Welcome to our new feature, Other View, a perspective from members of the media, celebrity Eagles fans and Eagles alumni on the state of the 2014 Eagles that runs each Monday here during the season. Today: Merrill Reese, the voice of the Eagles since 1977.
We are less than a week away from the opening game of the 2014 season and the feeling I have is that this Eagles team is very good, and by very good I mean it can contend, and if everything goes right the Eagles can go the distance this season. There are maybe five teams in each conference that you can make that same statement about, and the Eagles belong in the conversation in the NFC.
Why? I think there is some depth at very important areas, starting with the quarterback position. I'm a big fan of Nick Foles and I think he is an emerging star in this league. But having veteran Mark Sanchez on the roster and ready should Nick leave a game or miss an entire game is an important piece in the big picture. Sanchez has been in big games, he's won big games and he clearly fits the offense here.
At running back, having Darren Sproles as an extra gear behind LeSean McCoy adds another dimension to the offense. When the Eagles traded for Sproles, I was not immediately excited because I've learned over years not to get excited about names, and particularly players who rely on speed and who are 30 years or older. I look at somebody like Chris Johnson from the New York Jets who is a big-name running back, but who doesn't seem to have that burst any longer. Sproles, though, still has it. He has a fresh body, lightning quickness and now I feel he's really going to add to this offense.
There is depth along the offensive line, and they need it with Lane Johnson missing the opening four games. When he's in there, the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League. Without him, there are some players who stepped up in the preseason – Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin are the first two names that jump out at me – and showed they can be relied upon when they are on the field.
The defensive line had strong competition and has a lot of good, young players, and the linebackers are strong across the board. People don't understand just important DeMeco Ryans is for this defense. He sets everyone up to be in the right position. Mychal Kendricks is a star in the making. I like the secondary and the depth there with Brandon Boykin and Nolan Carroll II as versatile reserves and the addition of Malcolm Jenkins is going to pay dividends.
The coaching staff is outstanding here. Chip Kelly has put together a fine staff that teaches very well and gets the most out of young, ascending players.
I'm always excited about an Eagles season, just like everyone. I just have a feeling that something special is brewing here. The Eagles have turned things around quickly and are heading in the right direction, with more to come.
That said, Jacksonville is not going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. The first month of the NFL season is a feeling-out process, so anything can happen. There are more upsets in the first weekend of the season than at any time of the year. The Eagles need to be on edge and play with fire and emotion and discipline to beat Jacksonville.
Will the Eagles start the season slowly? I don't think anything that has Chip Kelly's name attached to it will ever be described as "slow." The Eagles are going to come out of the gates fast and furious playing in front of a city hungry for Eagles football.