Eagles' Stacy Andrews out to change perceptions

Posted: August 09, 2010

BETHLEHEM - No Eagle will encounter more skeptics over the next few months, as he settles into a starting job, than Stacy Andrews.

Kevin Kolb? No, most Birds fans are eager to see what the new quarterback can do, hopeful that if he drives them crazy, at least he'll do it in different ways than Donovan McNabb.

But after last season, no one is eager to see Stacy Andrews play right guard - except maybe Stacy Andrews, and Eagles coach Andy Reid. (And, too, perhaps ex-Eagle Shawn Andrews, if the Birds are on TV on a day when it's raining out in Southern California, and "SpongeBob" is in reruns.)

The rest of Eagles Nation made up its mind about the time Stacy, the $39 million free-agent signee, couldn't get on the field, except on special teams, for those devastating, back-to-back losses to Dallas that ended the 2009 season - even though the Birds were starting two subs on the o-line. Fairly or unfairly, Stacy was quickly lumped in with brother Shawn, a dominant Pro Bowl guard whose career drifted into limbo, in the face of serious back troubles and waning ardor.

Stacy Andrews certainly knows how he is perceived. If he had any lingering doubts, there was the matter of that pay cut last winter, Andrews agreeing to a contract readjustment to stay on the roster, keeping a $4.1 million roster bonus but reducing his salary this year from $2.95 million to $1.15 million.

"I have high goals set for myself, man," said Andrews, who seems to be looking pretty solid in training camp so far. "I gotta prove to the organization that I'm gonna be the guy that's gonna do the job. Gotta prove it to myself, my family, fans. It's going to pan out. I'm not worried about people being down on me, because I've been in that position my whole life."

Andrews noted that as a thrower of the discus, hammer and shot at Ole Miss who converted late to football and played just five college games, he is used to having a lot to prove to skeptics.

We might never know the whole story of why he couldn't even handle spot duty on the line last year without taking a penalty or looking overmatched. Reid talks about Andrews getting faith back in his right knee, rebuilt just before he signed with the Eagles. Andrews talks more about how raw he was as a guard, having played mostly tackle in four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, having little familiarity with the concepts Eagles offensive-line coach Juan Castillo was stressing.

Reid said he sees Andrews laboring less, better able to maintain the leverage a 6-7, 332-pound offensive lineman so badly needs against smaller, lower-slung pass rushers.

"You know, what he's doing is, he's been consistent through that practice, you don't see fatigue where he starts to rise up, you don't see that. You don't see him drag his leg at all, everything looks good there, and he's focusing in on techniques," Reid said. "Stacy is a tremendous run blocker, and he's putting a lot of emphasis in his pass game, trying to make sure that he keeps his hands in there tight, and everything's working for him.

"And I'm telling you that he works his tail off, and that will help him get better at those things, and he continues to be very good at the things that he does well."

A year ago this time, Andrews wasn't part of the team drills at Lehigh, and when the season started, he was shockingly unready to play.

"I feel real comfortable, man," Andrews said yesterday. "The knee's behind me, I'm not even thinking about that. I'm just focused on each practice we have, going out and doing something better than I did it the first time.

"It helps out a whole lot [to be full-go]. Last year I was just going through the individuals, mainly taking mental reps . . . This year I'm in it for everything, start to finish. I feel a whole lot better."

Overall, the starting offensive line hasn't dominated so far at Lehigh. In fact, the defense has been ahead of the offense, partly because Sean McDermott's unit has more to prove overall and maybe a greater sense of alacrity about trying to prove it right off the bat. But people who remember how the presumed starting o-line never got a single rep during last year's camp can't help but feel a little uneasy, with left guard Todd Herremans sitting out to rest his achy foot, center Jamaal Jackson still recovering from ACL surgery, and Jackson's replacement, Nick Cole, currently out with knee swelling. Andrews missed one workout last week with shoulder soreness but quickly returned.

At what point does building cohesiveness become a concern?

"It doesn't become a concern at all, man," Andrews said. "We got good, solid backups . . . We've done pretty good. We've got a few things we've got to iron out as a whole, and maybe a few things we've still got to work on individually."

This year, of course, no one at Eagles camp is awaiting the return of Shawn Andrews, released during the offseason. Stacy said yesterday that Shawn is working out in LA and could be in an NFL training camp somewhere soon.

"He's out there grindin', man, out there in LA cuttin' it up," Stacy said. "I don't want to put it out there right now, but he's got a good place" to possibly sign.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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