Mike Kafka's VooDoo Trainer

Tim McManus brings us the story of Mike Kafka’s trainer, Jay Schroeder, who has been with him since the QB’s sophomore year of college:

[Schroeder’s] technique literally came to him in a dream, and is based on the assumption that all humans are naturally fast, strong and powerful — it’s just that bad habits and external elements have essentially trained the mind wrong since birth, stunting some abilities. So he retrains it.

Through a series of tests performed by stimulating the nervous system, Schroeder unearths what muscles are not working and which ones are working out of order. Once that is determined, he sends messages to the brain via an electrical modality called POV (for force velocity) that gives the proper information on how to perform what you want to perform.

I can’t be the only one that thinks this doesn’t pass the smell test. Besides, if he’s been working with him for so long, why are the results only evident now? Here’s Schroeder’s website. And more of his SUPER ADVANCED training methods:

“We taught him how to lengthen the appropriate muscles at a high rate of speed so that he could decelerate in the appropriate means, which in turn tells your brain that you can accelerate at a higher level,” said Schroeder. “We prepare him to recover from the strain of arm strength.”

So… Kafka’s been lifting weights?

Jim Washburn is a Quote Machine

Reuben Frank compiled the full transcript of Jim Washburn’s session with the media earlier this week in two parts. It’s so glorious I’m having trouble picking my favorite parts.

“I can’t lie,” Washburn said. “That’s why they don’t want me to talk.”

Please keep talking, Wash.

Harmony at Eagles Training Camp

All rookies and veterans reported to training camp at Lehigh this year. That makes it only the third time in the last decade that the Eagles have had everyone show up.

A brief rundown of your holdouts and no-shows:

2011: DeSean Jackson
2010: Brandon Graham
2009: Jeremy Maclin
2008: Shawn Andrews
2006: Broderick Bunkley
2005: Brian Westbrook*
2003: Jerome McDougle

*Terrell Owens actually reported on time. But it was worse than if he hadn’t.

Adventures at Summer Camp: Lehigh Day 2

Because someone has to read all the news coming out of the Eagles training camp.

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When double-negatives attack. Bobby April told the press, in as roundabout a way as he could manage, that DeSean Jackson won’t be the primary punt returner anymore, now that he has his big contract:

"I don’t think that we’re not going to use him," April said. "I just don’t know if he’s going to be the primary guy. … He’ll continue to work at the positiion. He just won’t get as much work as he normally does."

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Can’t lower the bar enough. April also said that while he was looking to bring in competition for Chas Henry, the former Florida punter did well for a rookie. That is simply not true. Among his fellow rookies, Henry had the second-lowest net average and tied for the lowest ratio of punts inside the 20 yard line to touchbacks, a rough measure of placement and touch. Needless to say, those stats look even worse compared to veterans.

UPDATE: Eagles signed former Cowboy Mat McBriar.

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My kingdom for a Washburn post-game press conference. Jim Washburn is so candid. He talked to the press yesterday, and the quotes were flying. On Mike Patterson coming back from brain surgery:

"Mike Patterson might be one of the best people I’ve ever had," said Washburn. "He doesn’t have to come to these rookie meetings at night and in the afternoon, he doesn’t have to be there, but guess what? He’s there. I said, ‘Mike, you don’t have to be here,’ and he said, ‘I like to be here.’ He likes football. He’s a good one. God dang, we miss him now."

On Antonio Dixon:

"I was so disappointed," said Washburn. "I couldn’t tell if he had any talent… I couldn’t tell if the guy was a good player or not. I couldn’t tell if he was a good athlete. He weighed 365 or something like that. His back was killing him. He was out of shape. I couldn’t even tell if he was a player. This spring, he worked his butt off. He’s down, I don’t know how much he weighs, he’s maybe 330 from 360 or whatever it was. He’s in so much better shape and I went, ‘Wow, this guy’s got some quickness.’ He likes to play and he’s tough, but he’s got ability."

On Trent Cole:

“He told me when I first got here, ‘I ain’t rotating,’” Washburn said Tuesday at Eagles training camp. “Said it right up there in that meeting room. I said, ‘Yes, you are … or your ass ain’t going to play.’ He’s a great kid, Trent.”

On Brandon Graham:

"He changed some of the habits in his life, I think," Washburn said. "He got serious. … I don’t know, [he’s] a mild-mannered guy. He was a good player in college, he was. I watched every game he played in college for a year or two. He was a good player. Should be a good player here. Lost his weight. Got too heavy.” Graham, of course, is coming back from knee surgery after losing most of 2011.

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Tearjerker. If you’re not rooting for lifelong Eagles fan Vinny Curry before, you will Be after you read Jeff McLane’s article about him. Plus, bonus Washburn quotes!

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Mini-Asante? Multiple reports talked about UDFA Cliff Harris picking off a few passes during yesterday’s practices, putting him out to an early lead in the Training Camp Darling category. But let’s not go crazy here. There are no good wide receivers at camp, and some of the picks just demonstrate how bad Trent Edwards is.

* * *

On the other hand, I’m starting to let the continued positive reports on Mychal Kendricks get to me. He seems much more prepared than Casey Matthews was, at any rate.

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Poorly Written Articles Edition. Bill Barnwell gives us what he pretends to be a statistical analysis of the top running backs in the game, but somehow concludes that Ray Rice is better than LeSean McCoy without demonstrating any number that backs that up.

Even less insightful was the book excerpt in Fast Company about how Jeff Lurie turned around the Eagles. What a waste of time.

Adventures at Summer Camp: Lehigh Day 1

Because someone has to read all the news coming out of the Eagles training camp.

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Confirmed: DeSean Jackson let frustration over his contract hurt his performance:

“Human nature-wise, yes it affected him,’’ Culley said. “It did. He tried not to let it affect him. Sometimes he didn’t do a very good job of that. It affected him in meetings. It affected him on the field. There were days when it didn’t. But it made him inconsistent. And that’s where the human nature part of it comes in.”

“I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to maybe save himself because (he was thinking), ‘I’m not under contract and I don’t want to get hurt,’’’ Culley said. “I don’t think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, ‘I don’t want to get hurt because I don’t have a contract.’ The first two-and-a-half years he was here, that wasn’t an issue. A couple of times last year, that came up. And I believe it came up simply because of that.”

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Punters, ahoy. The Eagles brought in not one, not two, not three, but four veteran punters for tryouts yesterday. It’s not that surprising once you understand how bad Chas Henry was last year. Reuben Frank says the most likely candidate to sign is former Pro Bowl Cowboy Mat McBriar. I honestly didn’t realize he had fallen off last year and was cut. Turns out, he couldn’t lift his foot.

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The Felony That Wasn’t. I love how the charges were dropped against Dion Lewis because the DA concluded there was “no evidence a fire alarm was ever pulled.”

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Backup Running Backs Will Push… Who? I absolutely don’t understand where this headline comes from. Sheil’s replacement isn’t looking so hot.

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Speaking of Mr. Kapadia, he brings us a great quote from Howard Mudd on where Danny Watkins is in his second year. Sounds like the mental side of the game is the real roadblock for our friendly neighborhood fireman:

“Comfort in the position, eliminating doubt about himself,” Mudd said. “That just happens to players. That just happens. That’s part of the growing process. I call that the valley of darkness. You get somewhere and then you start doubting yourself, doubting, doubting… and then the ball is snapped and you don’t have a clue where you are. You can be very amateurish, if you will. All of a sudden, it starts to click again and you quit doubting yourself. Do well, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, you get there. So Danny, that’s what I think the offseason’s done for him.”

Jimmy Kempski tells us that Mudd also alluded to the Vandervelde-Reynolds backup center competition as the position battle he’s most looking forward too. I’m not sure if that’s positive or depressing. Final Mudd note: I discount every positive thing he says about Demetress Bell by half. There’s only one Jason Peters, and unfortunately he couldn’t keep his balance on a Roll-A-Bout.

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In other meta-reportage, Jimmy needs to stop wasting his time talking to guys like Keenan Clayton after practice. Clayton’s competing with Moise Fokou for the coveted “last linebacker cut” trophy. Then again, at least our favorite NFC bEast blogger didn’t get stiffed like ol’ timer Paul Domowitch.

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Rampant Tight End Speculation! The Eagles have now been linked to Visanthe Shiancoe and (gag) Jeremy Shockey. Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the Brett Brackett hype was purely media-driven. No one? Good.

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Andy Reid Weight Loss Watch. He totally walked home from practice, guys.

Throwing Cold Water on Dubious Roster Battles

Reuben Frank put out a list of the top ten roster battles heading into training camp. He hits on some of the biggest ones: Atogwe vs. Coleman, Rolle vs. Chaney, Hanson vs. Boykin. But he also lists a bunch of questionable ones:

  • Dion Lewis vs. Bryce Brown? I’m excited to see if Brown can make the transition to the NFL. He clearly has 5x the physical potential of Lewis. But I’m not really seeing the competition for backup running back. There’s just no way Brown is going to come in after sitting out nearly all of college and immediately pick up the complexity of the Eagles offense and the intricacies of pass blocking, other essential bits. Then again, don’t read this as an endorsement of Lewis, who seems like a poor backup to one of the best players on the roster.
  • Riley Cooper vs. Damaris Johnson? It’s unclear whether the Eagles will keep five or six wide receivers, but I don’t really see the big receivers competing against the smaller ones. Cooper and Marvin McNutt would serve similar roles on the roster, as would Johnson and Chad Hall. Those are the real one-on-one battles. Winners of each competition will be guaranteed a spot on the roster. After that, all they can do is hope the Eagles keep six guys.
  • Clay Harbor vs. Brett Brackett? With the Eagles using more two tight end sets, the question is really whether Brackett can play his way onto the roster — not whether he can beat out Harbor, a more experienced player and much better blocker.
  • Mike Kafka vs. Nick Foles? As with Lewis/Brown, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of Kafka. But Frank is the first person to suggest that Foles even has a shot to replace him in his rookie year.

Ahead of all of the above, I’d rate these battles: Demetress Bell vs. King Dunlap, Jaiquawn Jarrett vs. the Chopping Block, Derek Landri vs. Antonio Dixon vs. Cedric Thornton.

Final Eagles 53-Man Roster Prediction


Final roster cuts happen this weekend and there are still a few question marks. Here’s my final prediction for the 53 man roster.

Quarterback: (3) Vick, Young, Kafka. Easiest spot on the team. 

Running Back: (4) McCoy, Brown, Lewis, Schmitt. I suppose Eldra Buckley had a shot, but the new rookie from Pitt has had a tremendous preseason.

Tight End: (2) Celek, Harbor. Donald Lee put some good tape on for some team last night, but it wasn’t the Eagles.

Wide Receiver: (6) Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Smith, Cooper, Hall. Chad Hall gets the final offensive skill spot because of his versatility. His place is in jeopardy once Steve Smith is healthy enough to contribute, though.

Offensive Line: (9) Peters, Herremans, Kelce, Mathis, Watkins, Jackson, Dunlap,  Howard, Vandervelde. I don’t buy Reggie Wells as anything more than a camp body and Ryan Harris’s back makes him expendable. Mike McGlynn has fallen even further out of favor than Jackson. Winston Justice to PUP.

Defensive End: (6) Cole, Babin, Tapp, Parker, Te’o-Nesheim, Hunt. They could try to sneak Hunt onto the practice squad or cut Parker to save money. But I anticipate them going heavy at DE. Brandon Graham to PUP.

Defensive Tackle: (4) Jenkins, Patterson, Dixon, Laws. Trevor Laws played well last night to solidify his spot. Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri have been camp favorites, but I don’t see the upside. Plus, the Eagles have always been willing to move guys inside from end for that extra rush presence.

Linebacker: (6) Matthews, Fokou, Chaney, Jordan, Rolle, Clayton. Greg Lloyd has injury redshirt written all over him. Brian Rolle looked much more impressive than Keenan Clayton in recent days. I hope the Eagles snag another veteran back up and put Clayton on the practice squad.

Cornerback: (6) Asomugha, Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie, Marsh, Lindley, Hughes. Right now I’m leaning toward a Joselio Hanson trade. 

Safety: (4) Coleman, Allen, Jarrett, Page. I’m sure Bobby April really wants to keep Colt Anderson. but at this point I’m worried enough about Nate Allen that Jarrad Page has to stay.

Specialist: (3) Dorenbos, Henry, Henery.

If I did my math right, that’s 53. Sound off in the comments if you disagree.

Photo from Getty.

What to Do With Joselio Hanson?


Last year during training camp, I talked about how Joselio Hanson could be on the chopping block. That didn’t come to pass and Hanson had a pretty good year overall. He didn’t have gaudy stats, but his solid play was a welcome respite as the rest of the cornerbacks not named Asante Samuel looked like turnstiles on gameday.

Yet here we are again, debating Hanson’s merits because of a bigger lockjam at cornerback than last year. With the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles now have three starting-caliber corners. That pushes Hanson down to dime back, a role that doesn’t put him on the field very often.

According to Football Outsiders, the average NFL team only ran eight percent of its offensive plays with four or more wide receivers. And against the Eagles defense last season, they only ran formations like that a miniscule three percent of the time. Is it worth paying Hanson about $2.2 million for that small bit of playing time and some injury protection?

Plus, if Hanson is going to be active on game day as the fourth corner, he’d have to play great special teams. Last year though, Hanson contributed very little in that area.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have three younger cornerbacks who have all shown promise. Trevard Lindley was last year’s fourth round pick. He may not fit this system any more, but it would be rare to see him go so soon. The Eagles drafted Curtis Marsh this year in the third round, so he’s not going anywhere. Then there’s Brandon Hughes, who has impressed in practice since the Eagles signed him off the Giants practice squad late last year.

I anticipate that the Eagles will try to keep six corners, but even so there’s not enough room for everyone. And with a Samuel trade looking more unlikely by the day, that means the team will either have to cut loose one of its young guys or find a suitor for Hanson.

At this point that last possibility looks relatively likely. I’d give it a 60 percent chance that Hanson is with another team by next week. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind trading him within the division, even to the cornerback-needy Giants. Hanson is a solid player, a great nickel back — but he’s not starting caliber. If the Eagles can get a mid-round draft pick in return for a guy who is unlikely to play much this year, that’s a win.

Of course, I also speculated about Hanson last year, and nothing ever happened. So maybe he’ll stick around once more.

Photo from Getty.

How Many Roster Battles Remain for the Birds?


With the Eagles breaking camp on Tuesday, the countdown begins in earnest to the start of the season. I was going to take this opportunity to take stock of the latest depth chart battles. However, glancing over the Eagles roster today, I don’t see many competitions left, and those that remain are for the final few spots.

Let’s run through the positions.

Quarterback: The namesakes have departed, leaving Vick, Young, And Kafka. No drama here.

Running Back: Owen Schmitt has gotten no real competition for the lone fullback spot. Supposedly there’s a competition underway for the 3rd RB, but I’d be surprised if fifth round pick Dion Lewis didn’t win that job.

Tight End: Anyone who tells you Green Bay castoff Donald Lee is going to make the team, barring unforeseen injury, is crazy.

Wide Receiver: If Steve Smith really comes off the PUP list before the season starts, Chad Hall is the only guy the team might stretch to keep.

Offensive Line: Lots of dead weight here I wouldn’t mind showing the door. McGlynn and either Austin Howard or King Dunlap will be gone, along with the rest of the camp bodies.

Defensive Line: The tackles are a mess due to injuries, but at the end of the day it comes down to Laws or Hargrove. Defensive end is just a matter of keeping CFL star Philip Hunt or not.

Linebackers: I actually still think a veteran backup middle linebacker makes sense here. Both Greg Lloyd and Brian Rolle can probably be stashed on the practice squad.

Cornerback: If the Eagles still have high hopes for both Hughes and Lindley, they will find a suitor for Hanson.

Safety: Allen, Coleman, Jarrett compete for starting jobs. Colt Anderson makes the team as special teams maven.

Special Teams: Hope you like rookies.

The Eagles free agent binge has filled in a lot of spots we thought might have been contested. There will probably be a good deal of talk about the final roster, but about 90% of it already looks complete.

DeSean Jackson’s Contract Negotiation Primer


With DeSean Jackson reporting to camp at Lehigh, worrying can end about the ramifications of what I considered to be one of the least worrisome holdouts in recent memory. Jackson is, by NFL standards, ridiculously underpaid. As a budding star, he deserves to be compensated better than the long snapper.

Gaining whatever leverage he could from holding out affected nothing about the season. We didn’t really want DeSean getting hit and potentially injured in meaningless practices anyway. And there was never any doubt in my mind that he’d eventually report.

The more interesting question now is how long it will take for the Eagles to give him that new contract. The team told the press that they wouldn’t negotiate with a player holding out. Now there’s no such excuse. Discussions should begin immediately, if they haven’t already.

On one hand, the deal should get done quickly. The market for an established, young, number one wide receiver is set. Look at the numbers for the latest contracts and the age at which these wideouts signed.

Santonio Holmes (27): 5 years, $50 million, $24 million guaranteed.
Miles Austin (26): 7 years, $57 million, $18 million guaranteed.
Brandon Marshall (26): 5 years, $47 million, $12 million guaranteed.
Roddy White (27): 6 years, $48 million, $18 million guaranteed.

White got his deal in 2009, and the average was $8 million. Last offseason Marshall and Austin averaged $9 million a year. Holmes extracted $10 million per season from the Jets a week ago. I would expect about $10 million a year for any contact extension DeSean would sign. That’s the easy part.

But there could be two sticking points in the deal. The first is guaranteed money. The Eagles were already going to be shy about giving Jackson the most guaranteed dollars given his concussion history and slight frame. One big hit could knock him out of the NFL. The Holmes deal, furthermore, raised the bar substantially with $24 million guaranteed. If Drew Rosenhaus wants to use that contract as a guide, it could be more than the Eagles wanted to spend. (Note: as a free agent Holmes had more leverage.)

An even bigger problem could be the length of the deal. Jackson is only 24, younger by two or three years than his comparables. The Eagles, given the risk they probably feel they are assuming with a large contract, will want control over all of DeSean’s prime years. Jackson will want the opportunity for another payday down the line.

Here are my guesses. Given the market, I expect Rosenhaus to start with a deal that would beat Holmes: 5 years, $55 million, $24 million guaranteed. The Eagles first counteroffer might be more like an updated version of Austin’s contract: 7 years, $60 million, $16 million guaranteed.

A fair deal might be something in the middle, perhaps 6 years, $60 million, $18 million guaranteed, although a lot depends on leverage in the negotiations. DeSean won’t want to risk injury without a payday, which the Eagles can basically force him to do. But the Eagles don’t want to lose Jackson in free agency next year. Something’s gotta give.

Photo from Getty.

2011 Will Test Utility of NFL Offseason Work


Work expands so as to fill the time available.

I’m sure everyone has come across this saying (also known as Parkinson’s Law) at some point in regard to school homework, projects at the office, or jobs around the house. But might it also apply to the NFL offseason?

In a normal offseason, NFL teams go through almost constant work. There are minicamps and weight training and film sessions and scouting and drills and preseason games. The events go on and on, filling almost the entire possible time between the end of one season and the start of the next. As the game has become more complex, we’ve largely accepted this increase as the cost of doing business. Some players complain about the workload, but it’s tough to side with guys who make millions but don’t want to work.

This interminable lockout, however, has already cut way back on the possible preparation time. Minicamps long forgotten, playbooks unable to be distributed. In lieu of “voluntary” workouts, the players have organized truly optional group practices. If the work stoppage stretches into the July and August, lost more will have to be cut back.

But how essential is this lost time? Are we likely to unprepared players and disorganized teams whenever football begins again? Could 2011 be the sloppiest season on record?

Bill Parcells doesn’t think so. He told Peter King, “I always felt like you really do a better job with less time than more time because when you have less time you focus immediately on what’s of the utmost importance. Whereas when you have a lot of time to deliberate as to what to do, a lot of times you kind of get off on little tangents.”

I tend to agree with Parcells. NFL teams may not be able to plan for every contingency, but the important things will be accomplished. However, 2011 will be an interesting test of his theory, and Parkinson’s Law in general. If football is still accomplished at a high level, perhaps there was never any need for offseason programs to become so comprehensive. On the other hand, if rookies produce at an all-time low we might be able to conclude that the opposite is true.

With any luck, we’ll find out soon enough.

Photo from Getty. Originally published at NBC Philadelphia.

On the Bubble: Joselio Hanson

Just a year and a half ago cornerback Joselio Hanson signed a five-year contract to remain with the Eagles through the 2013 season. Hanson had distinguished himself as a great nickel corner and looked like he would be an Eagle for years to come.

However, 2009 didn’t go quite to plan. Hanson missed four games for failing a drug test and battled injuries all season long. It was a disappointment.

Even so, Hanson came into this offseason eager to bounce back, and maybe even claim the starting job with Sheldon Brown gone. However, there is a scenario now emerging in which Hanson doesn’t even make the team…

Maclin's Knee Injury Raises Questions About Wide Receivers

At the end of practice today, Jeremy Maclin suffered a left knee injury and had to be carted off the field into the locker room. At the moment, word out of Lehigh is that Maclin’s knee is only hyper-extended, not anything more serious like a ligament tear.

Why Trent Cole Should Hold Out of Camp

Trent Cole Philadelphia Eagles Salary Contract Hold Out Training Camp

As a fan, it’s tough to support a player who holds out of training camp. No matter how much less a player makes than he “deserves,” he’s still getting a boatload and a half more than anyone you know. All fans care about is the team — and any player who holds out appears to care a lot more about themselves than winning a championship.

But, in all honesty, while I don’t necessarily want Trent Cole to hold out at the beginning of training camp, I think he should for his own sake.

First of all, it’s not like he needs to learn or compete in training camp. He’s the starting RDE and that’s not going to change with a few days or weeks missed. I’m all for working out with the team and getting in shape for the season, but there’s not much for Cole to gain at Lehigh. And there’s something positive about keeping him from suffering a Stewart Bradley-esque injury.

Second, he’s clearly underpaid. Foxsports.com compares Cole’s contract to Julius Peppers’s, but let’s put that aside for now. Soon, Cole won’t even be the top-paid defensive end on his own team — that distinction will go to first round pick Brandon Graham, who will get north of $12 million guaranteed cash (Brian Orakpo’s haul last year) before ever taking an NFL snap. Cole’s gotta be looking down the line, wondering why he can’t get some of that dough.

Third, Cole’s not getting any younger. He’s only 27 now, but he’s played in 65 straight games including in the playoffs. He can’t, and shouldn’t, count on that streak continuing forever. With that in mind, Cole deserves to be paid at least close to market value for the last few years of his prime. You never know when that window could close, and it will likely happen before he gets to free agency in 2014.

But the key point is number four: Cole’s never going to have better leverage to renegotiate his deal. Think back to the summer of 2008. Brian Westbrook was coming off a career year that put him at the top of running backs in the NFL. More importantly, he had proven that he was by far the most valuable member of the team. Westbrook parlayed that, coupled with a holdout threat carried over from his refusal to attend camp in 2005, into another contract extension (ok, so it was basically just a raise).

Cole is in a similar situation now. He is by far the most important player on the defense, and may be the most indispensable guy on the team. Just as the Eagles recognized that Westbrook was their only weapon on offense going into 2008 and drafted DeSean Jackson, so they have indicated how thin they are on the defensive line by completely reloading at that position. Sure, Graham may become great and eventaually replace Cole the way DeSean replaced Westbrook, but right now Cole’s playmaking and all-around production remain invaluable. If he wants to renegotiate his contract, the Eagles have to listen.

Plus, because Cole is indispensible and so obviously underpaid, he likely wouldn’t receive the same vitriol from the public that is often directed at training camp hold outs. Or would he? What do you think?