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Questions Answered, Questions Remain

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After a vaction during the "down time" in the NFL Bleeding Green is back with the opening of Eagles training camp. It seems like the theme of training camp this year and the party line of the Eagles organization is "we've put last year behind us". Have they though? What burning questions have been answered and which remain?

1. Can McNabb get over the TO debacle?
Donovan sought to answer this question right of the bat in training camp and so far it seems like the answer is yes. Certainly his play in the field will be the ultimate indicator, but his comments at the opening of camp convinced me that he had the right take on the situation. For the first time McNabb didn't seem like he was on the defensive, he didn't seem terribly frustrated with the questions, and he finally showed the kind of swagger that I've wanted to him to show all along. When asked about TO's book #5 responded "It won't sell unless he's talking about me" and joked that it was a "children's book". He didn't sound intimidated and finally seemed like he was on the offensive, which is exactly the kind of attitude you want the leader of your team to have heading into a new season. Plus, the media has been raving about his fitness.

2. Can/will the team run the ball?
This question really needed to be answered from 2 perspectives. Did the team make a personell commitment to run and will they make a playcalling commitment to run? Obviously the latter question we won't know until the team makes the field, although there's been hints from Andy Reid and new offensive coordinator Marty Morningwheg(who has had the #1 rushing attack in the NFL as an offensive coordinator in the past with the 49ers) that the team will have a more balanced offense this year. I believe it when I see it though.
As far as personell, it's hard to answer that question. Most Eagles fans wanted the team to address the rushing attack by signing or drafting a big running back to compliment Westbrook. While the the team didn't do that, it's hard to say that they didn't do some significant things to address the running game from a personell perspective. They resigned Jon Runyan, who was an unrestricted free agent and has always been talented run blocker as well as a vocal proponent of the team running the ball. They invested 2 draft picks in the offensive line, including a 2nd rounder on tackle Winston Justice who opended holes for the most fearsome running attack in college football, USC. Watch any highlight film of Reggie Bush and Lendale White and look at the kind of holes they had to run through that Winston opened up. In the 4th round the Eagles drafted the massive 355 lb mound of a man in Max Jean Gilles, who enters the NFL with a repuation as a road grader in the run game.

3. Was the pass rush fixed?
Without seeing them in action we can't say for absolute certain, but at the outset of camp the answer is a resounding yes. The Eagles spent big bucks on free agent DE Darren Howard, who just 2 years ago compiled 11 sacks. They spent a 1st round pick on pass rushing specialist DT Broderick Bunkley, and they traded up in the 3rd round to draft Chris Gocong, who led the nation in sacks last year playing in division 1AA. Basically we know Jim Johnson is going to call plays to bring pressure, we know that between Kearse, Bunkley, Cole, Patterson, Howard, Gocong, Trotter, and Dawkins/Lewis we have the personell to bring pressure... So there's really no reason this team shouldn't be a nightmare for opposing QBs

4. Was the WR position addressed?
Ummm. Not really. Now there's certainly a lot of new blood at the position. With Gaffney, Avant, Bloom, & Baskett there's at least some new guys to try to infuse last year's weak corps. The problem is that among that group there's no big names and there's a real lack of proven veterans on the squad. The only guys on the team right now that have actually spent a whole year as a starting NFL WR are newcomer Jabar Gaffney and the injured Todd Pinkston. That's scary. Now, anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I think Reggie Brown is going to be a very good WR and I think Gaffney is an upgrade over what we had... yet you can not say going into this year that the team has definetly answered the WR question.

There's a few other minor questions that have been talked about over the offseason as well.
Who will play center? Judging from the new long term deal Jamaal Jackson signed, it's hard to think he won't win that job.
Will Dawkins be resigned? Recents reports seem to say that offers have been made, taks have been held. Some progress at least been made.
Was the backup situtation solved? Yes
Will all the rookies get into camp on time? No, only Bunkley remains unsigned. Although only one first round pick in the NFL has signed so far, which makes it almost impossible to find out where Bunkley is slotted. Since the Eagles are in camp so early, other 1st round picks should start to get signed soon as other teams start camp and Bunkley should fall into line quickly. The good news is that there has been no indication that he plans on holding out for more money than they offer, he just needs to see where he slots.

I should be at training camp in the next few weeks for a full firsthand report. Hopefully alot of you can make it out. When I find out when I'll be there, I'll be sure to let everyone know.

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