“When the Eagles break camp Tuesday at Lehigh University and pack the trucks for the last trip down the Northeast Extension, the remainder of preseason training moves to the figurative and almost literal shadow cast by Lincoln Financial Field.
This is when the pace of preparation quickens and the decisions that will shape the team become more difficult. It’s a short ride from here to the Sept. 12 opener, which is fine for the starters and the players with solid spots on the team. Further delay can only bring bad things for them. But it’s a brutally tense time for those trying to carve a niche for themselves and secure a place on the 53-man roster before it lifts from the ground and leaves the unlucky peering into the sky at the departing dream.
They study the depth chart and play the numbers game. How many running backs will Andy Reid keep? How many tight ends? Linebackers? How do the injuries to Antoine Harris and Quintin Demps affect the defensive backfield? Will Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson be able to play at the start of the season? All of these combinations are like tumblers in a lock, one affecting the next until everything falls into place.
So, they live on the bubble, guys like Austin Howard and Cornelius Ingram. Jamar Chaney and Charles Scott. Not on the team exactly, but not off it yet, either, and the days roll by faster and faster, marking off their final chances to make that one play, that one impression that matters.
“You just try to be remembered,” said Chad Hall, a combination running back/receiver/returner getting a long look in these final weeks. “You try to stand out every practice.”
Hall’s ticket to the roster probably will have to pass through the special-teams gate. It is his good fortune that DeSean Jackson, a Pro Bowl punt returner last season, has probably become too valuable to the offense for that assignment. Ellis Hobbs is listed as the top kickoff-return man, but someone else has to be back there as well and both Macho Harris and Demps have had injury issues. There is a spot developing for a player who can perform both functions, and if he can operate as an occasional slot receiver or take a handoff in the backfield now and then, so much the better.
That is what Hall hopes, anyway. He is 5-foot-8 and Friday’s exhibition against Jacksonville was his first formal football game in 21/2 years, but he knows he has a shot at playing in the National Football League. That’s all he asked for.”
PhillySportsCentral.com – Philadelphia Eagles news, rumors, blog, & message board discussion forums