It opens, as it does every year, with great anticipation and excitement and, yes, stories to follow. This is a different year, unique from last year, and in the end maybe Andy Reid is right when he says that each year is unto itself. Two thousand and ten is unlike any year in the Reid era, and for the first time the team as it is now assembled gathers for a team meeting on Thursday night, mandatory by the way, and we find out a little bit more about the direction this team is taking.
Oh, there are so many fantastic sub-plots. So many things to watch in practice, so many words to hear from the players and the coaches when the on-field work is done. Where to begin? Let's take a look at some of the storylines to follow this weekend as the post-draft mini-camp unfolds ...
**Kevin Kolb Takes Over The Team
So, it's the little things that matter to me, and I'll relate a story I heard the other day: Kolb leaves town and the team's strength and conditioning program to be with his wife, Whitney, as she gives birth to their second daughter. He returns to Philadelphia and his flight is delayed. It lands at 3:30 p.m. and Kolb's first move is to go to the NovaCare Complex on his own and get in a workout.
Now, no biggie, right? Well, wrong. To be the man and the leader of a team when everybody is watching is one thing, and to take it to heart and carry through on the little things when nobody is watching is something entirely different. Not every player would have gone on his own and gotten in the workout. What harm would it have been to wait until the next day?
Anyway, Kolb is saying and doing all the right things in the relative privacy of the conditioning program. Now he will be front and center, with a lot of media charting his every move and debating his every word. What kind of command will Kolb have over the huddle, in the locker room, among the player-to-player dynamic that is so vital for a football team.
Interestingly, Kolb will not conduct a formal press conference in the auditorium of the NovaCare Complex this weekend, as had been the case with Donovan McNabb in the past. Instead, Kolb will be available at his locker, amid the players, in a more casual and inviting atmosphere. He appears ready to take center stage and this weekend the focus is on Kolb.
**Offensive Line Gets Personality Makeover
Are the Eagles good enough up front? Why didn't they address offensive line in the draft? We're going to get a better idea of what the coaches have in mind when the line gets together with Stacy Andrews at right guard and with Nick Cole starting at center. Now, there is going to be competition. Mike McGlynn is ready to push for time at center and at guard. He could get looks at both positions. Max Jean-Gilles has started in this league and has played well.
There are some young players -- Fenuki Tupou, King Dunlap and Dallas Reynolds -- who want to take the next steps in their careers.
And then there is Winston Justice, who made such great strides last year. And Jason Peters, who looks lean and mean after devoting himself to Barry Rubin's conditioning program. And Todd Herremans, who is completely healthy after an injury-plagued 2009.
The truth is that we won't know about the offensive line completely until training camp, and then the preseason and then, honestly, until the regular season. But this weekend provides a snapshot, and something Juan Castillo can grade honestly.
**Is The Corner Where The Eagles Need It To Be?
Well, the Eagles have a changing picture at cornerback and we don't know exactly how it is going to work out. Asante Samuel is good to go at the left cornerback position, but who mans the other side? Is Ellis Hobbs the guy? Will it be Joselio Hanson, or Macho Harris or even rookie Trevard Lindley?
Or won't we know the answer until the season is here, and then maybe not even then?
Let the competition begin! The Eagles want/need candidates to step forward. They must feel confident about a position that had been manned for years by Sheldon Brown. Always steady, always solid and always there, Brown is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
This is a tremendously important position, and it is unquestionably unsettled. Hobbs could be limited as the Eagles bring him back from his cervical injury of a season ago, and that opens the door for the others. We will see, no doubt about. When cornerbacks are working against receivers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant, it's easy to see who can hang with them and who can't. Big weekend ahead for the cornerbacks.
**Are The Walking Wounded Ready To Go?
Some of them are, yes. Stewart Bradley will practice a lot. Cornelius Ingram will see some action, along with Marlin Jackson. And the Eagles will keep their fingers crossed every day praying for good health.
This is a non-contact camp, but the practices are held at a high tempo and the execution is expected to be crisp. The workouts are great, competition and very important in the coaching staff's eyes.
And head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff are going to be ultimately hugely important in the equation.
**Where Will The Rookies Line Up?
Any of them starting this weekend? It's not likely, unless first-round draft pick Brandon Graham vaults to the front of the depth chart. I'm not sure how likely that is based on the history here. The young man is going to have to earn his playing time. Same with Nate Allen at safety, a position that deserves a focus as well.
Heck, the Eagles drafted so many players at so many positions that the truth is that every position bears watching because the roster battles are going to be so involved. The pecking order at defensive end, for example, needs to be sorted. There are suddenly three punters on the roster. Who is the team's third halfback? You get the drift.
There really isn't any pending drama to talk about, and for the first time in a long, long time the stories seem to revolve around football, football and more football.
Isn't that refreshing? Isn't that exciting? It's a new year, a new era and a new generation for the Eagles. And it's here, right in front of our faces. Every step forward, we will learn something new about the Eagles, a brand-new team in a brand-new set of circumstances.