Commentary

Eagles camp preview: Curtain call for McNabb?

Updated: August 18, 2008, 7:23 PM ET
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com

Editor's note: These camp previews are up to date as of the start of preseason games. For the latest changes since then, check our updated rankings, projections and profiles.

Donovan McNabb can't stay out of the news, and this will probably be the case for as long as he's an Eagle. Philadelphia's offseason was quiet, but this team heads into training camp feeling not quite desperate, but feeling this might be the end of the road for a few critical Eagles, led by McNabb and coach Andy Reid. Neither had a pleasant 2007 season, as McNabb rehabbed his wounded knee while playing all season, which held the team back and Reid dealt with -- and is still dealing with -- problems with his sons, potentially affecting his focus.

There were two bits of news this summer, one being the health of McNabb's shoulder and the other about a disgruntled member of the secondary. As for McNabb, the reconstructed knee should be OK by now. In fairness, McNabb did get better as last season progressed, which offers hope for 2008. The shoulder tightness, diagnosed as tendinitis, forced McNabb, now 30, to be mostly an onlooker rather than a participant in the team's June camps. This wouldn't seem like a big deal, but if McNabb's not right, this team is in trouble. At least that's how everything is viewed, and when the franchise quarterback can't stay on the field year after year after … well, that's a problem. Look for McNabb and Reid to do whatever possible to make this a big year, because nobody knows how much longer either man will be in town.

As for the other news, Lito Sheppard remains an Eagle despite rampant rumors of him being either cut or traded. Neither happened. Meanwhile, the Eagles did make a nice free agent splash by signing former Patriot Asante Samuel to a monster deal, upgrading the secondary yet alienating Sheppard. Philly's defense took a step backward in fantasy value in 2007, and having Sheppard around as a nickel back isn't a bad thing, but this cannot be an in-season distraction.

Philadelphia Eagles

The big free agent splash for the Eagles came on the defensive side of the ball. The offense remains relatively unchanged.

Key Additions
CB Asante Samuel
DE Chris Clemons
LB Rocky Boiman
RB Lorenzo Booker
WR DeSean Jackson
Key Losses
DE Jevon Kearse
CB William James
RB Thomas Tapeh
LB Takeo Spikes
Probable Lineup
QB1 Donovan McNabb
RB1 Brian Westbrook
RB2 Lorenzo Booker
WR1 Kevin Curtis
WR2 Reggie Brown
WR3 Jason Avant
TE1 L.J. Smith
K David Akers
Preseason Schedule
@ PIT Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.
CAR Aug. 14, 8:00 p.m.
@ NE Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.
NYJ Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m.
All times ET

What to look for in camp

Key position battles: For all the complaining about Brian Westbrook not being durable, the man has missed one game in each of the past two seasons. That's two games total, for you math majors. As a result, having standout depth behind Westbrook doesn't seem like the same priority it was a few years back. Regardless, the Eagles swung a smart draft-day trade for buried Dolphins sophomore Lorenzo Booker. The Florida State product didn't get a chance as a rookie, but he is a nice receiving option out of the backfield and might have passed all the other backup possibilities on the depth chart, including Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt.

There's also plenty of interest among Eagles fans as to who would replace McNabb, should something shockingly befall him. Second-year man Kevin Kolb -- not A.J. Feeley -- was running the team in the June camp, but it remains in the air who would be next in line come September. There's little question who the future quarterback is, however.

Fitting in: Ever since the Terrell Owens era ended -- you do recall when T.O. was an Eagle, and all the trappings that came with it, don't you? -- the Eagles have been searching for that No. 1 wide receiver for McNabb to throw to. In reality, the Eagles are content with what they've got. Kevin Curtis led the team in receiving touchdowns and yards, and Reggie Brown, while a fantasy disappointment, is the other capable starter. The Eagles drafted Cal speedster DeSean Jackson to help a lagging return game, but he could also rise to the level of third receiver quickly, battling Jason Avant and Hank Baskett, specifically.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles expect former Raider and Redskin Chris Clemons to help the pass rush, but the team will likely continue to employ a rotation featuring depth, rather than create an IDP star there. Samuel's presence as a potential shutdown corner helps everyone on defense, and he's probably the team's second-best IDP option after Trent Cole.

On the line: The Eagles have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines in the league, especially on the right side with Shawn Andrews and Jon Runyan, but take note that Runyan is 34 and has hinted at retirement before. Of course, he'd love to have at least one season in which he doesn't have to deal with the Giants' Michael Strahan, so this is it. Tra Thomas and Todd Herremans anchor the left side, and Jamaal Jackson is the center, and Eagles fans certainly hope injuries don't break up this strong unit. Remember Winston Justice filling in for Thomas and trying to block Osi Umenyiora? It didn't go well. I think another sack was registered five minutes ago. When it comes to protecting the pass, this offensive line has been leaky, but that's also due to McNabb often wandering around the pocket.

The bottom line

If it's Philadelphia, it's all about McNabb. He and his shoulder, knee and whatever else will be watched closely in training camp, and maybe you'll want to avoid him in round eight if he struggles, but the truth is McNabb could struggle mightily or flat-out sit at camp -- and it doesn't matter very much. Reid isn't going to risk his most important player until the games matter in September. The Eagles are a veteran team hoping for one more joyride before the run ends, so there aren't many jobs up for grabs that affect fantasy football.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com fantasy. You can e-mail him here.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer