Three straight wins to end the 2007 season gave the Eagles an opportunity to put a happy face on an otherwise dismal campaign. The wins didn't propel the Eagles into the playoffs, but they provided a glimpse of what could have been, as well as launching the organization into the off-season with a feeling of optimism and momentum.
An active personnel-acquisition period -- free agency and the draft -- continued the good feelings, and the team went through the paces in the spring camps without incurring injury concerns.
With that as the backdrop, the Eagles are packing their belongings and lining the fields at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus. The first practice for selected veterans and rookies is a week from Tuesday. The season continues, this time with a major step that starts a marathon, with the grind of training camp.
And while there are plenty of position questions that will be settled on the field, training camp provides an opportunity for the team to come together, to build some chemistry and to develop an esprit de corps
In other words, form a bond that carries the Eagles through good times and the not-so-good times that make an NFL season so riveting.
The Eagles have their share of veteran leaders, but they have veterans in situations that are going to be, in some ways, testing. L.J. Smith is playing with one year on his contract for a season straight season. Lito Sheppard has been a story throughout the off-season, so clearly there is going to be a focus on him. Donovan McNabb is healthy, happy, focused and primed for big things. Veteran offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are in the final years of their respective contracts.
There are young players who are in positions to make a major impact. Stewart Bradley has shown every ounce of leadership the Eagles have asked, and he will have to take it to another level in camp. Quintin Mikell is no longer a good story; he is a good starting strong safety who has to show he can do it coast to coast in a season. Reggie Brown must take his game up a notch and be a consistent play-maker at wide receiver each and every week. Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong, along with Brodrick Bunkley, are key starters on defense.
There are certain must-haves for the preseason, of course. The Eagles must emerge from training camp and the preseason games in good health. They must have done a thorough job evaluating the roster and keeping the 53 best players. They must have done a complete job pursuing moves to improve the roster.
And they must, must, must have great chemistry and camaraderie heading into September.
Training camp is right around the corner. Everybody is excited, and the agenda for success is crystal clear.
NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- Still no word on contract discussions between the Eagles and unsigned draft picks Trevor Laws and DeSean Jackson, but the team is operating with confidence that both will be signed in time for camp. The rookies report on Monday, July 21 and practice starts on Tuesday, July 22.
- Amazing developments in the Brett Favre saga. It is something no team wants to go through and it has to be a distraction for the Packers. It is incredible that it has come to this, that the Packers issued a statement welcoming Favre back as a backup quarterback. Clearly, the team wants to keep Aaron Rodgers' confidence high. He would be shattered should Favre come back as a starter, right? Talk about developing team chemistry ...
- In case you were wondering -- and because the question has been sitting in the Ask Dave Spadaro section for a couple of weeks on our Discussion Boards here -- Kevin Curtis plays the X, Reggie Brown plays the Z and L.J. Smith is the Y in the Eagles offense.
- In talking about the defensive line, I spend a lot of time focused on the edge rushers. But the Eagles need to have an answer or two going into the season to satisfy their need in the nickel inside. Who is the rush tackle? Juqua Parker is a candidate, Darren Howard is a candidate, Montae Reagor is a candidate. Parker is my leader at this point.
- Donovan McNabb is a close friend of Elton Brand, so it is important to note how pleased McNabb is that Brand is in Philadelphia as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Expect McNabb to take a renewed interest in the Sixers this year.
- A player to watch in training camp: Sav Rocca. He was outstanding last summer in his showdown with Dirk Johnson. How will Rocca react without that kind of intensity every day?