Next stop, football. And football only for the Eagles as they open the 2019 Training Camp. As drama unfolds around the NFL, the Eagles open camp – players report on Wednesday for their conditioning tests, physicals, and opening position and policy meetings, with the first on-field practice on Thursday – with only the intention of improving from one day to the next, of making sure the 53-man roster is as strong as it can be, and that they begin to hit their stride as September 8 and the regular-season opener against Washington approaches.
This is a much-anticipated Training Camp, perhaps more than any other camp since the Eagles steamrolled into the 2004 season after an offseason that saw the team acquire wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Jevon Kearse, and linebacker Dhani Jones. Those players added that extra something special after three straight losses in NFC Championship Games. The 2004 Eagles, of course, reached Super Bowl XXXIX.
This team? We'll see on that. You know how this plays out, right? The season takes so many twists and turns and the teams that are best prepared for those moments are the ones that win big. The Eagles, on paper, have a roster that is going to offer challenges at every spin of the wheel. What Howie Roseman and his staff did in this offseason, with the volume of quality players added and retained and at the same time maintaining some flexibility within the salary cap, was remarkable.
Now it's time to see the team on the field, not on paper.
There isn't a whole lot more to say. It's been a long, rewarding offseason. The Eagles were extremely active through free agency. They made a plan and they attacked it and they saw it through. As a result, the roster looks stacked with a beautiful blend of experienced NFL players, Eagles veterans, some younger players who have played in the league and a new wave of talented draft picks and non-drafted rookies who are going to push the pile in Training Camp.
Best roster battles? Cornerback has a lot of interest with incumbent starters Ronald Darby (knee) and Jalen Mills (foot) coming off of injury, with second-year man Avonte Maddox and third-year players Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones understanding that they've got an opportunity in front of them, and with Cre'Von LeBlanc a player who saved the nickel spot last year after injuries ravaged the room.
Running back is loaded with talent, even more now that Darren Sproles is back in the fold and prepared to challenge Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders and Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams and Boston Scott for roster spots and playing time. That's seven players for three, perhaps four, roster spots.
Defensive tackle is as deep as it has ever been with Malik Jackson signed as an unrestricted free agent and with Tim Jernigan returning late in free agency. Add in Fletcher Cox and you've got as dynamic a three-man depth chart as the Eagles have ever had, and then you factor in young players like Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector and Hassan Ridgeway and, wow, this is going to be fun to watch.
It's truly like that throughout most of the roster. The idea is that it's going to be very difficult for the Eagles to narrow down the roster from 90 to 53. That's the goal of the summer – that and staying as healthy as the team heads into the regular season.
So, hey, it's here. I know you're pumped. We all are at the NovaCare Complex. But understand this, and make sure you follow: Take nothing for granted. Every team in the NFL has high hopes at this time of the year. The only way the Eagles are going to accomplish their goals is to work hard, buy into what head coach Doug Pederson is saying, have some luck on the Midnight Green side, and work together in a selfless, team-first manner.
This is the first rung of a season-long ladder. It's all football for the Philadelphia Eagles, and that's the best news of all with Training Camp here, finally, for 2019.