Marcus Hayes: Intrasquad fighting isn't a bad thing for Eagles

Eagles #17, McKay Jacobson, a rookie out of BYU, does a great job of snagging a Mike Kafka pass during passing drills on Monday. Eagles training camp at Lehigh University on July 30th 2012. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Eagles #17, McKay Jacobson, a rookie out of BYU, does a great job of snagging a Mike Kafka pass during passing drills on Monday. Eagles training camp at Lehigh University on July 30th 2012. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Posted: August 01, 2012

BETHLEHEM — No competition.

The temperatures aren't breaking 90.

Everybody knows everybody …

And three fights in 3 days.

What are the Eagles fighting for?

Training-camp fights break out when young players or new players want to mark their territory. Guys throw down when returning veterans want to claim their spots as their own.

Nobody fights when every single spot is taken. But these Eagles are fighting.

A combination of wounded personal pride and unfinished professional business have acted as a catalyst for contention.

These Birds are salty. They are chapped.

And they are taking it out on each other.

"That might help us out. We've got a bunch of nasty guys. Guys who like to mix it up," said nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson. "I feel like that will help us, late in games."

Hanson is an expert at competing for a job. At 30, in his eighth season, this is one of the few training camps where he can be relatively certain to have a job come September. That includes last season, when the Eagles cut him out of training camp in a money-saving move, then re-signed him 3 days later.

Hanson meshed nicely with the Eagles' retooled secondary late last season and likely will be covering the slot for them this season.

A huge season.

After going 4-8 en route to an 8-8 finish, these Eagles are eager to prove that the Dream Team's nightmare is over.

"Everybody knows this year is do-or-die, or this team gets blown up, most likely," Hanson said. "We're ready to redeem ourselves, man. We can't wait to get it started."

To that end, the players are pushing each other. They don't need the threat of losing their jobs.

"It's not like you can come out here and jack around and not look bad. You take a play off, they'll fine you," Hanson said. "And you'll get embarrassed."

When you're fighting exhaustion and cramps and dizziness, embarrassment sometimes is not incentive enough.

Why should LeSean McCoy, drenched at 4:30 p.m., make an extra cut on a screen pass and risk getting clobbered by tackle Cullen Jenkins?

"For one, it shows pride," said Jenkins, once undrafted and seldom coveted in his nine seasons.

Monday, after DeSean Jackson and Brandon Hughes threw blows at the end of a live-action play, Jenkins jeered the offense from across the field. He needled them as much to keep himself engaged as to insult them:

"Talking that trash, it sparks you up. Keeps things interesting."

And necessary. Without competition for positions, there needs to be something driving the players.

It appears, though, that in this edition, security is good.

This edition of the offensive line didn't take shape until Game 5 last season. The best lineman, left tackle Jason Peters, is lost to injury, replaced by free agent Demetress Bell, who will not be distracted by job insecurity.

This edition of receivers threatens best with long balls, which require timing and faith. So far, their roles cemented and their wallets full, they are unusually sure-handed and fearless.

This edition of defensive linemen acts like a returning group of frat brothers. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is out indefinitely with a lingering skull issue and end Jason Babin will miss a week or 2 with a calf strain, but, when they are whole, the top eight will remain the top eight.

This edition of linebackers, thank goodness, is pedigreed and decided. Last year's rag-tag group had three different starters at weak side, three different starters at strong side and two different starters in the middle.

This edition of cornerbacks is set, three deep, including Hanson. The trade of Asante Samuel moved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back outside from the slot. With all due respect to Jeremy Maclin and Jackson, DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha have been the stars of camp.

Monday, Asomugha glided down the left sideline with Maclin, step-for-step, and, at the perfect moment, batted away a nicely thrown pass from Michael Vick.

A few minutes earlier, on the same sideline, DRC picked up Jackson from a safety covering underneath. Jackson immediately accelerated. DRC seemed to shrug, dropped into a lower gear and stayed on Jackson, step-for-step. Yes, step-for-step with D-Jack.

Vick looked at Jackson, but didn't bother.

This edition of safeties seems solid. Smallish Kurt Coleman has been everywhere thus far, and Nate Allen's strong finish in 2011 has earned him his spot.

The team's superstars, Vick and McCoy, can look far behind them and see a bit of intrigue.

Mike Kafka's continually errant throws might lead the Birds to place Vick in a bubble.

Backup back Deon Grant has developed a disconcerting knack for finding defenders, then running into them.

But really, the only players fighting for a front-line job are punters Mat McBriar and Chas Henry. Not that they wouldn't got at it.

Given the atmosphere here, it could be the first punter fight in NFL history. If you're betting, take McBriar. He's 10 years older, true, but he is Australian.

And, unlike Henry, McBriar's favorite musician isn't Yanni.

As for the head coach, Andy Reid loves this sort of stuff. A fight a day? No problem.

It is evidence that complacency is at bay, and Reid doesn't have to worry about it.

"Shoot," said Asomugha, "after what we went through last year, coach Reid wouldn't allow that." n

Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/MarcusHayes.

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