I don't know how much impact all of the preseason hype had on the Eagles last year. They reported to training camp and, wham, there was the media ready to pounce on the unfortunate comment -- not to be repeated here -- made by quarterback Vince Young when he signed here.
In addition to trying to blend together as a team in a short period of time, the Eagles had to answer questions about the star power added in free agency and the impact all of those players would have.
An uglier-than-it-looked win in St. Louis masked the problems, but four straight losses followed and magnified the hype, increased the pressure and ultimately contributed to a 4-8 record before the Eagles righted the ship and won four consecutive games to finish the season.
Now? Now it's all about football, and it is exceedingly refreshing. That the Eagles retained so much of their core helps the team chemistry. An 8-8 campaign changed the dynamic of the media coverage. The offseason was spent strengthening the team, adding to the talent acquired these last couple of years.
This is a team that knows it has to perform this season, or there could be significant changes made. The internal expectations are as high as they have ever been, and the team mentality is that of quiet resolve and determination.
I have a couple of observations about the makeup of this team, one that is in the very early stages of bonding ...
- Leadership is not an issue at all with this team. Michael Vick obviously has command of the locker room and the huddle and the entire organization. He has been a role model for his work ethic and his approach to the game since he became an Eagle. That hasn't changed a bit.
What makes this year different is the presence of DeMeco Ryans. The defense needed someone like him to rally the troops and provide broad shoulders and experience on and off the field. Ryans has been at the NovaCare Complex every day. He has a place in Center City and is blending in with the team and the City of Philadelphia. On the field, he plays hard on every snap, hustles throughout practice and has picked up Juan Castillo's defense quickly. It is, so far, a perfect marriage.
Consequently, a team with a nice blend of youth and experience has a variety of leadership. It's been smooth sailing early in the process of winning a Super Bowl in 2012.
- There is an abundance of talent on this roster. The Eagles drafted well these last two years. There are questions about how much this Rookie Class will contribute, as there are with every team. Time will tell on how the depth chart works out and who emerges and who is squeezed out. But there are a lot of athletes here, a lot of very talented players and mature, smart kids looking to blossom.
When all is said and done, I expect this to be one of the most talented, if not the most talented, rosters of the Andy Reid Era. I'm that impressed. It's too early to jump to too many conclusions, but talent is talent and it's generally pretty obvious even when the players aren't wearing pads. The Eagles are loaded, as I see it.
- The players on this team genuinely like each other. There aren't any ego conflicts. There aren't any cliques. There are a lot of different personalities and a lot of fun guys, but there aren't any jerks. There aren't any bullies. Nobody is making fun of anybody behind the scenes.
Most of Reid's teams have had good chemistry, so this isn't a revelation. He doesn't want clubhouse lawyers on his team. Reid prides himself on having character players and players who love the game of football. He has himself a good locker room for 2012 with the requisite leadership, talent and humility.
The team's Organized Team Activities begin again on Wednesday and football will be center stage on the field. It's going to be all about football, sideline to sideline, and that is a welcomed plus for the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles.