Two teams with much higher expectations than last season's losing records will face one another this Thursday in the opening round of NFL preseason games. The Eagles lost two of their last three games to slide to 7-9, while Tampa Bay ended the 2015 season with four-straight losses to go 6-10. Bad finishes tend to evoke a sense of urgency heading into a new season, so it reasonable to believe that both of these teams would love to get a strong start out of the gate with a victory on Thursday night even though the preseason games do not count in the standings.
Philly decided to move in a different direction by firing Chip Kelly as head coach and replacing him with what could turn out to be his polar opposite. New head coach Doug Pederson is neither brash or arrogant, which are two words that I would add to Kelly's personality profile. He does not pretend to have all the answers and he does not treat his players like interchangeable parts in a not so well-oiled machine. I am not convinced that Pederson is cut out to be a successful coach at this level, but I do like the fact that is his comfortable enough with his own ego to make the team the center of attention and not himself.
Tampa Bay has not posted a winning season since 2010 and you would have to go back to 2007 to find the last time this team made it into the playoffs. The Buccaneers also parted ways with their head coach Lovie Smith after just two seasons and turned to their offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to fill the role. He will be looking for bigger and better things from second-year quarterback Jameis Winston after the Bucs' offense finished last season ranked 17th in the NFL in passing yards and 20th in points scored. This unit does have some star power with Mike Evans at wide receiver and Doug Martin anchoring the running game, but Tampa Bay also has a long history as a franchise that has been far better at losing games than winning them.
There probably will not be all that many meaningful takeaways from Thursday night's game in what is really just an extended practice involving two teams instead of one, but whichever team does go on to win on the scoreboard will have created that ever-so thin edge over the other in their mutual quest to turn things around in 2016 under new leadership.