I think Andy Reid runs the most physical training camp in the entire NFL, and what I saw during my visit was a prime example.
Four of the drills I watched were full-speed, tackle-to-the-ground drills. It didn’t matter who had the ball in their hands, they were getting nailed. Reid believes in toughening up his players, getting them through soreness and knowing how to play with bumps and bruises. More than that, though, he doesn’t believe you can learn how to tackle or how to block without going full speed.
The owner may be holding his breath this time of year that guys don’t get injured, but to my knowledge Reid has never lost a player for the season due to full-contact practices. When LB Stewart Bradley was injured last year, it was a non-contact injury.
I like the approach, and I think it’s the right approach for this team. This team is one of the youngest in the league, and I think all of these guys need to learn how to get tougher and prove themselves by getting through another camp. This team doesn’t have Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook or Brian Dawkins, some of the toughest guys in the league. Reid put those guys through it, and they knew it was coming. But this team doesn’t have those guys, not yet … until they prove it.
That’s what this camp is all about to me, it’s the beginning stages of these young players proving that they belong and that they can carry the torch of what some really good players did for a long time for the Eagles.
- It’s worth pointing out that veteran newcomer RB Mike Bell has a Super Bowl ring and is a very tough runner between the tackles. His biggest thing is staying healthy. I think he’s going to give this team a lift when they do run the ball.
- This is no knock on Donovan McNabb, but what you need to know about Kevin Kolb is that he refuses to have his post-practice news conferences at a podium. He doesn’t want any star treatment. He has some humility and wants to earn his stripes. I watched him miss some throws, some throws he has to make. That’s why this camp, and every single drill, is important for him to get his timing down with these receivers. He’s never been in this spot before, where he’s under the microscope every single play. Kolb is a straight-shooter, and I know his teammates will appreciate that.
- This group of young players — Kolb, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Cornelius Ingram — is looking to make a name for themselves. I think Reid is energized by making a new name with new players, too. There will be growing pains, but I think they’re interested in doing this now.
- Eagles LT Jason Peters has had two disappointing seasons in a row, mostly due to injuries. This guy doesn’t care about his attitude, and could be the nastiest, most dominating left tackle in football, if he wants to. He has supreme talent. He could be better than all of the left tackles everyone talks about, because he’s such a great run blocker. He could be the most punishing run-blocker in the league, and you could build your offense around him. He’s that good. But he has to want to do it every play, he has to want to be great.
- Rookie DE Brandon Graham caught my eye, because physically he’s a short guy and isn’t a prototypical left end. But size really doesn’t matter in this league any longer. He plays the game with incredible leverage, and it will be a key for him to build tremendous stamina. Then, he’ll need to develop second and third moves. Guys in college don’t develop those moves, and until Graham does it, he won’t be a dominant player. He if does, he has that type of ability.
- Another guy who caught my eye is WLB Ernie Sims. He has tremendous speed and is a wrecking ball. Sims is typical of a guy who comes out of a black hole in the NFL and emerges with a new team, amazed at how things are different, and has a great season. Watch out for Sims and Bradley.
— Brian Baldinger