If form holds, the offense will pick up where it left off in the spring and begin training camp with the kind of momentum Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg want to see. Early in camp, the offense should be ahead of the defense, something customary when an offense returns relatively intact (I know, I know, the small change at quarterback is something to consider) and the defense is working to get some new pieces on the same page.
I've been asked a lot about this season. What are the goals? What are the expectations? What is reality? Let's try to answer all three questions ...
**WHAT ARE THE GOALS?
Same as always. You try to win the Super Bowl. You spend all of this time working on building a roster, creating a depth chart and coaching so many young players and the goal is to win the Super Bowl. That never changes for any team in the NFL.
Why would an 11-5 team from last year, especially, think otherwise? The Eagles made a bunch of changes heading in the 2009 season and then endured a lot of key injuries and still won 11 games. The end of the season was disappointing and the back-to-back losses to Dallas were significant enough to dictate a dramatic series of moves for the Eagles in the months that followed.
All of those changes were made to improve the Eagles for this season and for the years to come. Kevin Kolb steps in at quarterback and is expected to move the offense and score a lot of points. As the Eagles prepare for training camp, the offense is lined up to be potent. No question about that. Is there an Eagles team that you can ever remember that had this much young, promising talent? DeSean Jackson is already one of the best in the game at wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin figures to take huge strides this year after a good rookie season. Jason Avant is as good a slot receiver as there is in the league.
At tight end, Brent Celek is a beast. He followed up his breakout 2009 by reporting to work every day at the NovaCare Complex. He's ready to go. Second-year man LeSean McCoy is coming off a rookie season in which he set a franchise record for rushing yards and is poised for a much, much more substantial contribution in 2010.
And Kolb is not an ordinary new quarterback. He played enough last season to provide the coaching staff with confidence. He has the support of his teammates and the entire organization. The scheme is sound and the structure of the offense is in place. The offensive line has a couple of question marks, but also plenty of promise.
The offense, at this point, leads the charge. The goal is to win a Super Bowl. That doesn't change.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS?
There are some areas on the team that need some growth, of course. The Eagles are among the youngest teams in the league, and they are especially young at some key areas on both sides of the football. The expectation for training camp, from this perspective, is that the offense comes out humming and the defense comes out flying around and that as each day goes by we will see improvements.
Look, the defense has to get the new faces in the right places. We all know that. This isn't a finished product, not when there are expected to be new starters at WILL linebacker (Ernie Sims right now), free safety (Nate Allen is the front runner) and right cornerback (Ellis Hobbs is first on the depth chart). Plus, Stewart Bradley returns from a major injury, SAM linebacker Moise Fokou is in his first full year as a starter and there are some new players to integrate into the front four rotation.
The talent level is high here. The speed on defense was evident in the spring. Sean McDermott is going to have a challenge making all the new players come together so quickly, but he recognizes the ability and the promise of the group.
Hey, the offense has every right to expect to play at a high level immediately. Kolb knows the offense. He has the skills to make it work, and he certainly has the pieces around him to get the offense moving.
Expectations? Very, very high, with the understanding that there is a lot of work to be done.
**WHAT IS REALITY?
Well, we don't truly know. I've had some Discussion Board conversations about this very topic. What is reality? Reality in the NFL is that there are 16 games to prove yourself. Reality is that not a whole lot separates the best teams from the non-playoff teams. Reality is that the NFC East looks very strong once again, and that the Eagles have a challenging schedule.
Reality is that the Eagles have a lot riding on young players -- and players new to the Eagles, like Sims -- have to gel quickly to make it all work. The reality is that the Eagles went 11-5 last year and return a strong team. They have continuity on offense. They get Bradley back on defense, along with Omar Gaither and Hobbs, etc.
But who really knows about reality until the games are played? The reality is that it is difficult to predict anything in the NFL. The games tell the story, and not until September 12 will we truly have a sense of what reality is for the Eagles of 2010.
**NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Good to see that Riley Cooper's deal is done. Not that it was a huge concern, but you never know in this crazy league. The entire league is starting the countdown to sign the first- and second-round draft picks. Both Brandon Graham and Nate Allen need to be at Lehigh on time.
- Big loss for the Redskins when offensive lineman Mike Williams reported that he had blood clots and would miss the entire season. Washington is searching for offensive line depth. That is a very, very shaky offensive line.
- Looking forward to the first couple of days of training camp when the rookies and selected veterans have their time with the coaches. I'm not sure which veterans will be on hand, but they are usually players coming off of injury or players who are just very young veterans. Somebody like McCoy? Or new Eagles Darryl Tapp and Mike Bell? Bradley? Not sure.
- The Eagles will release a depth chart for the first time in mid-August, a couple of days before the preseason opener against Jacksonville. Until then, we will tell you -- and show you with our non-stop video coverage -- what goes on in the training camp practices.