Training camp officially opened for the Eagles 2012 campaign over the weekend. The season starts in less than seven weeks. That’s always enough to get me excited about the Birds and football. But this year there’s something more. I’m extra excited about this year’s season. I’m one of the more grounded Eagles fan’s out there, so I don’t believe that every year is “our year” or that we’re never going to win anything with Andy; but there’s enough planets aligning this season to make it a special one.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Michael Vick has never had a full off-season as the Eagles starting quarterback with Andy Reid? It’s hard to believe, but true. The year Vick became the starter and blew the doors off the league, Kevin Kolb was actually the starter at the beginning of the season. (Stupid Arizona!) Last off-season, Vick and Reid were unable to work with each other in the off-season because of the damn lockout. As much as some fans question Reid’s ability to coach or play call or clock manage, they cannot question his ability to coach up quarterbacks. We all know the resume, A.J. Feeley, Kolb and McNabb. With a full off-season to teach Vick the intricacies of his system, Vick will become a more dangerous weapon. Vick has also commented numerous times on his desire to take fewer risks and stay healthy for the full season. If he can accomplish that, then he can become literally unstoppable.
Last year, in the truncated off-season, the Eagles went all Dan Snyder and decided to buy every player whose name they recognized. They even brought in that piece of crap Vince Young. This year they did the opposite. They locked up key veterans Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson to long-term contracts. Turning a locker room full of new guys to a team of players who are familiar with each other and happy to be there. Like it or not, DeSean Jackson’s contract was obviously affecting him towards the end of the season last year. Now with a new one, we should see a rebirth of the player that we fell in love with back in his rookie season. LeSean is getting paid as he should, as one of the top running backs in the league. Normally that’s when most of running backs self destruct (see: Johnson, Chris or Alexander, Shaun) but LeSean is only 24 years old. That’s a big difference. (And a bit depressing to me personally. When did all these players get so young?)
For the first time since Jeremiah Trotter was in his prime, I’m genuinely excited about the Eagles linebackers’ corps. Trading for DeMeco Ryans was the steal of the off-season. We don’t watch a lot of Texans games, but he is the kind of leader that the Eagles needed in the middle of the defense since Dawkins left. Mychal Kendricks, taken in the second round, is going to break the Eagles second round linebacker curse and will start at strong side backer. Most scouts had him as the number two 4-3 linebacker out of the draft. This kid can flat-out hit and knows the game. He’s going to be a fan favorite quickly. Brian Rolle, who showed flashes last year, will battle with Jamar Chaney for the weakside linebacker. With the veteran leadership of Ryans in the middle, it should help lift the play of all the linebackers instead of the mess of rookies and second year players they started last year.
Finally Joe Banner is gone. Actually, Banner was good and underappreciated at his job. But man, did he creep me out.
This season is going to be special. I don’t dare to utter any proclamations, because while I may not be a religious man, but I don’t dare tempt the football gods. I also don’t have blind faith. I still know that Juan Castillo is still coaching the defense. I know that Jason Peters is gone. I know that our safeties are a mess. But this is the magical time of year when ever team is 0-0 and we all have a chance, so why not accentuate the positive. (I know, it’s Philly. Boo!) There are plenty of reasons for hope and excitement. Do not forget that the Eagles won their last four games last season. Do not forget that Andy Reid has led us to multiple NFC East Championships and five NFC Championship games. He’s still there, and now he has had a full off-season with his guys to prepare for this season. So let’s sit back and prepare for excellence. Let’s go Birds!!!