This is what we've been waiting for, folks. The sour taste in our mouths from the playoff loss to New Orleans faded as the Eagles dug in and improved the roster, addressed key positions and focused on the immediate future. It's been a fascinating offseason, one with many moves -- several unexpected -- and the Eagles are now ready to find out just where they are as Training Camp practices open on Saturday at the NovaCare Complex.
Everyone is excited. Everyone eagerly awaits Year 2 of Chip Kelly and his coaching vision. The Eagles made enormous strides in 2013 -- rebounding from the nightmare of '12 to capture the NFC East in 2013, winning 10 games and further building a talented pool of young players that truly make up the core of the roster.
So what does Kelly do for an encore? Well, the Eagles certainly didn't sit still in the offseason and they didn't fall in love with the roster. They were aggressive in free agency. They considered all of their options in the draft.
In the end, the Eagles turned over more than a third of the roster. There are 33 players on the current roster who were not on the roster at the end of the 2013 season. Many of those 33 players, if you want to look into the future, won't be here in September. The Eagles aren't ripping things apart here. They are, instead, looking for every way to improve the 53-man roster for the 2014 season.
Storylines for Training Camp. There are plenty of them as the Eagles get things under way, and there are many more to emerge. This is a daily battle for roster spots, and the coaches want to more than anything see competition from A to Z by position.
And so, as they say, it's on. The players are here and the roster further takes shape on Saturday when the practices begin. I've got some random thoughts as we close in on Saturday and some on-field action to absorb ...
- Maybe the most intense competition for roster positioning will come at cornerback. Not a whole lot looks etched in stone from this vantage point.
Nolan Carroll IIwill compete for a starting job with Cary Williamsand Bradley Fletcher. Brandon Boykinis as solid a player as you can find on this team. Jaylen Watkinsis a promising rookie. Roc Carmichaelis tenacious, and a strong special teams player. Curtis Marshlooked in the spring like he is coming into his own as he gains experience. Davon Morganhas good size and some NFL experience. It's an interesting group.
- How does it play out at running back behind
LeSean McCoyand Darren Sproles? Chris Polkhas a real opportunity and must stay healthy and take advantage of his reps. Matthew Tuckeris suddenly a factor. Henry Joseyand David Fluellenare trying to impress. Even though McCoy is a workorse and a standout, you really can't have too many players in the backfield.
- Some names to remember in the under-the-radar category: linebacker
Travis Long, offensive lineman Matt Tobinand even an athlete like linebacker Josh Kaddu.
G.J. Kinnemake a run at a roster spot? That's his intention, and the Eagles are going to give him a lot of reps to impress. Nothing at all is locked in after Nick Foleson the depth chart. The Eagles want to see the quarterbacks push each other.
- I think one of the best battles comes at nose tackle with
Bennie Loganas the starter and Damion Square, Beau Allenand Wade Keliikipicompeting for roster spots. Carey Spearlooked much more consistent to go along with that strong leg during the OTAs and there is no doubt that he's a prospect. But he is anything but a given to beat out Alex Heneryfor the placekicker job. As I see it, Henery looked outstanding in the spring and he's got plenty of NFL experience to be considered a very strong favorite to win the job as camp opens. The preseason games will tell a lot of the story, however.