LeSean McCoy wants to lose a few pounds. Moise Fokou probably could add some weight. Brent Celek wants it all -- more strength, more speed, better technique. With new strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin running the program, the Eagles officially open their off-season conditioning workouts this week with high expectations and hope.
"They say a player improves the most after his first year, so that's what I'm looking forward to," said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. "I want to get better in every phase, everything. That's my goal."
How the players -- young and older -- handle these months is often critical to what transpires in the season to come. Quintin Demps, for example, spoke during the 2009 campaign of how he did not approach his off-season in the right manner, how he looked forward to a do-over for 2010. Demps, you remember, was considered the front runner to replace Brian Dawkins at free safety last year, and Demps lasted only through the summer in that role.
In retrospect, Demps had a very, very difficult season. A talented player, he couldn't hold on to the starting gig at a position that became a revolving door for the Eagles all year. What could have been for Demps ended up not happening at all.
So Demps is back, approaching the off-season in a different, more diligent, more urgent manner. Maybe it helps him turn the corner. Maybe it gives Demps, in his third Eagles season, the right kind of push moving into the post-draft camps and then training camp.
During the next three months, Rubin will have the players -- and all of them show up for workouts throughout the off-season -- going through weight training, working on their endurance, going through the basic techniques when players go off on their own ("I catch footballs every day off of the machine," said wide receiver Jason Avant.)
It is a really, really important time, even if nobody sees what goes on behind the scenes at the NovaCare Complex. The young players, particularly the second-year ones, have a great opportunity to get their bodies and their minds right in time for the season. Instead of preparing for the Combine and then the NFL draft, the players are here working out and eating right and taking their bodies seriously for, in some cases, the first time in their lives.
We'll see come August and then in the months after that how successful the off-season program truly is. Rubin has his program ready to go. The players are lined up. While the front office looks for ways to improve the team from the outside, the players will take it upon themselves to improve from within.
* NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT*
- Now that LaDainian Tomlinson is a Jet, what does the crop of veteran free agents look like at running back? Justin Fargas remains an option, as does restricted free agent Mike Bell. Willie Parker is still an unrestricted free agent. Jamal Lewis is still out there. Maybe, in the end, the Eagles grab their second running back from the draft. Who knows? Minnesota still needs a backup running back. What other teams are in the market? San Diego, yes. Who else?
- I like that the Eagles have signed some young talent in this off-season, but what can really expect from the likes of wide receiver Chad Hall, fullback Dwayne Wright, running back Martell Mallett and punter Durant Brooks? Look, the team values its 80-man roster so none of these players are throwaways. "We don't like the term 'camp body,' " says general manager Howie Roseman. "We want everybody on our 80-man roster to have a legitimate chance to make the 53-man team." I think Hall is going to open some eyes in the post-draft camp. Guaranteed you will hear about how quick he is. Brooks is going to challenge Sav Rocca. Wright has some NFL experience, but I'll wait on both Wright and Mallett until the pads go on.
- Maybe the trade market will heat up a bit. Cleveland made a couple of deals on Sunday, including dealing quarterback Brady Quinn to the Broncos. Cleveland now has Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace at quarterback. And you're telling me teams around the league feel good about their quarterback situations?
- One player I think will have a great chance at benefiting from the conditioning program is Macho Harris. I'm not giving up on him, not by a long shot. Kid is smart, instinctive, wants to learn every day. Harris works hard and is a quick study. There is a place for him in this defense.