They have changed the roster. They have made the Eagles younger, hopefully more talented and still have kept the philosophy of building and developing a core that remains intact for many years. With that new generation of new Eagles players, then, comes the accompanying decision: What player's jersey do I buy?
It isn't an easy decision, not with so many good, young players from whom to choose. There was a shifting in the sands in recent Eagles years. Once upon a time, of course, Donovan McNabb's jersey was the far-and-away leader, but there were always others with high numbers: Troy Vincent, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas and, for sure, Brian Westbrook.
But the roster has been turned over, in case you hadn't noticed. And the Eagles now have a wonderful array of players who deserve your consideration.
I mean, really, if you catch anybody wearing a Mike Mamula jersey at Lincoln Financial Field this season, would ya gong him for me? Mamula is so yesterday, if, well, he ever truly had a day. But I digress ...
The Eagles are annually one of the top merchandise teams in the league and this season will be no exception. The question is: When the year is out and the numbers are tallied, who will be the leader in jersey sales?
Well, funny things happen on the way to the end of the season. Tight end Brent Celek, for example, wasn't among the pre-made jerseys at the start of 2009, but fans ordered Celek custom-made jerseys in high volume as he proved himself on the field. By late in the year, Celek's jersey was readily available. When the Eagles signed quarterback Michael Vick, his jersey flew off the shelves. Once fans settled in and saw that Vick was going to be the No. 3 quarterback, the interest cooled.
Westbrook was the leader through the pre-season and early in the year in jersey sales, only to see his season ruined by injuries. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, zoomed to the top of the heap, and as we handicap the jersey sales with training camp around the corner, Jackson is the favorite to finish on top.
Why not? He is as dynamic a player as there is in the league, having scored eight touchdowns last year that covered 50 yards or more. Jackson was voted to the Pro Bowl as both a wide receiver and a punt return man, and he then had a dominating game in the Pro Bowl. Jackson should be one of the league's best sellers this year.
Celek remains a strong candidate, too. He has such a strong connection with the fans, who admire his hard work and his enthusiasm for the game. A fifth-round draft pick, Celek is now a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Plus, he is a smart marketer, having established an excellent relationship with the public through his social networking skills (follow him on Twitter!) and his every-man personality.
New quarterback Kevin Kolb is going to sell well, too. And some strong early games will multiply Kolb's popularity as Eagles fans purchase a new quarterback's jersey for the first time in this century (strange saying that). I have been around since the Bobby Hoying days -- long before, in fact -- and I still have a tee-shirt with Hoying's image emerging from Veterans Stadium. That tee, my friends, is a collector's item. The Hoying shelf life was brief, indeed. Kolb, on the other hand, has shown the Eagles enough to make everyone thing he is going to be around for a long, long time. And with every touchdown pass, Kolb's popularity will increase.
Want a dark horse to leapfrog toward the top of the jersey-seller's list? How about wide receiver Jeremy Maclin? Last year's first-round draft pick is poised to take another giant step this season, and his game is built on speed and big plays. Maclin is a likeable young man and his jersey number, 18, is unique and certainly an attraction for fans.
There are more jerseys to consider on a team that, when you really think about it, has as much young star power as any Eagles team we have seen. Second-year running back LeSean McCoy is wearing No. 25 after dating No. 29 for a season, and Eagles fans always love tough, hard-charging running backs. McCoy is a local kid with a huge following and his million-dollar smile, combined with 1,200 rushing yards, is going to have a lot of fans looking for his jersey.
And it would be unfair to have a list and not include Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver -- if I see another Jon Ritchie jersey on the streets, I'm going to throw up: Get current, people! -- or receiver Jason Avant, who is tough as nails and who makes all kinds of spectacular catches.
On defense -- interesting how the first several names come from the offensive side of the football, isn't it? -- there are some great candidates, too. Cornerback Asante Samuel is a Pro Bowl player and a big-play maker and his jersey has been a decent seller over the years. Safety Quintin Mikell played in the Pro Bowl last year and deserves some love. And, of course, defensive end Trent Cole turns the fans on with his high-energy style of play and his tenacity.
One jersey that figures to make a comeback this year is that of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who missed last season with a knee injury. Doesn't Philadelphia identify with middle linebackers? And isn't Bradley one of the best young middle linebackers in the league?
Oh, the choices. I haven't even mentioned David Akers, a Pro Bowl placekicker who is a strong seller. For placekickers, that is. You see his No. 2 from time to time. There are those who appreciate the art and the precision and the focus needed to excel as a kicker.
The rookie class should have some clout, too, as safety Nate Allen and defensive linemen Brandon Graham and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim could see early playing time. Wide receiver Riley Cooper has a huge following already in place from his days at the University of Florida and there is already an underground movement purchasing his jersey.
But the big-time sellers are the players who make the most headlines, who score the most touchdowns and rack up the most sacks. The ability to go in and order a custom-made jersey online or at the Pro Shop at Lincoln Financial Field or at the Rockvale Outlet in Lancaster gives Eagles fans a chance to order a jersey instantly, from anywhere. In a recent story in Sports Business Journal, Jackson's jersey was the 20th-highest seller in the league, while Kolb's ranked 24th overall from April 1 through June 30.
The preseason buzz is there, then. Now, performance takes over and sways emotion and dictates impulse. Who vaults to the top of the jersey sales as the Eagles usher in a new crop of young players and so much talent?