Since the first meeting Doug Pederson had with his players back in 2016, one of his most consistent messages is that everyone needs to "bring the juice." Pederson is talking about energy.
Football is a job, but it isn't like most occupations. An accountant or engineer doesn't need energy and emotion to do their best work. Football is different. You need to be mentally, physically, AND emotionally engaged to be at your best.
The 2017 team had plenty of juice. There was the excitement of finishing up the previous season on a high note with a two-game winning streak. The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith certainly got the offense going. LeGarrette Blount brought size and physicality to the team. Chris Long proved to be a great addition, in the locker room and on the field.
That team was hungry and optimistic. They attacked the offseason, Training Camp, the preseason, and then the regular season.
2018 was a different story. There was the question about who would start the season at quarterback. There were plenty of other guys hurt and on the mend. That team also was coming off a Super Bowl win. They weren't as hungry.
There is a different vibe this year.
Wentz is the quarterback, and he's healthy. Jordan Howard is new to the backfield, and he's excited to be an Eagle. DeSean Jackson is back, and he is the definition of instant juice. Watching him fly around the practice field gets everyone excited.
The defense brought back Vinny Curry and Tim Jernigan. Jim Schwartz has talked about the energy those guys bring to practice and games. Veterans like Zach Brown and Malik Jackson are new to the team. Both have been team leaders throughout their careers and should help the defense, on and off the field.
Darren Sproles is back. He'll bring energy to the offense and special teams.
This team will also be more hungry than last year's bunch. Pederson talked about how the playoff loss to the Saints was so frustrating because the Eagles were playing their best football of the year. He wanted that feeling to keep going.
Instead, the season came to a screeching halt. Rather than wallowing in disappointment, the players and coaches seem fired up and ready to go. They have that attacking attitude back again and are ready to be on the hunt.
The Eagles are getting plenty of love from the media, but the Saints and Rams are probably getting more. That's exactly what Pederson and his players want. They love being underdogs. That lets them chase. It is always more fun being the hunter rather than the hunted.
Pederson has proven to be an outstanding coach since taking over the Eagles. He learned how to coach a Super Bowl team in 2017. He learned how to overcome a tremendous amount of adversity last year. He can put those lessons to use and try to get this team back to the top.
One of the things I think that will help this team is the makeup of the roster. You have veterans like Jason Peters, DeSean Jackson, and Darren Sproles who are all desperate to play in a Super Bowl. That will bring out the best in them.
Wentz missed the big game a couple of years ago and is driven by that. He wants to lead this team to the Super Bowl. He doesn't care about endorsements, acclaim, or statistics. Wentz wants to win. He will have laser-like focus.
There are also plenty of young guys who want to be part of a great team. Avonte Maddox had a strong rookie season, and he will be hungry to do even more. Derek Barnett is coming off an injury, and he'll have a chip on his shoulder, pun intended. Kamu Grugier-Hill was purely a role player in 2017. He is now part of the defense and brings a lot of energy to whatever he does. Dallas Goedert is entering his second season and is coming off a great offseason. You know he's ready to get on the field and run over some more Dallas Cowboys.
I haven't said anything about the rookie class because they are always a mystery. Corey Clement and Barnett made key plays in the Super Bowl. You never know how these young guys are going to respond to the challenge of pro football. Some fit in right away, while others take time to adjust. I do think J.J. Arcega-Whiteside could be a key role player with his red zone ability. Miles Sanders could add a real boost to the run game with his speed, quickness, and agility.
We also can't overlook the coaching staff. Pederson had the challenge of replacing his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season. He did that on a short schedule. That made life difficult on the coaches who were promoted and their replacements.
Pederson has most of his coaches back this year. He made a couple of changes, but they were his choice rather than other teams raiding his staff. Continuity will help the team quite a bit. The coaches are more comfortable with their roles, and that will help them to perform better. Improved teachers should lead to smarter students.
As the 2019 Eagles head into Training Camp, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There is a lot of talent. This is a deep roster. The coaches are back and ready to run the show. Also, the team is in a good place mentally.
This team is fired up, hungry, and ready to go. They will bring the juice every single day. They will attack every day with purpose. The frustration of seeing the Saints advance at the Eagles' expense in the playoffs has everyone in attack mode heading into 2019.