Analysts from all around the country like what the Eagles have done to build the roster these last couple of years, and many out there believe the Eagles will win the NFC East and do some damage in the playoffs in 2012.
It's wonderful to have some positive expectations from the outside. Having the efforts and execution from the last two offseasons recognized in a positive manner is exciting. It creates a bit of a buzz in these final days prior to training camp.
But from an internal standpoint, well, it doesn't mean a thing. In fact, the Eagles are best to ignore the words -- positive or negative -- and begin this season as they conducted the offseason: With humility, hard work and the understanding that this football team hasn't accomplished a single thing.
The mental approach taken by the coaches and players -- the entire organization, in fact -- is an intangible that can't be overlooked. It factored into the 2011 season, I believe, as the Eagles accumulated star names and were them hyped as the, um, you know what they were called (never again to be repeated here).
Maybe the Eagles felt as though they accomplished something by stocking the roster and filling the locker room with all-star names. I know I thought going into the season that the Eagles were primed for greatness, that they had players who were just so talented, so good and so able to mesh quickly.
The NFL doesn't work that way. The 2011 season was a lesson learned.
So we turn the page with confidence, but also with a dose of realism. It isn't easy to win in the National Football League, as Andy Reid has always said. And it won't be easy this year, not with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in the division, along with the very talented Cowboys and the up-and-coming Redskins. The home schedule is extremely difficult and the road slate certainly isn't a picnic.
Now, don't get me wrong. This team approaches the season with confidence and a sense of purpose. There is business left on the table from last season. But it all starts new on July 22 when rookies and selected veterans report to Lehigh University. It isn't going to be an easy training camp. The Eagles must become a tough, physical, nasty team. They must develop a winning mentality and instinct. They need to come out of the gates on September 9 a desperate football team.
The Eagles have a chance to become an outstanding football team this season. I like this roster and this coaching staff and all of the intangibles very much. I'm as excited about what's ahead as any season in the past. However, there is a ton of work to do between now and September. The Eagles need to put their hard hats on and get to work, and not look up and let the glow of positive previews blind them from the task ahead.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Not that there is even a sniff of interest here, but the release of wide receiver Mike Williams in Seattle raises eyebrows. He's a big receiver who had a huge comeback season in 2010. What happened between then and now to put him on the streets, looking for a job? I think the Eagles are as set as they are going to be at wide receiver. They aren't in line to make a major move. I'm just saying that if there is an interest in adding a big-bodied wide receiver, there are some options out there.
- Remarkable contract for quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans, and another example of how the market continues to go up for the league's premium position. What does it mean for Michael Vick? I'm not sure, but the way his contract details have been reported, Vick stands to earn a guaranteed $20 million next season. A big year is ahead for No. 7.
- Look early in training camp to see how the Eagles integrate O.J. Atogwe into the mix at safety. As far as I know, he won't report to training camp until the veterans get in, but he would be a perfect candidate to report early, get some reps in the basics of the defense for three days and then be just a bit more up to speed when the vets come in. That isn't the way the rules work, though.
- What are the best days for fans to visit Lehigh to see live practices? I'm sure Reid will have the pads on and the heat turned up two weekends from now ...
- Nobody talks much about the backup situation along the offensive line, but it's critical that the Eagles find quality depth from tackle to tackle. King Dunlap is the likely third tackle now, with D.J. Jones and Thomas Welch in the mix. At guard, the Eagles need second-year man Julian Vandervelde to step up and have draft pick Brandon Washington develop quickly. I like having veterans like Mike Gibson and Steve Vallos in camp, pushing for roster spots.