In no particular order, here are the five biggest positional battles for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles.
1. Jamar Chaney vs Stewart Bradley, middle linebacker:
This is easily the most exciting battle of the offseason. Chaney, a seventh round draft pick in 2010, started a couple of games at the end of the 2010 season when Bradley dislocated his elbow. Chaney collected 28 tackles and a forced fumble in two starts and was considered to be so valuable that the Eagles rested him for the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Chaney has already stated that if the Eagles don’t give him the starting middle linebacker position for 2011, he will take it during training camp. As of now, the likely scenario is the Eagles keeping both as a starter; the winner of the training camp battle (probably Chaney) will be the middle linebacker, with the loser likely moving to outside linebacker.
2. Stanley Havili vs Owen Schmitt, fullback:
Although he was drafted in the seventh round, Havili has a chance to start for the Eagles at fullback next season. The 6’0, 230-pound back is a powerful runner, a solid blocker, and a capable receiver. The Eagles must decide whether he is a better fit for the offense than Owen Schmitt, who started all of last season after fullback Leonard Weaver’s season ended in the first game. Schmitt was a solid fullback but I think the Eagles will make Havili as the starter.
By the way, Weaver has virtually no chance of returning to the league next season. He even admitted so on his Twitter account. If he could somehow return, he would start next year, but that’s not going to happen.
3. Antonio Dixon vs Brodrick Bunkley, defensive tackle:
I’ve heard many people say that Dixon was easily the best defensive tackle on the team last season. Brodrick Bunkley suffered through an injury-plagued season but Dixon kept the starting job even after Bunkley returned. It will be interesting to see whether Dixon can beat out the former first round pick this offseason. Both will make the team and see significant playing time next season, but I think Dixon will be the starter.
4. Winston Justice vs King Dunlap, offensive tackle:
Even though Justice had a decent season last year at right tackle, he was benched during the postseason loss to the Green Bay Packers. If an offensive tackle is benched during the playoffs, his starting spot is usually not assured for the next season. I’ve heard mixed reports on King Dunlap but I think it will take a lot of work for him to earn the starting job next year. I expect Justice to remain the starter.
5. Moise Fokou vs Casey Matthews, outside linebacker:
Fokou started last season but Matthews, the brother of Clay, was drafted in the fourth round this year and has a chance to start next season if he impresses during training camp. Then again, Keenan Clayton and Brian Rolle could also push for a starting job, and possibly even Greg Lloyd Jr. The Eagles’ linebacker situation is up in the air right now, but I predict that Matthews wins the starting job over Fokou for next year (meaning the Eagles have Bradley, Chaney, and Mathews starting).