The Training Camp Darling (or “TCD”). The fleeting love affair (usually fanned by the erotic siren Dave Spadaro), so intense, yet so prone to swift disintegration.
My historic predictions:
2010-2011 (I left the blogging game)
The survivors (guys who hung around):
2006: Hank Baskett
2007: Brent Celek
2005: Ryan Moats
2008: Lorenzo Booker
2009: Cornelius Ingram
Hanging on but the Jury is Still Out
2010: Chad Hall (He used to fix military aircraft, makes him sound fast)
2011: Dion Lewis
The eligibility rules for the TCD are as follows:
- Candidate cannot be a first or second round pick of the most recent draft
- Cannot be a player whose expectation to contribute was clearly defined prior to training camp. Say a Brandon Boykin – everyone already expects him to contribute. This rule should engender the most debate.
The Training Camp Darling should be heavily propagandized by both the Philadelphia Eagles organization and the beat guys (I love reading three versions of the same player feature with same three quotes).
Kate Fagan – Philadelphia Inquirer – May 29, 2008
There are two reasons Lorenzo Booker practices in sweatpants: warmth and added wind resistance.
Yesterday, with his black cotton sweats blowing in the breeze, Booker, the running back the Eagles acquired from Miami in a draft-day trade, cradled the football and jogged the lonely 30 yards back to the huddle.
Seconds before, Booker had caught a short pass from second-year quarterback Kevin Kolb, turned as if on a pivot, and blistered upfield – gobbling yards like a Corvette on the highway.
He was gobbling something, it just wasn’t yardage.
Also from Dave Spadaro:
Once again, Lorenzo Booker plays with the first team, split out wide, opposite Kevin Curtis, with Reggie Brown in the slot. On this play, Booker starts in motion and hooks back behind McNabb, and a reverse is feigned. McNabb hands the ball to Correll Buckhalter, who explodes up the middle. Just a few plays later, the reverse to Booker is executed. If these early, early practices are any sign, Booker will be all over the field this year.
Jesus, you wonder why football starved fans buy into the fool’s gold (HT Jeff Lurie).
The 2012 Tote Board
Ineligibles: Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin (too much is expected)
Arguably ineligible: Vinny Curry
Favorites: Marvin McNutt, Bryce Brown, Dion Lewis (first back to back champion?!), Brett Brackett
Also rans: Damaris Johnson, Philip Hunt, Cliff Harris
Off we go:
Dion Lewis: Odds 1-1
The early returns from camp on Lewis are downright absurd. Les Bowen served as master fluffer for Lewis in yesterday’s Daily News with the following:
Lewis (5-8, 195) has been one of the early stars, sharp and focused. His precise, smooth scats on screens, Lewis tucked in behind hulking linemen, have recalled Westbrook in his prime. Yes, the Eagles have two young “projects” they like at running back, seventh-round rookie Bryce Brown and undrafted rookie Chris Polk – last week we chronicled running-backs coach Ted Williams’ excitement about their potential – but so far, both are way behind Lewis.
WESTBROOK IN HIS PRIME! But wait, even LeSean McCoy got in on the act:
“Nobody knows how good Dion is,” McCoy said on Monday while he walked to his car after practice. “Real good. He can be better than me.”
So Dion Lewis is somewhere between current day LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook in his prime. That seems like a sensible, lucid evaluation right? I guess it’s a lock that we’re in store for a whole host of these types of runs this year:
I like that Lewis has become the second coming less than one month from a drunken hotel break-in caper gone awry, resulting in being pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and dragged through the lobby after “jostling” a fire alarm. Now full disclosure here, freshman year in college I once got drunk and shot off a fire extinguisher, resulting in a full-floor witch hunt for the culprit (deny, deny, deny – never caught by the way). But I wasn’t making $465,000 as the backup running back for the Eagles, I was earning $32 a week swiping student IDs in the fitness room (what’s up ladies?). Just saying.
Your 2012 TCD leader thus far: Dion Lewis.
Vinny Curry: Odds 2-1
This quote should tell you all you need to know about Vinny Curry and why I think he is a clear front runner to be this year’s TCD:
“I saw that 215 area code, and I just broke down and started crying,” –Vinny Curry, April 30, 2012
Yes, this is an actual quote from Vinny Curry after the Marshall DE was drafted by the Birds in the 2nd round (the pick the Eagles gained in the Kolb deal btw). He also mentioned getting goosebumps while hearing B-Dawk talk at his retirement ceremony (curiously the same day as Curry’s post draft signing press conference) and he even mentioned impersonating Ricky Watters while playing youth league ball (wow, he really is a legit Birds fan with a Ricky Watters reference). So it’s confirmed, Vinny Curry is a legit, hardcore Birds fan. This is uncharted territory, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this will eventually endear Vinny to Birds fans, giving him a serious leg up for TCD status.
The real question is: can Vinny play? Coming from a small school like Marshall, he certainly has his work cut out for him (although 23 sacks in two seasons ain’t too shabby, regardless of the level of competition). Also, in typical Birds fashion, he is a smallish DE (6’3”, 266 lbs.) who is very quick and athletic, and has a “high motor.” Sound familiar? We have certainly heard this before, and this has not panned out in recent years (See: Graham, Brandon; Smith, Bryan and Te’o-Nesheim, Daniel). However, the Birds have struck gold in certain cases with this approach, say with Trent Cole, and much earlier in trading for Hugh Douglas at the beginning of the Big Red era. Certainly, there have been a lot of swings and misses on this front. That said, at least unlike Smith and Te’o-Nesheim, Curry was not a gross overreach when the Eagles selected him. In fact, he was perceived by most draft experts as quite a value for the Eagles late in the 2nd round. For what it’s worth, Curry has been generating some early sparks at camp with that “motor” and passion of his. For instance, the following report came from “intrepid” reporter Les Bowen out of camp yesterday:
“Rookie Vinny Curry sacked Mike Kafka. As in, threw him to the ground. Good thing for Curry it wasn’t Michael Vick; those quarterbacks are wearing red jerseys for a reason. You’re supposed to get there, then stop with your arms up until a coach decrees a sack. At most, you’re allowed to tag ‘em.”
Nothing will endear you more with Eagles fans then a little fire, and roughing up a QB here and there. Also, Curry’s biggest perceived weakness was a lack of play against the run. Well, perfect! He’ll fit right in right! Kidding aside, he seems like a perfect fit for the wide nine, and this should minimize his biggest weakness, eg. stopping the run and identifying the play. So, the verdict is: Curry’s mix of being an avid Birds fan, his motor and fire, his skills fitting the scheme perfectly, and (as shown above) an ability to crank out a good quotable, make him a solid favorite for this year’s TCD.
Brett Brackett: Odds 4-1
Why are the odds so favorable for Brett Brackett? Well, he’s a local (Mercer County, NJ) and he’s got the Penn State pedigree the locals go gaga over, and Mr. Spadaro had already been beating the drum on the guy as a “sleeper” heading into training camp:
Want a sleeper, just for fun? How about Brett Brackett, a wide receiver at Penn State who is now getting a chance in the NFL at tight end. He’s 6-5, about 250 pounds and he is a super athlete. Just a hunch that he will play well in the preseason. The kid has been at the NovaCare Complex throughout the offseason working his rear end off.
HE’S A GOD-DAMNED SUPER ATHLETE! By the way, Spadaro has to get up to speed with his Eagles’ approved jargon – he’s not working his rear end off Dave, he’s working his tail off. Get a clue.
Actually, joshing aside, his pro-day numbers were actually pretty impressive, 1.59 10-yard, 4.61 40-yard, 34” vertical, 22 bench reps. Supposedly he “catches everything.”
I mean check out the sheer volume of highlights from his hit tape on Youtube:
Impressive. In reality, Brackett is rated so high due to the fact that he’s got a shot at displacing Clay Harbor at the backup tight end spot. Mostly due to Clay Harbor’s overall mediocrity – who knew a 4th round pick from Missouri State wouldn’t electrify? Plus, ex-receivers making the transition to tight end are always slightly intriguing.
Bryce Brown: Odds 4-1
In my opinion Brown has by far the thickest non-resume and overall potential to generate the greatest level of training camp irrationality. Just a note here, Michael Vick is the Eagles backup running back, case closed. In 2010 and 2011, Vick averaged 8.3 and 5.8 attempts per game. Now, Big Red did say he’d likely dial McCoy back a tad this year, but we all know he’s full of shit. Reid always rides his best players. Best case scenario, the backup-backup running back will be lucky to get 4 to 6 carries per game. Given Dion Lewis has the inside track here, Bryce Brown will be lucky to be activated in a handful of games this year. But behold, the power of the TCD – rational thought is dispatched with authority. Maybe it’s a trickle-down effect from Big Red himself…
[Reid sitting in his office at 4am on a Sunday morning] Hmmmm….it’s 33 degrees, windy, drizzling, and my quarterback has an injured throwing hand. LET’S PASS THE SHIT OUT OF THE BALL TODAY!
Just let yourself get caught up in the excitement, there’s no way around it.
Bryce Brown was a 2-time high school All-American, and the number one recruit in all of college football in 2009. Take this scouting report from Rivals.com:
Bryce Brown is easily one of the top players in the entire country. If you were building a running back from scratch you would try to model him after Brown. He has the size to be an every down back and the explosiveness, speed, vision, and cut-back ability to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.
Coming out of high school Brown was ranked and the number one running back ahead of Trent Richardson, the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft. Long story short, played one year at Tennessee, transferred, sat out a season, and then played three games for Kansas State before quitting the team. Not exactly an impressive showing at the collegiate level. Then Brown ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and Howie Roseman pitched a tent in his khakis (for a good background on Brown peep this article).
Bryce Brown. He seems like a classy guy.
Curtis Marsh: Odds 6-1
If you are forgetting Marsh, you shouldn’t feel bad, as he was a project drafted out of illustrious football power house Utah State (I hope you’re sensing the sarcasm) in the 3rd round last year. The drum beat was out for Marsh by the local beat writers at Spring practices almost immediately following the trade of Asante Samuel. Talk was of how Marsh could step into the mix right away and be a big physical prototypical cover guy. He certainly looks the part, checking in at 6’1”, and looking great running around the practice field, since he was formerly a running back at Utah State (thus his project status). “Looking the part” is easy fodder for Eagle beat writers (key to attaining TCD status btw) who still have visions of a young Bobby Taylor dancing around in their heads, not to mention most Birds fans as well. Given this, he checks in at 6-1 odds, as I could easily see this drumbeat continue as outside of starters Asomugha and DRC, the Eagles have little in the way of outside cover corners, giving Marsh plenty of opportunities to shine. In fact, he will play A LOT outside in the preseason, given that Asomugha and DRC will be quickly pulled from games. The recently drafted Boykin (4th round, Georgia) will be locked into a battle with Joselio Hanson for the slot spot, which will be much covered, making it all the more likely Marsh could emerge with the pressure off and the opportunity at hand.
Again, the question is whether Marsh can even play, and show enough flashes to be a TCD. The verdict is very well out on this because of his history of as a RB and being from Utah State and all. But, the early reports out of Spring camp and even early at training camp have been encouraging (he is working with the first team Nickel unit while Asomugha plays the much maligned “rover” role, uh-oh, not again). It appears the Eagles think he can play and that he will certainly be given a big shot at this year’s TCD role. Personally, he is not one of my favorites, as I wonder whether a former RB in college will be able to display the natural instincts to make the plays necessary to become a TCD, eg. interceptions. We shall see. That said, I do see him getting quite a bit of playing time this year. Hopefully, this is not because they attempt to make Asomugha something other than a shutdown cover corner. CASTILLOOOO!!!!
Cliff Harris: Odds 10-1
Cliff Harris is the true definition of “upside potential.” But he’s probably better described as a fucking moron. After a monster 2010 season (highlights to follow) Harris was a 2011 preseason All-America selection. Then the following incidents took place:
- Racked up over $5,000 in fines for various traffic fines including speeding, driving without insurance, failing to obey a stop sign, and possession of alcohol.
- Drove 118 miles per hour on a suspended license (July 8, 2011)
- Pulled over and ticketed for driving with a suspended license (October 24, 2011)
- Arrested for possession of marijuana (November 25, 2011)
So, yeah, he got suspended multiple times by Oregon coach Chip Kelly and was ultimately kicked off the football team. Oh, and Harris had been arrested and charged with felony assault of a police officer, later reduced to a misdemeanor obstruction charge as a high school kid. A true character guy.
Here’s the dash camera from the 118 mph incident with includes this gem of an exchange between the police officer and Harris:
Officer: “Who’s got the marijuana in the car?”
Harris: “Just smoked it all.”
But for the upside here – peep this video:
Marvin McNutt: Odds 10-1
McNutt (6th round out of Iowa) is my personal favorite for TCD, and that was before the injury to Riley Cooper and the predictable flood of articles from the local media that followed about McNutt. Here is a good example from the other day (along with a few others).
Let’s face it, we as Eagles fans are huge suckers for a big receiver. Maybe it was all of those years of wishing, hoping and pleading for a receiver after so many years of Pinky, Thrash and Co. We just have visions of large physical receivers running jump balls in our heads (maybe because we have been seeing Giants receivers doing this against us, and everyone else, for so many years). We also have fallen for big receivers in the past as well (See: Baskett, Hank). Well, McNutt fits the bill at 6’3”, 216 lbs, he’s football smart (a former QB), and has good solid sure hands (thus the comparison to Avant). Also, he ran a rather respectable 4.42 40-yard dash (hand-timed) at the combine. The rub on him is his inability to get off the line quick, but I guess that this will not have a huge impact in practices, giving him an advantage. I could see many a 20 yard skinny post completed to McNutt in practice, little or nothing in drops department, and perhaps even a few corner jump balls mixed in, and the Eagle beat writers will be hooked, and us along with them.
Check this out, and you’ll see where I’m coming from and why Eagles fans could very easily be sucked into the vortex:
Damaris Johnson: Odds 15-1
These odds were set prior to the Riley Cooper injury so they might be a little light given the recent news of Johnson being the apple of Reid’s eye in a couple gadget plays executed so far in camp. Given the injury of Cooper and the pronouncement that DeSean Jackson will likely take a backseat in the punt returner role, Johnson is actually a semi-logical TCD who could actually impact the season. The resume:
- NCAA leader in all-purpose yardage accumulated in only THREE years
- Four (4) returns for TDs in the punting/kicking game
- One guilty plea of felony embezzlement for paying $13.25 for $2,834 worth of merchandise from Macy’s
Well, at least he’s not Jack Ikegwuonu, stealing a god-damned Xbox in 2006, when the Xbox 360 was already out for 2 friggin’ years (not guilty by the way). Word is that Johnson stole a bunch of #YOLO T-shirts – gotta respect that lifestyle. But whatever, he’s still with his girlfriend who aided and abetted in the scheme, and they plan to get married in the coming years. A Bonnie and Clyde love story in the making.
Back to the gadget plays, Johnson ran the ball 55 times for 560 yards (10.2 avg.) for 7 TDs in 2010. Couple that with 57 grabs for 872 yards and 4 TDs receiving and we’ve got a player right? He’s THIS YEAR’S CHAD HALL! Minus the military background and sterling character traits.
Philip Hunt: Odds 25-1
Hunt qualifies for some of the same reasons as Curry, except he doesn’t have a “home field advantage” so to speak. Not surprisingly, he is small (6’1” 248lbs.) and has a good motor. No, really? I’m sensing a pattern here.
Hunt certainly does not have the pedigree as Curry though, coming out of Houston (25 sacks in 39 games in college) as an undrafted free agent who was cut by the Browns in 2009. But, Hunt rose like a phoenix and proceeded to rack up 26 sacks with Winnipeg Blue Bombers (yeah, that is a real team) in two seasons, his 2010 season leading the league with 16. This of course lead to NFL teams flocking like vultures (the Dolphins and Vikings included), at which point, the Birds won the battle (despite the 400 DE’s they normally retain) and they signed him to a 3-year deal midway through last season. Anyway, his “rags to riches” story could definitely help in the TCD department, not to mention, this will be his first training camp with the Eagles. In limited action, Hunt was quite solid, especially in a Week 15 blowout of the Jets where he chipped in with 6 tackles and a sack. Granted, not exactly LT-esque, but pretty damn good for a very part-time DE. He also passed the sight test, generally looking quick around the end and like he belonged in the NFL, particularly in the Eagles scheme where smallish DE’s can thrive. As it stands now, it looks like the Eagles are going to have a real tough decision to make picking between him and most likely Darrell Tapp (very much on the bubble), if the many reports of Brandon Graham being “mega-super-ultra-inspired with a chip on his shoulder” are to be believed. He is definitely a long shot for the TCD, but he could create a mild buzz if he appears to be beating out Tapp in one of the few camp battles, making him somewhat of a dark horse, especially if some of the other guys above wind up falling on their faces. A couple of monster preseason games that turn heads would likely be required here. At the very least, he would be my pick to make the squad over Tapp, considering the Eagles will go with potential over veteran presence (Tapp) almost every time.
DEEP DEEP SLEEPERS
Nick Foles, Odds: 60-1
Big strong-armed QB who looks the part. If he has a few good games in preseason. Look out.
Tiger Jones, Odds: 150-1
His name is Tiger, so maybe the Gizmo Williams effect might come into play. Someone should tell him to do a back flip in the end
zone if he should score, then he could rocket up the charts.
Casey Matthews, Odds: 9,000,000-1
Poor Casey, remember just last year everyone was getting sort of giddy that he could maybe be a close facsimile of his brother, with those wonderful bloodlines and all? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Easily the most hated (and somewhat illogically) Eagle. Should be a lesson to the players, NEVER try to take on the fans, you will lose and Eagle fans will very likely crush your soul in the process