The pace slows now, and we reflect on what happened with this football team since February, and at the same time we look ahead with unbridled excitement and enthusiasm. It is, of course, only natural to ask what is next. It is only normal to want to fast forward through these days and weeks and months to get to the end of the book to find out just how good this Eagles team really is.
I'm not going to do that. I'm going to exhale and enjoy. I'm going to watch every day and learn a little bit more about the Eagles and all the new faces and all the returning players. This off-season has been such a tremendous ride, such an emotional series of events that have given the Eagles a shot at greatness in 2009.
Above it all -- the questions, the speculation and the wonder about who is going to play where and for how long -- the feeling here is that the Eagles have the pieces in place to win a Super Bowl this season. That is the expectation. That is the bar. Nothing else is acceptable for a franchise that has been so close so many times in the Andy Reid era.
Oh, there are questions to answer. The post-draft mini-camp was fascinating to watch and there is so much more to come. The coaches know just a little bit more about the team in place here, and how the pieces fit. There remains a conditioning program to continue, a passing camp to conduct and a series of Organized Team Activities to finish off the practices before training camp begins late in the summer at Lehigh University.
Here is my advice, and feel free to take it or leave it: Enjoy every minute of the season. The highs. The lows. Everything in between. I understand and appreciate the questions -- "How much will Jeremy Maclin play?" "What is going to happen at cornerback?" "Are the Eagles going to run the ball more in 2009?" -- and a lot of those questions are impossible to answer. How do I know? How does anyone know? Ten days ago the Eagles never even dreamed they would have Maclin on the roster, and now all of a sudden you think they really know if he is going to start this year?
The truth is, coaches look at a season on a day-to-day basis and they dig in and make the most of that day. They attack that day. I know that is impossible for fans, who have so much passion and so much intensity that they are forced to look ahead and to project and to have how-good-is-he? conversations to pass the time until training camp begins.
I'm into it. All of it. Let's talk Eagles every day, 24 hours a day. I hope you feel what I'm feeling, that the Eagles are legit, that the off-season reminds you of what happened from 2003 to 2004 and that 2004 was, indeed, special.
The mini-camp that ended Sunday was all about football. There was no controversy, unless you count the ripple created when both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook chose not to meet the media, as they have in the past at this time. I actually loved the way it went. The focus was on football, not on the mini-dramas that spiced up the winter months after the loss to Arizona in the NFC Championship Game.
And the football part of it went very, very well. The tempo of practices was high. The play was crisp. There was good, spirited competition. Great chemistry. To see Donovan McNabb throw a touchdown pass and then mock the defense with a goofy dance and to see the entire team laugh and play along was enlightening. Having Asante Samuel toss it right back at McNabb and see how much all the players joined in the fun added to the incredible team atmosphere.
See, the players know what they have on this roster. They know that the infusion of new players -- the veteran free agents, the rookie class -- makes this team deep and talented. The Eagles knew they needed a boost to get over the hump after the tough loss in Arizona, and when you do what the Eagles did in free agency and in the draft, everybody sees the impact.
The Eagles are good. The Eagles have a chance to be very good. They need to take it one step at a time and do the right things and get some luck along the way, but there sure is every reason to think the team should contend from the very first moment of the season. Ask a coach where he thinks the team needs to get better, and he correctly answers that every area must improve.
Yeah, the Eagles have to be better in the red zone. And of course they have to run the ball more efficiently. Oh, and they sure have to get off to a good start rather than having to wait until December to be in a win-or-go-home scenario.
I could go on and on. And I probably will throughout the rest of the off-season. I'm going to be here every day talking about this team, because I just can't wait for September to get here, and I figure that if I stay really, really, really busy, the time will fly by and we'll be watching the regular season unfold in front of our eyes.
I can't wait. But at the same time, I'm going to do everything I can to resist looking ahead. I want to savor every minute of what I think is going to be a fantastic season, one to remember. I'm going to enjoy the ride, and I urge you to do the same. The Eagles have given us quite a series of thrills in the weeks that were since January. What's ahead is going to be worth the wait.