The Eagles have a lot going on for them right now, and you need to catch up on what this team is all about.
Chip Kelly is the man in charge here, and in a short period of time he has demonstrated the need to go fast, the demand that his team play better football and the understanding that this is all a work in progress. The roster, along with the coaching staff, has had many changes and playing at the level at which Kelly and the Eagles aspire takes some time as the players learn about one another and about the coaching staff's ways.
Kelly made the decision midway through Training Camp that Michael Vick would be the starting quarterback after Vick's strong performance through the spring and in the preseason games. Vick's mission: Take Kelly's offensive scheme, which emphasizes spreading the field and taking advantage of favorable matchups, and execute it at the highest level. Kelly mixed the approach in the preseason, having the Eagles huddle at times and having them play go-go-go offense, with no huddle, and exhausting defenses with a tempo that will only gain speed as the players become more comfortable in its nuances.
Vick has at his disposal some weapons that make this offense explosive in its nature. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson had a great summer, dominating every day in practice and in the preseason games, and he is in position to have a dominating season. Jackson's deep speed is a key for an offense that looks to withstand the loss of starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a non-contact practice at the NovaCare Complex.
There are others to aid in addition to Jackson. The running back trio of LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk is outstanding, with the lone concern the issue of fumbling. Once that group cleans up the hiccup, the Eagles have as good a group as any carrying the football.
At tight end, the Eagles signed James Casey in free agency and added Zach Ertz in the draft and those two, along with Brent Celek, provide versatility and enticing matchup possibilities from every point on the field. Count on the tight ends to play large roles in the offense.
Of course, making it all go is an offensive line that could be among the league's best if everything goes right. First-round draft pick Lane Johnson has been all the Eagles thought he would be, and his presence, along with the return to health of left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right guard Todd Herremans, have given the Eagles a solid, and perhaps sensational, group at the line of scrimmage.
In general, in case you are still shaking the sand out from between your toes, the offense is in good shape and the expectations are high.
On defense, the Eagles have some kinks to work out and a scheme to perfect, and there is much unknown about the unit coordinator Bill Davis is working with. The Eagles want to be an aggressive, ball-hawking defense, and the challenge is to gather a lot of new pieces and moving parts and pull it together in a hurry.
The Eagles are playing a hybrid scheme after playing a 4-3 front for decades, so there is a transition to appreciate. Coordination among the new parts – the Eagles have new starters in Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton up front, Connor Barwin at linebacker, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher at cornerback and Patrick Chung at safety. And Trent Cole, one of the best pass-rushing 4-3 ends in franchise history, is more of a stand-up linebacker who only sometimes has his hand on the ground in a three-point stance.
Ah, change … you have to embrace it defensively and look for the Eagles to generate pressure, take the football away and put the offense in good position to score points quickly.
Let's not forget special teams, an area the Eagles have a chance to win each week. The return game was simply dynamic in the preseason with Damaris Johnson handling punts and both Johnson and Brandon Boykin giving the offense good field position returning kickoffs. The coverage teams were terrific, too. Punter Donnie Jones is a hang-time machine who booted the ball brilliantly, averaging 48.3 yards per punt with a net average of 42.3 yards. Great stuff. Placekicker Alex Henery made 4 of his 5 field-goal attempts and kicked off well, booming 11 touchbacks.
That's the quick overview. Game one comes your way on Monday night at the Washington Redskins, who feature the thrilling Robert Griffin, III at quarterback. He's going to start after spending the entire offseason recovering from a knee injury suffered in last year's playoff loss to Seattle.
It's time to go all in, because the Eagles are a team working in a new direction with boundless energy vibrating off the walls at the NovaCare Complex. It's going to be a blast to see it all come together under Kelly, the uber-successful coach from Oregon who has been one of the most talked-about topics in the NFL's last six months.
Changes? Plenty of them. The future? It's bright, with progress measured in a step-by-step fashion. We welcome back those of you who have been on vacation this summer. Join the rest of the crowd who are locked and loaded for a wild ride of a 2013 season.