Although there’s still about two weeks until the Eagles have to make their first set of cuts, there are still a number of players who need to show some improvement. This is true for a number of different reasons.
There are a number of players who are expected to contribute for this team, but they need to step their game up. On the other hand, the Eagles have a very loaded roster and many players need to improve if they want to end up making the team.
Players can make an impact by practicing well, but making big plays against another team sticks out even more.
They had an opportunity to do that last week against the Ravens, but some players really need to step up and shine against the Steelers this Thursday.
1. Vince Young
There was a level of excitement in Philadelphia when Young signed with the Eagles. He has had troubles in the past, but Young has always showed the will to win.
His style of play may be a bit unorthodox, but in the end, he typically walks away victorious.
During the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have done a great job of developing quarterbacks. However, the early play of Young has been downright hideous.
The Eagles want Young to be their backup quarterback, but he really hasn’t done anything yet to prove he’s worthy. He’ll make a nice play with his athleticism every once in a while, but he rarely executes plays the way they’re drawn up.
I’m hoping that Young is just taking time to adjust to the system, because the Eagles definitely need a solid insurance policy with Michael Vick’s style of play. However, Young has a lot of work to do.
2. Alex Henery
Henery played well in the first preseason game, but he has struggled recently in Training Camp. Odds are pretty high that Henery won’t end up getting cut, but he needs to work out the kinks in his game before the regular season starts.
Bobby April has stated that Henery’s plant foot has been off a few degrees and that has contributed to his struggles as of late. This doesn’t sound like anything too extreme, so you have to believe Henery should be able to fix that pretty easy.
The thing that we won’t know about Henery for a while is how he handles the pressure of kicking in the NFL. He’s getting the opportunity in the preseason, but that’s nothing compared to what he might face during the regular season.
Kickers can win and lose football games, so I want to see Henery tighten up his technique and prove he’ll be ready to go when wins and losses start to matter.
3. Kurt Coleman
If anyone on the defensive first unit stuck out in a bad way, it was definitely Coleman. With the talent the Eagles have at the corner position, opposing offenses will try to attack the Eagles’ linebackers and safeties as much as they can.
The Eagles have been lining Coleman up in the defensive backfield by himself, so he has a lot of responsibility to read the offense and help out in coverage. This is a new look for the defense, and Coleman has typically been more effective lining up in the box.
Juan Castillo wants his safeties to be interchangeable. This means that he expects his safeties to be able to line up in the box as well as be able to help in coverage.
Coleman isn’t fully comfortable in the pass coverage role yet, but he’ll need to get comfortable fast or he’ll be exposed.
4. Phillip Hunt
Hunt was a CFL star last year who received some high remarks this past offseason. Although he had impressive numbers in the Canadian league, you have to wonder why he didn’t make it into the NFL originally.
In his first preseason game with the Eagles, Hunt was able to register one of the defense’s six sacks on the night. This kind of thing turns heads, but Hunt is battling to earn a spot at a pretty crowded position.
Hunt’s been put in a great position, getting the opportunity to be coached by Jim Washburn and having teammates like Trent Cole and Jason Babin. He has to be a sponge, absorbing everything that he’s taught, and doing everything that he can to apply it.
The Eagles already have some solid depth at the defensive end position, but you can never have too many talented pass rushers.
Hunt has shown some flare, but he’s going to need to continue to prove himself in order to earn a spot in the rotation.
5. Casey Matthews
This isn’t to say that Matthews played bad last week against the Ravens. He just wasn’t on the field long enough to prove a whole lot.
Against the Steelers, the Eagles starters are slated to play the entire first half. We’ll get a much better opportunity to see how Matthews handles himself. I want to see him make plays, but also prove that he has the kind of leadership associated with the middle linebacker position.
Matthews has a lot of pressure on him as a rookie who has been thrust into the starting lineup of a team who expects to win a Super Bowl in 2011.
Matthews is surrounded by a ton of talent on defense, so he’s going to prove that he has the talent to hang with a unit like that. I think that he does, but I want to see him display it against another team.