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Broadcast Booth Ready to Put On Great Show

For three hours we sat around the table, talking football and sharing thoughts and having a great meal on the eve of the Eagles' opening preseason game. The new Eagles' broadcast crew -- Kevin Reilly as the lead voice joined by former NFL player and coach Herm Edwards and former NFL player Hugh Douglas -- went round and round and round about the preseason ahead. What do the games mean? What can we expect?

"What's that song by The Who? 'Who are you?' Is that what it is?," said Douglas. "That's what I think this preseason is all about. You have a team that is missing a lot of its leaders, and a lot of young players are going to play now, and are going to be expected to step up and play when the season starts. Who is this team? What are they all about?

"You have players like Joe Mays and Quintin Demps and Shady McCoy all of a sudden in key roles. Are they ready for what they are about to face?"

It is a fascinating storyline to begin the preseason. The game -- broadcast in the Philadelphia region by the Eagles Television Network on 6abc and then shown by the NFL Network at 11 p.m. -- offers more than the usual thoughts to open things. The Eagles had one of the most active off-seasons in the NFL, addressed every position they wanted to address and entered training camp feeling they had a team that was ready to blossom in the 18 days at Lehigh.

Instead, the Eagles had some stutters, some stops, some moments when you just wanted it all to end and to fast forward to September 13. There were injuries and there was the death of Jim Johnson and there was the off-the-field incident that was widely discussed. But the Eagles, between those rain drops, had a lot of sunshine.

They saw rookie running back LeSean McCoy get up to speed right away. They watched second-year receiver DeSean Jackson make significant strides toward becoming a dominating NFL receiver. They witnessed some young offensive linemen take advantage of extra practice reps and improve.

And the defense, day in and day out, played with speed and got to the football and looked like a great fit of 11 men working together.

"You are going to have injuries and the coaches know that. It's about creating good matchups and countering moves, and the coaches are going to take these games very seriously," said Edwards, who, of course, was the man who recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown in the game that became The Miracle of the Meadowlands in the Eagles' 1978 victory over the Giants. Edwards spent 30 years in the NFL as a player and coach and now works for ESPN.

"Everything matters in the preseason. This is the chance to win jobs and to see how the players react in game situations. These are your future players out there. You get to the fourth quarter, and there are going to be players on the field who are going to be around for a long time."

The Eagles Television Network broadcasts three of the four preseason games -- the lone exception is next Thursday's game in Indianapolis, which is broadcast nationally -- under the guidance of director Artie Kempner, the top director of FOX's NFL broadcasts. The coverage promises to be energetic, educational and extremely entertaining featuring the humor and insight of Douglas with the intensity of Edwards.

"I'm going to bring an insight to the viewers that I've gained through my time as a player and a coach," said Edwards. "How does a coach look at a preseason game? You have to work this game all the way through. Even though the schemes may be vanilla, and the players could move around a little bit, it comes down to football and who can run and tackle and block and catch.

"These kinds of games, the coaches want to see who can play. Don't make it so complicated. Allow the players to go out there and show what they can do, rather than have them sitting back and thinking."

Douglas came into the NFL in 1995 as a first-round draft pick by the Jets and then was traded to the Eagles in 1998. He became one of the most prolific defensive ends in franchise history and ranks third in franchise history in total quarterback sacks. Douglas played until 2002 with the Eagles, signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in 2003 and then returned to finish his career as an Eagle in 2004.

Since 2005, when Douglas' effort to make the team fell short, he has remained in Philadelphia and has built his media portfolio. Douglas is a regular on 610 WIP Sportsradio and also on FOX Philadelphia.

Now he gets a crack in the broadcast booth, a challenge he is eager to attack.

"I know I'm going to get a lot of feedback and I'm going to welcome that. The only way I can go is up," said Douglas. "I'm working with a good group of people who are giving me an opportunity to learn another part of the business. I've been at practice just about every day and I've got my opinions of what these guys can do. Now they will be in a game. I want to see how what they did in practice translates to what they do in a game."

How good are the Eagles? Most of the national analysts say the Eagles are contenders. Edwards is in that group, too. A lot of things, of course, have to go right and ...

"It's the same with every team. You are going to have injuries. You are going to have things that don't go the way you planned," said Edwards. "That's why you coach every player on the roster. You want them all to be ready. The Eagles have a lot of great pieces in place here. It starts with Donovan McNabb. He is the main guy, the winner here. He gets it all rolling, and I expect him to do that in this game."

It is a great time of the year. The best, really. Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the Patriots are in town. We can actually start grading the Eagles based on games. We're one step closer to show time. The curtain is about to rise.

"What is the identity here? Who leads? You don't do it by talking a lot, you do it by being the first one to practice and the last one to leave. You become a leader by setting the example," said Douglas. "At the end of this preseason, we'll know more about the Eagles. Right now, it's all talk. The preseason is important to get your timing down, to work on your skills. I'm not saying you need four preseason games, but these games are important to get your timing down. In the NFL, it's all about timing."

Same in the broadcast booth. Reilly, who played with the Eagles from 1973-74 and then for a season with New England, grabs the lead microphone and has All-Pro talent around him. It is show time for everyone -- the team, the broadcasters, the fans. And it couldn't have come soon enough.

"Everyone has waited a long time for this," said Reilly. "We're all ready. I'm not sure I've ever seen the fans more excited to start a preseason."

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