Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eagles Open Camp at Nova Care Center on July 24

Philadephia Eagles 2017 Summer Training Camp

Rookies: July 24

Veterans: July 26

First practice: July 27

Site: NovaCare Complex

Location: Philadelphia

The Eagles officially open their 2017 training camp on Monday, July 24 with rookies reporting to the Nova Care Center in South Philadelphia. The veterans are set to report two days later with the first full team practice scheduled for Thursday, July 27. It is an exciting time to be a Philly fan with the addition of free agent wide receivers' Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith and running back LaGarrette Blount to the offense and rookie defensive end Derek Barnett and cornerbacks' Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas to the defense via this year's draft.

Philadelphia went 7-9 in Doug Pederson's first year at the helm as head coach and the pieces are now in place for bigger and better things in 2017. While the Birds are not favored to win the NFC East this season behind both Dallas and the New York Giants, the ever-revolving spot at the top of this division has continually been up for grabs over the past several years. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last time that the reining NFC East Champion repeated as the top team the following year with the Eagles laying claim to their fourth-straight division title in a run that also included four-straight trips to the NFC title game and one run to the Super Bowl.

I may be a homer, but I like the Birds' chances to win the division this season as much as any other team in the NFC East. Dallas went from just four wins in 2015 to an impressive 13-3 last year behind a pair of rookies named Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The problem for the Cowboys this time around other than playing a first-place schedule is that they are not going to sneak up on anyone. Defensive coordinators have a knack for scheming against an opponent's top weapons on offense and both of these standouts could be headed for a sophomore slump. The Giants could be the team to watch in this division in 2017 after jumping up to 11 victories last year. This followed three seasons of a sub-.500 record so the big question heading into this year's campaign is which direction does New York go in 2017?

Washington has been an up and down team for the past few years. The Redskins won the NFC East title in 2012 with a record of 10-6 before plummeting to just three victories the following year. After going 4-12 in 2014, the Skins managed to win nine games the following season to claim the title again. Last year's 8-8 record puts Washington into a very interesting situation this year; however most of the NFL experts have the Redskins to bring up the rear in the NFC East this season.

It all gets started in late July in what should be one of the most interesting division title battles in the NFL this season.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Eagles to Add to Your 2017 Fantasy Football Lineup

Any true Eagles fans will add at least one or two Birds to their fantasy football roster even if there are some better players still available on the wavier wire from other teams. Last year I had tight end Zach Ertz on my fantasy team all season long and I jumped back and forth with Darren Sproles as one of my running backs. I went on to win the regular season, but my march to a championship ended in the first week of the playoffs.

There is still plenty of time to fine-tune your draft strategy for this year's fantasy football season, but I am already plotting as to which Eagles I plan to grab ahead of some of the other die-hard Philly fans in my league. I would definitely go with Ertz again as one of two tight ends, but my top target would have to be newly added wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey. I know of at least three other league members (you know who you are) that will be chomping at the bit to get the Eagles' new No. 1 receiver ahead of me, so I just might have to make him my first round pick. In all seriousness, he is probably the highest ranked fantasy player that Philadelphia has to offer.

Next on my list of targets would be running back LeGarrette Blount as another new offseason addition. He scored 18 touchdowns last season in New England and I could easily justify giving him a spot on my team even if this number gets cut in half in 2017. I am also open to picking up wide receiver Jordan Matthews a bit later in the draft. You already know that opposing defenses are going to scheme against Jeffrey and possibly even Torrey Smith which could open up some scoring opportunities for the Eagles' former No. 1 target in the passing game.

The big dilemma I will face is what to do about quarterback Carson Wentz. I know that someone else in my league will draft him, so I might have to make a bold move to draft him first. The added weapons this offseason add some serious value to his point potential. I still love Drew Brees or possibly Aaron Rodgers as my top signal caller, but I do not want to be that guy that missed the boat on the next big thing when it comes to fantasy football quarterbacks.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Key Takeaways from the Eagles' Recent Minicamp

The big news in Philly this week was the Eagles' recent minicamp that ran from Tuesday through this past Thursday. While nothing is ever won or lost in a series of practices that are meant to set the stage for training camp later this summer, they do give us a quick peek at which players might have the biggest impact on turning things around from a 7-9 campaign in 2016.

At the top of the list would be second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. Most NFL experts would call his rookie season an overall success in light of the talent he was surrounded by, but the bar has definitely been raised heading into this season with the addition of Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver and LeGarrette Blount as the new lead running back in the ground game. Both players are major upgrades at their position and they should both work to take some of the pressure off of Wentz to try and carry this team on his own.

The Eagles used the draft to upgrade its defense both upfront and in the secondary, but it is still going to take some time to see if these additions can have a major impact on a unit that ended the 2016 regular season ranked 12th in the league in points allowed and 13th in total yards allowed. Statistically, this was a major improvement from a disastrous showing in Chip Kelly's final season at the helm as head coach; however there are still some major question marks with the team's defensive backfield. First round pick Derek Barnett at defensive end should immediately improve a pass rush that was tied for 16th in the NFL in sacks (34) last season. This, in turn, should also work to take some of the pressure off the secondary if everything goes according to plan.

The biggest takeaway from this week's practices is a renewed sense of optimism that there is enough talent on this roster (on both sides of the ball) to successfully compete for a NFC East title this season or at the very least a wild card spot in the playoffs. As one of the biggest homers there is when it comes to our Beloved Birds, I would have to wholeheartedly agree with this assessment.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why I am an Eagles Fan

Bleeding Green Nation is arguably the No. 1 Eagles' blog in the game today and one of the most popular sport's websites in the country overall. It is currently asking its loyal readers to send in posts on why they are an Eagles' fan. This got me to thinking of why I am an Eagles' fan and I came up with the following conclusion; I had no choice.

While all the kids at St. Anastasia Grade School in Newtown Square were running around in their Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins jackets given each team's success in the Super Bowl in the late 60's and early 70's, I always came to school in Eagles' green. When Philly did win the NFL Championship in 1960, my father decided to give the local team the kiss of death by becoming a season ticket holder the following year. The Birds went 10-4 that season but it was just a mirage. In the year of my birth in 1962 they only won three games to kick off a run of 14 losing season's in the next 16 years. They did post a 9-5 record in 1966 when Norm Snead was still the starting quarterback and they managed to break even at 7-7 in 1974 with Roman Gabriel under center, but that was it Eagles' fans...and when my older brother stopped going to the games I had the unique privilege of sitting through one miserable loss after another. My fondest memory was our annual ass kicking at the hands of Washington Redskins in the cold pouring rain at Veterans Stadium. My dad never and I mean NEVER left a game before the final gun no matter what the score, no matter what the weather.

The 1996 season was a turning point for the franchise with arrival of former UCLA head coach Dick Vermeil is his first stint in the NFL. This kicked off a seven-year run that saw the Eagles make the playoffs four years in a row including a trip to the Super Bowl in 1980. It was like going to heaven after escaping the gates of hell. The highlight was the NFC Championship when Wilbert Montgomery ran up and down the field against the hated Dallas Cowboys in one of the coldest games ever played at the Vet.

The Eagles would make a few more playoff runs under Buddy Ryan in the late 80's and Andy Reid during his very successful 14-year tenure as head coach from 1999 to 2012. My dad grew ill and gave up his season tickets when Philly made the long awaited move to Lincoln Financial Field. He passed away in 2004 having never tasted the sweet smell of success that comes with actually winning a Super Bowl. We are all still waiting for our beloved Birds to make a championship run while having to watch every other team in the NFC East bring home multiple world titles for their loyal fans.

Washington's last Super Bowl run was back in 1987, but that franchise has two titles to its credit. The New York Giants have had the most recent success with Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011 as part of their four world titles and the Dallas Cowboys top the list with five Super Bowl rings after winning it all in 1996. It is pretty obvious that the Eagles have lagged woefully behind their division peers with their 0-2 record on the NFL's biggest stage.

I know why I am an Eagles' fan and why I will always be loyal to the only team I have ever known. Over all of these years, Philly's bandwagon has been empty and it has been standing room only; however the one constant has been the bleedin green, snow ball throwing, knucklehead 700 level fans that still keep the faith. I am proud to say that my entire family is part of this tortured clan. Conversations still revolve around the free agents added in the offseason, the rookies that hold our future in their hands and the rest of the players that we cheer and quickly boo each and every Sunday come fall. It is in our blood, a part of our DNA. It is an affliction that cannot be cured. Super Bowl glory has eluded us for over 50 years, but come September we will all be back on the wagon for better or worse. Face it, anyone reading this post is an Eagles' fan and I personally thank you for your unending faith in the face of far too many disappointing losing seasons. One day that faith will be rewarded and as my dad would always say...I know that this is our year!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Shining Stars in the Eagles' Recent OTA's

This is the time of the year when the long NFL offseason really heads into a lull. The height of the free agency signing period has come and gone and excitement of last month's draft in Philadelphia is starting to fade. We are still more than two months away from the start of training camp and the regular season opener the Sunday after Labor Day is hardly top of mind heading into the Memorial Day weekend.

The big thing going on this past week was the Eagles' recent OTA practices. The inside scoop from the good folks at Bleeding Green Nation, who actually go to things like this pointed to a couple of players who stood out from the rest based on their performance on the field. The ones that I would be the most interested in would be any of the new free agents as well as the Eagles' draft picks so it is good to hear that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery appears to be ready to make an instant impact in the passing game. Even better is the fact that they were also impressed with running back LeGarrette Blount as one of the newest birds in the nest. Both of these veterans have a chance to improve an offense that was ranked 22nd in the NFL last season in total yards per game.

On the defensive side of the ball, first round draft pick Derek Barnett received high grades from the BGN staff, but I am not really sure what for. These are practices without out pads probably run at three-quarter speed, but if those guys are excited about what they saw, then so am I. One of the most interesting takeaways was that third-year wide receiver and former No. 1 draft pick Nelson Agholor was also highly praised for his performance in the OTA's. It is amazing what someone can do when they are faced with the possibility of losing their spot on the roster. Maybe he is simply responding well to the Eagles' new wide receivers coach Mike Groh.

These early team activities are the first important steps toward building a winner in Philly, but it is hard to get all that excited because a professional football player catches the ball or looks sharp in a running drill. Right now, I am still much more focused on things such as getting my boat in the water or catching a ton of crabs for Sunday's dinner.