I can hear the roar of the crowd. I can taste the smell in the air at Lincoln Financial Field on game days, the gastric mix of violence and desperation and elation and beers and cheesesteaks. I can feel the rumble in my stomach already, the knots of anticipation for Sunday's season-opening game against Green Bay. It is a feeling missing since that first weekend of the 2009 playoffs. It is time to have it back for the next four-plus months ...
I can't wait. You can't wait. Since those depressing losses to Dallas to end '09, we have been waiting to see what the Eagles would do to make this a better football team. The organization took a dramatic, aggressive approach in the off-season, revamping the front office and tweaking the coaching staff and then moving and shaking and turning the roster inside and out to reach 53 players.
And so what we have here is a team that is young, that is promising, that is very talented, that seems to have all of the ingredients to be a contending squad. But who really knows? Who knows what will be behind the curtain when the season opens?
That is what is so much fun.
This is, no question, a new generation for the Eagles. New players, new front office, new approach. New energy, as Andy Reid has said over and over again since the spring.
As I'm sure you are feeling, my mind is buzzing. So many thoughts about this game ...
- I have my eye on the weather. As I write this, there is a 40 percent chance of thundershowers on Sunday, according to Weather.com. We'll see what happens. It hasn't rained in Philadelphia in weeks, and all of a sudden Hurricane season peaks and you never know. David Akers, no doubt, has an eye on things, too.
- To me, the key matchups could very well be how Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole and Brandon Graham play against experienced Green Bay offensive tackles Chad Clilfton and Mark Taucher. The Eagles must win that battle. They have to pressure quarterback Aaron Rodgers off the edge. And when the Eagles use their nickel defense, they like to bring in defensive ends and line up four across the front, so they need pressure inside, too. The new additions to the defensive line have to get off the football quickly and pressure Rodgers, or it will be a tough day for the Eagles to cover the many Green Bay weapons.
- Really, really, really interested to see how Bobby April impacts the special teams. I think April will directly help this team win a couple of games this season. But the question is: How quickly can the new faces come together for April and his coverage groups? Not only that, but can the Eagles turn the game around with a big return from DeSean Jackson?
- Still don't know who is returning kickoffs. Could be Ellis Hobbs. Could be somebody else. A little bit of cat and mouse going on, maybe?
- What do you do against a tight end like Jermichael Finley? He is so big and so strong and the guy runs like a wide receiver? You know how difficult tight ends have been to cover in years past. The challenge is even greater this year with so many teams having tight ends who are the go-to receivers in the offense.
- I would guess Green Bay will come after Kevin Kolb and blitz him and show him a lot of looks and use a lot of pre-snap movement to try to shake him up. This is a great mental test for Kolb, and certainly it will be a great physical test for the young quarterback.
- I really hope the Eagles can get the ball to Jackson 8-10 times from the line of scrimmage, in addition to his return touches. Jackson has so much speed, is so dangerous with the football and you see what the offense is missing when he isn't out there.
- Which unsung hero steps up for the Eagles to win this game? Ellis Hobbs is a great candidate. Green Bay is going to go after him, I'm pretty sure. The Packers have a deep and talented group at wide receiver and Hobbs is going to be faced with quick throws, with double moves, with some very experienced playmakers.
- Nobody is talking about fullback Leonard Weaver much, but he plays a significant part in this offense. I think he can make a huge contribution without touching the football much at all. Against that 3-4 defense, the Eagles must make sure they have all of the blitzing angles covered. Weaver is going to be very important in pass protection.