Training camp and practice for the Eagles isn’t just an exciting time for the players and coaches. For many of us fans, it’s absolute pandemonium within our brains as preseason football has begun and the regular season is around the corner. Whether we’re following their practices at the NovaCare Complex on Twitter, talking to friends and fans, or for guys like Len and I who produce a Philly sports podcast show, we’re all very enthusiastic and eager to see if these confident, dynamic and constructive practices translate to a winning season followed by playoff appearances. In the end, we all have a running list in our brains – consciously or subconsciously – of what we’re looking forward to seeing during this Eagles season. Here’s my top-5.
1.) First and foremost, I cannot wait to see this vibrant and forceful offense each and every week. Not knowing how QB Sam Bradford will play during a real regular season game, there are plenty of components to the offense that yell “awesome.” Bradford may become one of them. But WRs Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor may be the most feared wide receiver duo in the NFL by November. These guys are workhorses, dedicated to their craft and explosive off the line where getting separation from their defender is like child’s play. Then we have RBs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Can these guys rush for a total of 2,200 yards or even more? It’s entirely possible. If they accomplish that feat, the Eagles are going to win games and likely make it to the postseason.
2.) Who out there doesn’t think the defensive front seven will dominate? If you don’t believe so, I’m thoroughly disappointed, and you may want to start rooting for another team. Get out from under the rock and realize the Eagles and Bill Davis have built a special group of players who rule the line of scrimmage. Davis has instituted two-gapping defensive line play, which is incredibly selfless. Jimmy Kempski from the Philly Voice went into this defense scheme in some detail within a recent article. Len has consistently said on the show, the Eagles need a big, athletic guy like a Haloti Ngata. While much different in stature and structure, I think the Birds have found their guy in Bennie Logan. In the first preseason game, it was near impossible for the Colts to run the ball with their first team because of Logan’s control and power. Look for this to continue consistently through the season.
3.) Over the past two seasons, we fans have been anticipating defensive growth from all corners of the field. The growth has been slow and rocky for sure. In Bill Davis’ first season, I wanted him gone and I said so on numerous occasions in the early stages of the 2013 season. What I really wanted was instant gratification after this Eagles organization floundered on defense for years following Jim Johnson’s death. However, Davis and his key core components improved. Much to Len’s pleasure and delight, I made sure to apologize to Davis for my overreaction on the podcast. Now this defense has become exciting and profound – even within the secondary. Halleluiah! With the additions of CB Byron Maxell, CB/S Walter Thurmond and the drafting of CB Eric Rowe, there’s a new dynamic that wasn’t present over the past two seasons during the Chip Kelly-Davis era. It’s called developed growth and enhanced talent. I cannot wait to see what it brings this season.
4.) Can K Cody Parkey remain not only consistent, but get better. It’s going to be a tall order. Last year, he scored 150 total points only missing four field goals all season out of his 36 attempts. His long was 54 yards. Listen to the show and you know I love this guy. Just this past week during the game against the Colts, four of his kickoffs were touchbacks. I was completely down on former kicker Alex Henery, and when Parkey, an undrafted free agent from the Colts, came into the picture he knocked all of our socks off. I’m looking forward to seeing Parkey improve even more from last season. It’s possible and it can be done. A perfect kicking season? We’ll see.
5.) For the past couple seasons there has been something special going on in Eagles Land with special teams. When the special teams get to a point where they’re just about as critical as the offense and defense in terms of turnovers and scoring, that means I’m pretty energized about seeing their productivity this year. As the No. 1 special teams unit last season, Darren Sproles led the NFL with 13.0 yards as his punt-return average. P Donnie Jones put a league-best 34 punts inside the 20 yard line and had the league’s fifth-best opponent return rate, which was 38.1 percent. If WR Josh Huff is named the kick returner, he’ll be coming off a season where he averaged 29.6-yards on 14 attempted returns. He would have been ranked third in the league if he had had enough returns to qualify. This is a group that will remain dominant and continue to help put the offense and defense in good positions throughout the year.
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