Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Encouraging Signs Heading into 2012 Season
OTAs are over and the long wait for training camp has begun, but the Philadelphia Eagles are far enough along to see positive signs that bode well for the upcoming season.
Granted, optimism was high last offseason as well, but something just feels different. Players and coaches seem focused and more determined, and the team is desperate to bring a championship to this city.
Perhaps it is too early to make predictions about the upcoming season, but the following signs sure are encouraging.
No More Power Struggles
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With Joe Banner stepping down from the position of president, it is now clear that head coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman are firmly entrenched as the brains of the Philadelphia Eagles operation.
There were suspicions of a power struggle between Banner and Reid throughout the course of the offseason, but the team vehemently denied this. The official word on Banner's departure is that he wanted to pursue other options, which may be true. However, the real reason is likely that the power struggle finally escalated to the point where owner Jeffery Lurie had to make a decision.
The team may eventually miss Banner’s contract negotiating prowess, but his departure means that everyone in the front office is finally on the same page.
Elevated Linebacker Play
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For whatever reason, the Eagles have never seemed to put an emphasis on the linebacker position while under the rule of Andy Reid. As a result, the group has produced less-than-stellar stats and was often a weakness on what was otherwise a strong defense.
It seems that Reid has finally listened to the complaints of the fans, and finally brought in a viable starting middle linebacker in DeMeco Ryans. He also drafted another likely starter in rookie Mychal Kendricks. Both are instant upgrades from last season’s starters and should help shore up the middle of the defense.
That much was already evident during OTAs. Working as the starters, Ryans and Kendricks were bright spots during the non-contact drills. Ryans looked like a leader in the middle of the defense and Kendricks flashed his athleticism, which bodes well for his chances of successfully covering opposing tight ends.
What remains to be seen is how the duo will fare once the pads go on. Regardless, they showed enough over the past few weeks to warrant optimism among the fans.
Minimal Contract Issues
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While Joe Banner has set sail for greener pastures, he made sure to get some critical contract negotiations out of the way before doing so. This offseason, the team made sure to lock up key players like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis to team-friendly deals.
With that out of the way, the Eagles can now move forward and head into training camp without the threat of a contract dispute looming over them. No contract disputes leads to less distractions while at camp, which leads to better practices and improved team chemistry, which leads to more wins come the regular season.
For the time being, it appears as though all of the players seem content with their contracts, and happy players make for happy fans.
Healthy Competition at Key Positions
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Competition is what helps the coaches determine which players are worthy of starting, and the Eagles have plenty of it.
On defense, the biggest battle going on is at safety, where incumbent starter Kurt Coleman and second-year player Jaiquawn Jarrett will be duking it out with new addition O.J. Atogwe during training camp to determine who gets to line up across from Nate Allen.
Elsewhere on defense, Brian Rolle and Jamar Chaney are also battling for the starting weak-side linebacker spot and Joselio Hanson is competing with rookie Brandon Boykin for the slot corner position.
The competition on offense is a little less fierce, but still noteworthy. Primarily, players are competing for backup roles. Such is the case at quarterback, where Mike Kafka, Nick Foles, and Trent Edwards are all vying to be Michael Vick’s backup. There is also a battle going on to determine which running back will spell superstar LeSean McCoy for a few snaps a game.
All of this competition will not only make for an exciting training camp, but also for higher level of play once the regular season begins.
"Dream Team" Label Gone
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Vince Young has left the building, and it looks as though he took the “Dream Team” label with him.
Now that the Eagles’ disappointing 2011 season is over, the team is focused only on the present and on how they can win a Super Bowl this year. That mentality seems to have worn off on the national media, as there is very little talk anymore about the “Dream Team” debacle.
The Eagles wouldn’t have it any other way. With the label finally removed, there is now one less distraction for the team to have to worry about. Instead, they can get back to playing football.