Training camp is the bottom rung on the ladder of a season, and it is a long, demanding climb. When the time arrives, you dig in fully committed. Right now, though, there is still work to be done to prepare for what is going to be something completely different.
Practices, remember, are restricted to one in pads each day. Head coach Andy Reid flip-flopped his schedule from a year ago, moving the in-pads practice to the afternoon. In the morning, the Eagles will have their walk-through practice, a 90-minute teaching session that is designed to provide mental reps in every phase of the game.
Reid's thinking for moving the full practice to the extreme heat of the afternoon goes like this: The players will be fully hydrated. They will have two meals in their bodies. They will be fully integrated into the program and will have, in theory, their highest level of mental and physical awareness for those afternoons.
I think Reid is planning to hold a very physical, very demanding training camp. He knows how critical it is to set a tone with this team. The Eagles need to be sharp, need to be aggressive, and need to be desperate when the regular season opens in Cleveland.
The Eagles can ill afford to start the season in a hole. They need to start fast and finish strong, so it will be interesting to see how Reid approaches training camp. How much tackling does he allow? It's a tricky question, because as much as Juan Castillo want to improve fundamentals and, thus, tackle better, the risk is that players will suffer injuries during the heat, humidity and tackling sessions at Lehigh University.
But this can't be an easy-street camp. The Eagles have accomplished nothing, so establilshing that mentality in the locker room is essentially important. Four wins to end 2011? Means nothing now.
The Eagles have to start at the bottom, like everyone else.
Anyway, all of that is two weeks away. The players and coaches remain on vacation, squeezing the last vestiges of a normal life before the 25/8 season begins. I'm here. You're here. And two weeks is coming fast, just in time to provide some fun this summer ...
- Nothing official yet, but there are reports saying the Eagles plan to add wide receiver Tiger Jones to the roster for training camp. To do so, they need to release a player to remain at the 90-man roster limit. Jones is a great story. He's 30 years old and has been tearing it up in the Arena League for the Philadelphia Soul. I've never seen Jones play, and he is certainly a longshot to make it in the NFL, but why not take a shot? Jones was in an NFL camp with Washington in 2004, but he's been an AFL player for his career. Can he make the transition to the NFL? The Eagles aren't exactly suffering at wide receiver ...
- We're live with Training Camp Live! starting on Sunday, July 22 as Reid opens camp with a press conference. We will air at 2 p.m. each day there is an afternoon practice. Tune in and catch everything that is happening, live and in your face, on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, via our official Eagles app and anywhere your smart phone can get a connection.
- Perhaps the most underrated starter on defense is weakside linebacker Brian Rolle, who has Jamar Chaney breathing down his neck for the spot. Where does Casey Matthews fit in? He's likely to get a look as a backup at all three linebacker spots, and he's going to have to stand out on special teams. Who isn't watching the linebacker group in training camp? Adding DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks make a big difference, but having some of these young linebackers develop is every bit as key to the success of the 'backers.
- I want to see Todd Bowles in action in training camp as we works on Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. How physical does he need them to be, particularly against the run? Wasn't that the big knock against the cornerbacks a year ago?
- Speaking of cornerbacks, Brandon Boykin is going to be called "small" and "undersized" at times this preseason. Wait until you see the kid play. He isn't especially tall, but he is very strong, built great and appears to relish the chance to show how physical he can be.
- Aren't you just aching for some football?