COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia Eagles certainly have holes to plug on defense, but there are some players on both sides of the football in need of improvement.
As camp hits the middle of August and the preseason schedule continues, the first round of cuts looms so time is starting to run out.
Here are five Philadelphia Eagles in need of a quick turnaround in training camp. These players may not be in much realistic danger of losing a job in Philadelphia, but they could benefit from a strong performance against the Carolina Panthers in the second preseason game.
Tight end Brent Celek: Brent Celek may be having one of the toughest times adjusting to the new offense brought by new head coach Chip Kelly. The veteran has been one of the more dependable players at times for the Eagles on offense in recent years, but Celek has been struggling in the new schemes this summer. Against the Patriots in the preseason opener, Celek caught two passes for 10 yards and fumbled on one of his catches.
The Eagles drafted Zach Ertz out of Stanford, and that immediately put some pressure on Celek. Chip Kelly is very comfortable with Ertz, having coached in the same conference and division as the former Cardinal the past few seasons. Ertz caught two of the three passes thrown in his direction for just as many yards as Celek, who caught both passes in his direction against New England.
There is room for both tight ends in the offense, but Celek may have to do a little more in order to keep his role.
Running back Chris Polk: The reports suggest Polk has been a solid performer in practices this training camp, but a minimal impact against the New England Patriots in the preseason opener may suggest Polk is excelling in practice against what is clearly a mess of a defense. Polk is in contention for the top backup running back job behind LeSean McCoy, and he needs to prove to the coaching staff he is more reliable than Bryce Brown, who had a fine preseason opener against the Patriots.
Cornerback Bradley Fletcher: The Eagles signed Fletcher to potentially start in a new-look secondary, along with Cary Williams. His performance against the New England Patriots may have been one of the brighter spots for an Eagles defense that seemed lost from start to finish, but he may be in need of some big plays to hold off Brandon Boykin in the competition for a starting job.
Linebacker Brandon Graham: To single out any one player on defense would be unfair after the preseason opener, but Brandon Graham may have looked the silliest on one particular play. When LeGarrette Blount changed directions on a 51-yard touchdown run, Graham was caught as if his feet were in cement -- not once, but twice. Graham is currently on the second-team defense, and it could stay that way unless he shows some more solid defensive efforts.
Quarterback Matt Barkley: The starting quarterback competition is really a two-horse race between Mike Vick and Nick Foles, but Barkley will be a player to keep a close eye on as it pertains to the future of the franchise. The former USC quarterback had some ups and downs in his NFL preseason debut last week, with a number of throws leaving targets vulnerable to opposing defenders and many passes forcing receivers to stretch more than would be ideal at times. You can chalk some of that up to nerves running through the quarterback in his first game since ending the 2012 college season with a shoulder injury.
It is my belief that drafting Barkley in the fourth round could have been a potential steal for the Eagles if Barkley is able to live up to his pre-2012 season hype. It could be that at some point this fall Barkley will be on the field to lead the offense, and, when that moment comes, it will be imperative to succeed if you believe Barkley could possibly be the franchise quarterback of the future.
If not, Barkley could quickly become an afterthought if the Eagles have a high draft pick in 2014 and options such as Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or Ohio State's Braxton Miller are on the big board. I do not believe Vick or Foles will be Kelly's quarterback of choice beyond the 2013 season. The question is whether or not Barkley is.
Barkley completed 11 of 22 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots' reserves.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sportswriter and member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow McGuire's Eagles commentary on Yahoo! and on Twitter @krmcguire. Interested in college football? Follow @KevinOnCFB.
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