The Lehigh Valley is a gorgeous place to be. The sun is warm, the breeze is cool, there is very little humidity in the air and when Eagles fans cram this place, well, it is gonna be quite a party. Andy Reid coming up soon.
MONDAY, 2:26 P.M.
Great drive here past some familiar landmarks. It's hard to believe the Eagles have been coming to Lehigh University for 13 seasons. It is a beautiful place. For you fans making the trip, I'll post some of my favorite stops here and there. Today, I stopped at Copperhead Grille on Route 378 for lunch and enjoyed their specialty cheesesteak (with marinara sauce) and a cola. Coleslaw and a pickle were part of the package and the food was very, very good. That is a good place to cool off before, between and after the practices here. Starters Pub, farther up on 378 and in the town of Bethlehem, also works.
And there is a place in Hellertown I have to visit again. I went there one time and forget the name, which is not unusual in training camp. I take the approach that I really focus on training camp for however long we are here, and then I kind of have selective memory about what just happened. I don't remember much. I just move on and get focused for the next part of the season. I sometimes think that when I retire or am pushed aside from this gig that I will have nothing but dreams as all the seasons play back in my head.
Still no word on Trevor Laws, although I'm not exactly plugged in at the moment. Chez Spadaro was burlarized the other night -- while we were home sleeping -- and my cell phone is gone and now, sadly, disconnected. Let me digress and say I live in a fantastic, familly-oriented neighborhood, but the theory is that kids are walking around the streets -- in your neighborhoods, too! -- and looking for unlocked cars and front doors. It was our front door, I'm convinced. Left ajar by one of us, which isn't the issue. The issue is that nobody is safe these days.
Back to the Eagles.
Yeah, no clue on Laws. I'm heading up to the dorm area where the players stay, so I will have word soon. Well, anyway, I still think he will be here in time for meetings tonight. It makes no sense if he isn't here ...
SUNDAY, 10:13 P.M.
Found out about DeSean Jackson's contract about 45 minutes ago and I couldn't be happier. I want Jackson to get as many reps as he can in this training camp, because I think he is a special talent. He catches the ball with such great confidence, plays with a swagger and he has made big plays at every level of his career.
Now he is in the big time. I can't wait to see him.
The difficult part of the evaluation will be the return game, because returns aren't live in the NFL until the preseason games. So we have to wait until the Eagles play at Pittsburgh to see Jackson return punts. Right then, we'll know, because as we all watched Jeremy Bloom last year, we saw how he started OK and then faded, faded, faded. And by the end of last year's preseason, Bloom had no burst.
Jackson will be tested, for sure. Playing wide receiver in the NFL means pushing through a taxing process on the legs. The receivers run all day, every day. Plus, they have to beat the physical part of full pads and full contact in some of these drills. I am not worried that Jackson will falter because of his lack of prototype size. I think, in fact, Jackson will be difficult to hit. He runs so fast, moves so quickly and has such a low center that Jackson will be a player defenses likely have to hold on for dear life against.
I expect Jackson to be a contributor this season. No doubt about it. In the days of Tuesday through Thursday, he will be the go-to receiver for Donovan McNabb in the offense. They are going to build some chemistry. I look for it to pay off later.
The Eagles still have to sign first pick Trevor Laws. I don't see a Brodrick Bunkley situation here, folks. I think Laws will be in and will report to Lehigh in time for the mandatory evening meeting for rookies and selected veterans.
SUNDAY, 10:52 P.M.
Tough way for the Redskins to open their training camp. Philip Daniels isn't a special player at defensive end, but he is a tough guy and was a starter for the Washington defensive line until Saturday, when he suffered a season-ending injury. The Redskins lost another defensive end who was on the roster bubble from what I understand, and they went out and got Jason Taylor from Miami.
It's a good move for the Redskins, but there are some concerns. Taylor is going to be 34 years old this year. He comes into a new system and he hasn't exactly inspired anyone about his future beyond this season. Taylor has great sack numbers and there is no doubt he is a fine, fine defensive end.
All of a sudden, the NFC East has the best defensive ends, collectively, in the league. With Osi Umieyora, DeMarcus Ware (he is a rush linebacker, I know), Trent Cole and now Taylor, the NFC East is loaded with premier pass rushers. Add in Jaren Allen in Minnesota, and the preseason picks for the Pro Bowl are tough to make.
Giving up a second-round pick next year and a sixth-round pick in 2010 is a pretty steep price to pay if Taylor doesn't play for more than a year or two. Still, Washington was desperate and had really no other options.
SUNDAY, 11:35 P.M.
Somebody said to me today, "Things are really heating up with the Eagles, huh? Sounds like a lot is going on." Actually, I have to say, this is a relatively quiet pre-camp period. The health check is a positive one. The team appears ready, from a roster standpoint. I know that both Brian Westbrook and Lito Sheppard have some contract situations and so on, but I fully expect both players to be OK this year. The business side of football tends to work itself out before the season begins. Once the whistle blows, it is all football.
Another thing I was asked: "Are the Eagles going to use a draft pick, one of those first-round picks next year, to acquire a player to help this year?"
I don't think so. I don't expect it. Unless a team is in the same boat as Miami, which is starting over and hoping to build for the future, I don't see teams out there willing to give away front-line players for a draft pick. And for the Eagles to part with a first-round pick, yeah, it would have to be a front-line player.
At the same time, I don't see the Eagles trading a key veteran player for a draft pick. Why hurt the team in 2008? The TV and radio are talking about trading Sheppard. No thanks. Play out the year and then let's see what is happening. The Eagles value Sheppard, who helps give this team an enviable rotation at cornerback. What good does it do trading Sheppard for a draft pick next year? The Eagles already have an extra first-round pick and an extra fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft.
Good night to all. I'll be up bright and early, and ready to get a move on to Lehigh.
MONDAY, 7:32 A.M.
Andy Reid meets the media this afternoon, an annual press conference that is actually one of his best of the year. Reid has been on vacation the last five weeks, along with the other coaches, so he is fresh and ready to "get after it," as he says, as training camp begins.
For Reid, the next three days are his focus. He has his rookie class and some selected veterans in and they will run through two practices a day, simulating the things they've already learned as well as moving forward a notch to get a leg up on the entire team. Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley are in as well working on their timing and knocking off some of the rust.
McNabb's situation bears some watching, of course. I don't expect the Eagles to hold back on McNabb much at all, if at all, after his bout with shoulder tendinitis in the spring. I think McNabb will get a clean bill of health and will come out firing.
The key part of the next three days is seeing how much the young players retained in the last five weeks since the spring practices ended. They all say they "got into the playbook," but how much of them took full advantage and really studied? At this level, you do your homework on your own, or you fall behind. There still is no hitting, not until Saturday, but we will be able to watch and see which rookies and young veterans are in the right places at the right times, and which ones are slow to the spot.
As for what questions Reid is going to get today, I think we all know the deal. He is going to be peppered with questions about Brian Westbrook and Lito Sheppard and McNabb's health. I'm looking forward what Reid has to say, and I'm looking forward to the message Reid brings to the team early in camp.
The Eagles were at the bottom of the ladder in the NFC East last season. It's time to climb back to the top and stay there.
MONDAY, 11:07 A.M.
The frenzy for Eagles tickets continues. The standing-room-only tickets are just about sold out as we speak, as expected. It was a quick sale. I think Lincoln Financial Field is going to rock this season.
I'm at the NovaCare Complex. In a few minutes, I will drive up to Lehigh University to set up shop at camp. Our PhiladelphiaEagles.com office is a sweet setup, a large room in Taylor Hall where we can all plug in and work together. Of course, practice is on the other side of the hill, so we actually have two stations. One is a tent at the practice fields, where we broadcast every day after a morning practice from 12 to about 3 p.m. Tune in. You won't want to miss the coverage. We'll have practice video, interviews, fan interaction and live cameras from training camp. Very cool. The video quality should be great. We try to get better and better every season.
And if you are coming to Lehigh and want to get on the air, we're going to try a Fan Roundtable and hear what the fans have to say about what they've seen at practice. Just look for us there, or get an email or a comment on this story and I'll read it.
Not much new to report. I'm going to go skulking around before I leave to find out what is going on with Trevor Laws ...
MONDAY, 11:33 A.M.
Eagles fans, you have a chance to step up in a big way on Saturday at training camp. The team is having an Eagles Blood Drive, partnering with The American Red Cross, on Saturday, July 26. All you have to do is sign up and you have a chance to win sideline passes to that day's practice and even Eagles game tickets.
It is a great, extremely worthwhile project, and the Eagles and The American Red Cross need you to be a part of it. Now. Please.
"By making a donation, you'll be making a lasting impact in the Philadelphia area," said Chris Englerth from The American Red Cross. "Every donation will help save up to three lives. This is an especially important time, during these summer months. Families have so many other things they are doing -- vacations and things like that -- and we need all the help we can get.
"Supplies have a tendency to drop during the summer months as a result. We want to avoid being in an emergency situation, so we need projects like this to be successful."
There you go. Please help. It's for a great cause, and it give you a chance to win.