Time to look ahead to Training Camp, with the rookies and quarterbacks reporting to the NovaCare Complex on July 23, a moment here to look back at a very special 1991 Eagles defense. The buzz is building for the 2017 season, and here are some thoughts on the Eagles as we inch toward camp.
- Let's begin with second-round draft pick Sidney Jones, who continues his rehabilitation from the Achilles tendon injury suffered in March. He's working hard and he's making progress, and other than that there isn't anything to say about Jones. When he's ready, the Eagles will get him on the practice field. Until then, you aren't going to hear much, if anything, from Jones. This is the grinding part for a player who is injured. It's very tough on the player, it's lonely, and it requires patience.
- The key dates: Rookies and selected veterans report to the NovaCare Complex on Sunday, July 23 and practice for the first time on July 24. The rest of the team reports on July 27 and takes the field for the first time on July 28. The first of two open-to-the-public practices at Lincoln Financial Field takes place on Saturday, July 29 at 10 a.m. Practice is free and a great, great time. See you there.
- As the Eagles build this defense to their liking, it's worth a visit back to the 1991 defense, coached by Bud Carson and recently named the best defense of the last 30 seasons by ESPN's Football Outsiders. That was a dominating defense in a tumultuous period of Eagles football. Buddy Ryan had been fired as the head coach following the 1990 season, following a third straight first-round playoff ouster. Carson took over the defense, which was largely set. Quarterback Randall Cunningham went down with a knee injury in the opener at Green Bay (thanks, Bryce Paup). So Jim McMahon, Brad Goebel, Jeff Kemp, and Pat Ryan took charge of an absolutely inept offense. The defense led the Eagles to 10 wins.
"I'm surprised it took so long to recognize that defense," linebacker Seth Joyner said. "No other defense had to do more than that defense. No defense dominated more. It wasn't just statistics. We controlled the game with no offensive help whatsoever. The 1985 Chicago Bears, no doubt a great group. They won the Super Bowl. And there have been other great defenses. But we carried the team on our shoulders.
is [hosting the wide receivers in North Dakota](https://twitter.com/TheWorldof_AJ/status/884160492633280512), a good time for bonding and catching a few passes. Donovan McNabb used to do something similar, with more of an emphasis on the bonding than the pass catching. Wentz is more about business, so there will be some real work done in Fargo this week.
Center Jason Kelce told the WIP Morning Show that he thinks the Eagles have the "two best tackles in the NFL" in Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, and that may very well be true. But one reason the NFC East is going to be so competitive is that Dallas has a terrific offensive line, anchored by left tackle Tyron Smith, and Washington's left tackle, Trent Williams, is a star as well. Don't look now, but the NFC East has three of the best offensive lines in the game.
Head coach Doug Pederson says that "iron sharpens iron" quite a bit as he refers to competition on the roster. So what positions will have the best competition in Training Camp? Offensive line will be tough as the Eagles have so many experienced players vying for jobs and a left guard position that is wide open. Wide receiver will be very enjoyable to watch with some young players pushing veterans for roster spots, and then there is the cornerback group, which is as open as can be right now. Jalen Mills looks like a starter on one side, subject to change of course. Who is the other "penciled-in" starter? Patrick Robinson, trying to gain some stability in his career? Rookie Rasul Douglas? Ron Brooks, the veteran coming back from his quadriceps injury?
Things seem generally stable on special teams, but let's see who steps up as a stopper in coverage with the underrated Bryan Braman gone (and still unsigned, strangely). Braman was the one who busted up coverage, who helped attract double teams (along with Chris Maragos), and who caused a lot of havoc. Trey Burton is brilliant in coverage, but he's not as physical. Najee Goode is a core member here. Maybe Kamu Grugier-Hill or Joe Walker emerges. Don Cherry will have a chance to impress. It's a nit-picky thing, but the Eagles were No. 1 on special teams last season for a reason, so the line of succession is important here.