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Camp brings Eagles' defense into focus

It's a long way until Sept. 9, but the Eagles' blurry prospects at several positions on defense became more clear after their three-day rookie minicamp.

Mychal Kendricks appears to be in line for a starting spot at linebacker. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Mychal Kendricks appears to be in line for a starting spot at linebacker. (Alex Brandon/AP)Read more

It's a long way until Sept. 9, but the Eagles' blurry prospects at several positions on defense became more clear after their three-day rookie minicamp.

Of all the rookies, Mychal Kendricks is the most likely to be starting when the full squad gathers next Tuesday for the start of organized team activities, otherwise known as "OTAs."

Eagles coach Andy Reid wouldn't hand Kendricks the strong-side linebacker job at the conclusion of camp on Monday. But with Jamar Chaney - Kendricks' main competition - sidelined through the spring following neck surgery in January, the rookie should have an unimpeded path.

"He looked good out here," Reid said of Kendricks, one of the Eagles' two second-round draft picks. "He made a lot of plays and got his hands on the ball. We just got to see where he gets the most reps, and normally that's with the [starters]."

Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou have started at strong side in the past and will push the rookie. DeMeco Ryans, acquired in a March trade with the Texans, has the middle linebacker job sewn up. Brian Rolle is expected to begin camp as the weak-side linebacker, although Casey Matthews and Keenan Clayton will be in the mix.

Chaney is scheduled to be back by the start of training camp, according to Reid, and could compete at either outside linebacker position.

The Eagles are stocked at defensive tackle and are apparently set with the starting twosome of Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. But when they expended three draft picks - a fourth and a sixth to trade up in the first round - on Fletcher Cox. it was certain the defensive tackle would get every opportunity to start.

Cox will be part of the rotation at defensive tackle no matter what, so whether he starts is of small consequence. But Reid could not say Monday that Patterson, who had brain surgery in January, would definitely return in time for the start of training camp in July.

"He's actually doing very well right now, and he's been going through the workouts, but he can't put a helmet on," Reid said.

Starter or not, Cox can play anywhere along the defensive line, Reid said. He played both the one- and three-technique at defensive tackle and also some defensive end during camp.

"I think he has the athletic ability to do that," Reid said.

Brandon Boykin will compete at nickel cornerback, which is technically not a starting position. He was limited over the weekend because of the broken leg he suffered in January. Despite the light workload, Reid said he liked what he saw.

"With that inside slot position you got to make sure that you maintain leverage," Reid said. "I thought he improved on that. That was something I thought he needed to get better at when we drafted him."

The Eagles didn't draft a safety this year, to the dismay of some fans. Reid confirmed that Kurt Coleman will start ahead of Jaiquawn Jarrett at safety alongside Nate Allen when OTAs start next Tuesday.

Two years ago at OTAs, Allen looked like a can't-miss prospect to some. He suffered a knee injury during his rookie year and struggled at times last season. He may still turn out to be that player. But minicamps have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Kendricks, though, did sparkle over the weekend. He showed impressive speed when he blitzed and agility when he dropped into coverage. Twice on Monday he broke up passes, one when he had to cover a wide receiver.

"You have to have a little bit of athletic ability to do that," Reid said.

Extra points. Reid said that the fullback spot was Stanley Havili's to lose. The second-year player was eligible to participate in rookie camp since he spent all of last season on the practice squad. . . . Along with Chaney and Patterson, Reid said that safety Colt Anderson (torn anterior cruciaet ligament in December) would miss minicamp. "We'll see how it goes for training camp," Reid said. . . . Tight end Brent Celek, who had surgery to correct a sports hernia in January, will be limited at the start of OTAs. . . . Center Jason Kelce (foot sprain) and Fokou (broken ankle) have been cleared to practice. . . . Defensive tackle Maurice Fountain, a long shot, tore the patellar tendon in his knee on Sunday and could be out for the year, Reid said. . . . Running back Chris Polk (hamstring strain) did not practice Monday. . . . The Eagles signed Mississippi State safety Wade Bonner, a nonroster tryout, to a contract and released undrafted wide receiver Akia Williams.




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