Battleground Lehigh: Birds preparing for position wars

Brandon Graham

The Eagles will begin their 14th season under head coach Andy Reid this Sunday on the campus of Lehigh University when rookies and selected veterans report. Those players will practice (in a walk-through) Monday morning.

As the calendar turns and the anticipation grows — remember, Mike Vick said the Birds have “all the chips” to make a Super Bowl run — we take an early look at some position battles in Part 1 of a two-part series.

Weakside LB

Brian Rolle vs. Jamar Chaney

What to watch:
This should be the most intriguing and most competitive battle by far at camp. The coaching staff has anointed DeMeco Ryans as the starter in the middle spot, with rookie Mychal Kendricks penciled in on the strongside. Andy Reid has the smaller Rolle (above) — Chaney has him by 3 inches and 10 pounds — listed as the weakside starter, but don’t be fooled, this is a battle. Both played well enough last season to earn the trust of the organization.

Did you know? Although neither is exactly sure how they are related, Rolle and Chaney are cousins via their uncles — and the two are good friends off the field.

Backup QB

Mike Kafka vs. Trent Edwards and Nick Foles

What to watch:
Judging by the limited amount of snaps Edwards got at minicamp — and the fact the Eagles invested a third-round draft pick in Foles — this doesn’t appear to be much of a battle. But throw third-year man Mike Kafka into the mix, and now we might have something to watch. Kafka, even with limited arm strength, seemed to be a pet project for quarterbacks guru Andy Reid. However, his unwillingness to open up the playbook for him is proving otherwise. Edwards, while shaky at best from what we’ve seen so far, still brings solid veteran
leadership and experience.

Did you know? Nick Foles was the first Arizona quarterback to be drafted, as a QB, in the last 50 years.

Defensive line

Brandon Graham vs. The Field

What to watch:
The way the Eagles attacked the offseason — moving up in the draft to grab Fletcher Cox, then adding Vinny Curry and re-signing Derek Landri — shows they knew they had holes to fill along the defensive line. Graham was supposed to be that speed-rusher, an undersized version of Dwight Freeney, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to inspire confidence. (He even admitted that, to this point, he’s been a bust). This will be his last shot to prove he belongs on a very crowded line, which includes Cox, Curry, Landri, Antonio Dixon, Mike Patterson, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Cedric Thornton.

Did you know? Graham is entering camp 20 pounds lighter this season and he’s finally fully recovered from ACL surgery. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn called him “a totally different guy.”


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