It began four Mondays ago when Andy Reid met the media and outlined his plans for the training camp to follow. He spoke about the sense of the "unknown" with this football team and how the Eagles needed to "come together" and mature into a team. He was, of course, asked a thousand questions about Michael Vick and the unsigned status of draft picks Brandon Graham and Nate Allen and ... don't you think you know a lot more about the Eagles now than you did then?
We've seen the Eagles in one preseason game. We have seen them work through the longest training camp of the Reid era. We have seen a class of rookies make a huge impact from day one through the end of the two-a-day practices. And we have seen a team "come together" through the misery of an NFL training camp, one that is more physical than just about any in the league these days.
The Eagles have their final two-a-day practices on Tuesday and then have a closed-to-the-public practice on Wednesday morning before breaking camp, returning to the NovaCare Complex for a walkthrough practice on Thursday and then flying to Cincinnati for Friday's preseason game, part deux.
It has been, by all accounts, an excellent training camp. Here are some of the things we know now that we didn't know way back when, before Bethlehem, PA became Eagles North ...
THIS ROOKIE CLASS IS LEGIT
We knew how much the Eagles loved Brandon Graham and how Nate Allen was going to be given a chance to start at free safety. Those two have impressed daily at training camp and both factor into the defense immensely. What we hoped was that Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would show enough to work into the rotation along the defensive line, and he has been working with the first-team nickel to date.
Riley Cooper was a spring phenom, but we've seen those players before and, generally, they fade into the woodwork as the grind of camp wears them down. That hasn't been the case with Cooper. He has been terrific every day, and there is no doubt he is well on his way to helping the team this year.
The rest of the draft class has a chance to make its mark, too. Safety Kurt Coleman had a big game on Friday night, quarterback Mike Kafka looks so promising, defensive tackle Jeff Owens is a bull inside and linebackers Keenan Clayton and Jamar Chaney are pushing to make this team. Tight end Clay Harbor hasn't been quite as spectacular of late, but he is still pushing for the No. 2 spot. Cornerback Trevard Lindley is coming on strong.
Charles Scott has been moved from halfback to fullback and Ricky Sapp hasn't found his niche as a defensive end quite yet, and those two players are absolutely working to impress.
Additionally, undrafted offensive tackle Austin Howard is opening eyes and seems a sure thing to make this team.
So what does that mean at this point? Ten, eleven rookies on the roster? More? That seems an absurd number, but the rookie class has been that good. It has a chance to be really, really special.
WORRIED ABOUT KEVIN KOLB? NOT NOW
Remember when all eyes were on quarterback Kevin Kolb and we all wanted to see every move he made? That really isn't the case any longer, and that a complete compliment to Kolb and the way he has handled the ascension to the starting job. Kolb has been incredible accessible to the media and his on-field play has been more than solid. It has been outstanding, to be honest.
Don't you feel a bit different about Kolb than you did four weeks ago? Kolb is a smooth operator and he knows the offense. He has an unmistakable air of confidence about him.
The young man can play. We haven't seen him do it for a full season, or in the heat of a playoff game. But we have seen enough of Kolb to know that the offense is in very, very good hands.
**BRADLEY IS BACK IN THE MIDDLE OF DEFENSE
When Stewart Bradley missed the final portion of the spring practices because of a calf injury, some wondered if his knee injury really was healed and if he was, indeed, ready to resume his starting role as the middle linebacker of the defense. He is ready. More than ready. Bradley has been outstanding in training camp. He is moving well from sideline to sideline and his pass coverage has been outstanding.
The defense has looked good. Really fast. Good communication. Tackling well. Playing with a great deal of energy. Very tenacious. The leader of the defense is Bradley, who is a three-down linebacker and a very good one at that.
He will play more and more throughout the preseason and we will keep our fingers crossed. Bradley is that important to this defense.
**SECONDARY COVERS PRETTY DARN WELL
I see it in practice every day. Ellis Hobbs is one of the most competitive players around. He is a battler. Asante Samuel has taken to heart the criticism he received last year and has been outstanding in this camp in every phase of his game. Allen is mature way beyond his years and seems to have taken well to the starting free safety job. And Quintin Mikell is just a good, solid strong safety who keeps everyone in place.
That said, the Eagles had their troubles on Friday night when the reserves went in. It is not fair to single out one player, because we don't know the coverages or the breakdowns. But the Eagles need to get better there, no doubt. They are pleased with the progress made by all of their defensive backs, particularly Dimitri Patterson and Lindley, and coaches Dick Jauron and Mike Zordich will keep working with this group.
In practice, I'll tell you, the secondary does a nice job against a great group of receivers. I'll take that to the bank with this secondary.
**THE DEFENSIVE LINE HAS SOME GREAT PROMISE
The likes of Graham and Darryl Tapp and Te'o-Nesheim and the bounce back of Trevor Laws and the inside power of Jeff Owens and the continued improvement of Antonio Dixon have made the defensive line a true bright spot in the training camp. We need to see more of the line in the preseason, and we will.
There is depth here and some youth and some real quickness and energy. The line may be small on the edges, but there is some bulk inside. The Eagles have some firepower at the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball.
**THERE IS MORE WORK AHEAD
With all of that, there is plenty of work ahead. The offensive line must come together and with Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans -- he upped his workload on Monday -- on the mend that unit is promising. Plus, players like Mike McGlynn, Howard, Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles bring depth to the line.
How will the wide receiver position shake out? It is probably the deepest and most talented group of the Reid era. Kelley Washington and Hank Baskett are two veterans playing excellent football battling for jobs.
The depth at running back is a question mark with LeSean McCoy nursing a quadriceps injury -- he said after practice on Monday that the injury "hurts" but it seems only a matter of time before his contusion is OK -- and Mike Bell has battled hamstring and calf injuries in camp.
All in all, though, the three-plus weeks at Lehigh have served the Eagles very well. The practices are winding down. The big crowds will soon be a memory. And the preseason will go on, with many more questions that need to be answered before September 12 rolls around.