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!