Andy Reid says he is looking forward to the challenge of coaching a team with such an interesting blend of youth and experience. I say the entire coaching staff is energized by the presence of 12 rookies on the roster, by having young veterans in key places and with a locker room that is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every single day.
Who says a team can't win big with young players? Furthermore, who says the Eagles have too much youth? If you really look at the roster, and at the starting lineup, you see a team that has experience in the right places, supplemented by young, fresh legs in reserve. And let me ask you this: If the Eagles had a veteran quarterback with 50 career starts under his belt, would the idea of "being so young" even be an issue to talk about?
I think most people say it in a flattering way. The Eagles have a lot of young players on the roster, players who earned their way onto the 53-man team by working very, very hard, by listening and by applying everything the coaches taught them to do. Ten draft picks earned their way here because they simply outperformed other, more experienced players over the course of two months of OTA practices and six weeks of practices and preseason games.
And when I look at the starting lineups, there isn't a concern in the world that the Eagles are "too young." Kevin Kolb is in his first year as a full-time starting quarterback and certainly all eyes are looking at him. Kolb, who has two career starts under his belt and lacks experience that way, has been in the NFL for three full years, has studied to play every week during that time and is much more capable and ready than the standard "new" starting quarterback.
Look around the rest of the offense. DeSean Jackson is in his third year as a starting wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin is in his second season as the other starter. Tight end Brent Celek is in his third year in the league. Fullback Leonard Weaver is a Pro Bowl player and halfback LeSean McCoy, in his second season, is coming off a year in which he established a franchise record for rookie rushing yards.
The offensive line has plenty of NFL tenure, although the group hasn't played together in a game this year. Still, the fivesome that lines up on Sunday against Green Bay -- Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Nick Cole and Winston Justice -- spent most of last year starting for the Eagles and did a fantastic job as the team set a franchise record for most points scored.
There is no doubt that the defense has changed its look, and that there is more youth expected to contribute in key roles immediately. Rookie end Brandon Graham and free safety Nate Allen step right in and start because they are supremely talented kids who are highly intelligent and motivated and no question ready for the responsibility.
Otherwise, the Eagles defense has plenty of starting experience. The challenge here is not the youth, but the new faces in the starting lineup.
Through it all, the four preseason games, the weeks of practices and the tests the players took, the coaching staff emerged with great vitality working with this team. Yeah, the Eagles have to come together quickly in the sense that the roster has many changes, but isn't that the fun of the game? Wasn't there an absolute need to challenge every corner of the roster after last year's disappointing losses to Dallas ended the season?
That is what the Eagles have done, then. They haven't sacrificed the present in any way. It would be hard to argue that had the Eagles decided to remain the same, by and large, with last year's roster, that they would be more ready to win than this group is ready to win.
Oh, there are great challenges ahead and I get the sense from Reid and his coaching staff that they are relishing those battles greatly. The Eagles think they know what they are, but like every NFL team it is impossible to truly know until the season begins and the wins and losses count.
The Eagles have a situation where youth is celebrated, and that is the way the team is positioning the roster. This "too-young-to-win" thing doesn't sit well from this perspective. I'm not buying it a bit. This roster is very, very talented. The players are eager. They are young and strong and hungry and determined and, boy, the journey ahead is going to be fun.
No question the coaching staff feels the same way. Each day they report to the NovaCare Complex and are greeted by classrooms of eager students who want to learn, who want to grow, who want to become better football players. When you have that kind of mentality spread across the team, you know that good things are ahead.