due to participate in camp starting this week - rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans are due Monday, followed by the rest of the team on Friday - 44 were not with the Eagles last season.

But despite the changes instituted by Kelly - music during practices, new locker assignments, different food in the cafeteria - the success of the Eagles will still come down to talent. Here's a look at some of the key position battles that will be conducted before they open the regular season at Washington on Sept. 9.


The debate about the Eagles' quarterback situation has raged for months. Michael Vick and Nick Foles took most of the reps with the first-team offense during the offseason minicamps and OTAs (organized team activities), but Dennis Dixon and rookie Matt Barkley cannot be ruled out.

Vick hoped Kelly would at least name a temporary starter before training camp began, but not only did Kelly refuse that request, he has indicated the position will not be decided until after the preseason.

"If I name one (at the start of training camp), what am I going to gain?" Kelly said last month. "How do I name him in my position? We've been out there in shorts and T-shirts since April 1, and I'm supposed to name a starting quarterback out of that? They haven't been hit, there's been no (pass) rush. I don't think it's fair."

Vick, who restructured his contract in order to stay with the Eagles for at least one more season, would seem to be the best fit for Kelly's read-option offense because of his versatility as a runner and passer.

But Foles drew continuous praise from Kelly throughout the offseason. Dixon played for Kelly at the University of Oregon and is intimately familiar with the system. Barkley, a fourth-round draft pick, has proven to be a quick learner.

"I think it's great competition," Vick said last week on Sirius XM NFL radio. "Every day we're out there competing. I make (Foles) better, he makes me better, and our main focus is to try to be the best quarterback we can be when we're out there behind the center. Primarily, the most important thing is to lead this football team and to win football games.

"I have no resentment, no disappointment within myself as far as what the situation is right now because the truth of the matter is you have to compete every day. You've got to compete on Sundays. You've got to compete off the field, you've got to compete on the field. And I understand that and that's the fun part about the game we play. If it was easy, then it wouldn't be fun."

Offensive line

The quarterback won't matter if the Eagles don't find the right combination of blockers.

Much of last season's troubles were attributed to a rash of injuries at this position. Left tackle Jason Peters, who was arguably the best left tackle in the NFL in 2011, missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Center Jason Kelce tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the first game. Right tackle Todd Herremans also missed a lot of time with a torn tendon in his foot.

All three are back, but there are still unresolved issues. Lane Johnson, the team's first-round draft pick in April, is expected to start at right tackle but has yet to sign a contract and can't report to training camp until he does. Herremans is supposed to shift back inside to right guard ahead of struggling Danny Watkins. If Johnson's salary squabble stunts his development, Herremans could be back at tackle and Watkins would get a chance to finally live up to his potential.

Dennis Kelly, Dallas Reynolds and rookie tackle Michael Bamiro will be among those fighting for backup jobs.


The Eagles could wind up with four new starters in the defensive backfield. Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (San Francisco) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver) are gone after disappointing performances the last two seasons. Former Baltimore Raven Cary Williams will be one starter, assuming he's ready to go after missing most of the voluntary offseason workouts for various reasons. Another free-agent pickup, former St. Louis cornerback Bradley Fletcher, is the front-runner to join him in the lineup. Brandon Boykin is the favorite to be the nickel corner. Curtis Marsh and rookie Jordan Poyer also will challenge for playing time.

At safety, former New England Patriot Patrick Chung is expected to start at one spot, leaving holdover Nate Allen, former New York Giant Kenny Phillips, rookie Earl Wolff and possibly veteran Kurt Coleman to duel for the other job. Allen, the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2010, has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency, but he is still only 25 and has a lot of potential. Knee troubles also make Phillips a risk. Wolff made an impression on the coaching staff during the offseason workouts.

Outside linebacker

The Eagles are switching to a 3-4 base defense for the first time in franchise history under new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. The problem is, they don't have many players with experience playing that system.

Connor Barwin, who spent the previous four seasons with Houston, will be the key player for this group. He played in a 3-4 the previous two seasons for the Texans and showed the ability to both rush the passer and drop into coverage.

The Eagles are now asking veteran defensive ends Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt to make the switch. Cole faces the most difficult transition considering he has been a defensive end for the Eagles for the last eight seasons. He lost weight since last season in an effort to improve his quickness. Graham, the Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2009, finally showed signs of becoming a key member of the defense last season.


Mat McBriar was released after a mediocre performance last season. The Eagles signed veteran Donnie Jones away from Houston to take his spot, but Jones also faces competition from unpredictable rookie Brad Wing.

Jones, a nine-year NFL veteran, ranks ninth on the NFL's all-time list with a career punting average of 45.6 yards. Last season, he averaged 47.2 yards with a 40.5-yard net average for the Texans.

Wing, a native of Australia, was signed as an undrafted free agent after a troublesome career at Louisiana State University. Wing had two seasons of eligibility remaining but was asked not to return to school because of various off-field incidents.

Wing, who trains with Jones in the offseason at LSU - Jones is also a former Tigers punter - averaged a school-record 44.6 yards on 118 punts in two years. His leg strength is impressive, but he was inconsistent during offseason workouts.

Contact David Weinberg:


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