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5 thoughts on the Eagles' D

With OTAs wrapped up, here are five thoughts on the Eagles' defense and a mini-preview of what to look for six weeks from now at Lehigh.

A lot can change between now and the Eagles' Week 1 game against the Packers.

But here are five thoughts on the defense after OTAs:

1. The Birds are going to count on at least three rookies to make pretty significant contributions. The first is Nate Allen, who Andy Reid said will be the starter opposite Quintin Mikell going into training camp. Allen seems like he has the ability and smarts to hold on to the starting job, although he'll have to fight off Quintin Demps. But there's a good chance the Eagles start a rookie at safety to start the season for the second year in a row.

Brandon Graham and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim also figure to see playing time right off the bat. If I had to guess now, I'd say Graham won't start in Week 1, but will rotate in for Juqua Parker at left defensive end and play a significant amount of snaps. Whenever the Eagles are in the nickel, expect Graham to sub in for Parker.

Te'o-Nesheim will also be a part of the rotation, most likely subbing in for Mike Patterson or Brodrick Bunkley inside on passing downs.

2. It's amazing how Trent Cole just blends in. The guy has had 34 sacks in the past three seasons, and is by far the team's best defensive lineman (and really, their best defensive player), yet I barely even noticed him at OTAs. I'm not really sure why Cole flies under the radar, but he does.

3. I know nothing more about Alex Hall than I did a month ago. The Eagles acquired Hall in the Sheldon Brown/Chris Gocong trade in the offseason. At OTAs, he played almost exclusively up at the line of scrimmage. He would appear to be more of an option on the defensive line than at linebacker at this point. Hall is only 24 years old. Maybe the Eagles look at him as a project. Or maybe they think he can play a role this season. Like I said, I really have no idea.

4. The most intriguing battle at Lehigh will be at right cornerback (Note: I wrote left CB at first. Thanks for commenter MidGreen for pointing out the error). Ellis Hobbs got the first-team reps there at OTAs, but he was not able to participate fully in practices. Reid said Hobbs will be ready to participate fully at training camp, but the job really should be wide open. Joselio Hanson wants it. And the Macho Harris cornerback experiment is likely to continue. Trevard Lindley is still learning, and while I think McDermott likes what the rookie has shown so far, I'd be surprised if he were a realistic candidate to start. Perhaps at training camp, I can provide a daily CB competition update.

5. I think Quintin Mikell might be the one of the most important Eagles in 2010. Last year, the defense was without Jim Johnson, Brian Dawkins and Stewart Bradley, and a lot of responsibility was placed on Mikell's shoulders. Probably an unfair amount. His play suffered. And communication was a major issue on D all season. This year, he could very well be teamed with another rookie at safety. And left cornerback is not expected to be a strength. Bradley's return will help. And Sean McDermott having a year of making calls under his belt will help too. But Mikell's performance will be key.

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