Breaking Down the Biggest Storylines Heading into Eagles Training Camp
The Philadelphia Eagles will begin training camp on Sunday, as rookies and select veterans report to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The pressure is high on the boys in green this season, as the Eagles will try to erase the stink of a 2011 campaign that saw the team go from preseason Super Bowl favorites to missing the playoffs altogether.
Whether it's a retooled defense, an offense looking to rebound or a head coach under fire, there is no shortage of story lines as the Eagles prepare to kick off training camp, and here is a look at a handful of the biggest ones.
Andy Reid's Firmly on the Hot Seat
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Following last year's disappointing campaign some questioned whether Eagles head coach Andy Reid would be brought back for another season.
Not only does Reid return but he does so with even more power, as team president Joe Banner was let go, consolidating Reid's control over the team even further.
However, with that additional control comes added pressure. With a full offseason to prepare a talented roster the expectations for Reid and the Eagles, according to The Montgomery Times-Herald, are quite simple.
"It’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans or bust."
The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since the 2008 season, and with team owner Jeffrey Lurie calling last season “unacceptable” and saying he expects “substantially better” in 2012, according to The Times-Herald if the Eagles stumble again Reid's 14th season in the City of Brotherly Love will likely be his last.
Michael Vick Is Sitting Right Next to Reid
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Reid is far from alone on the hot seat in Philly.
After a transcendent 2010 season, the Eagles rewarded quarterback Michael Vick with a six-year, $100 million contract extension. The 32-year-old southpaw then proceeded to face-plant somewhat last year, turning the ball over 18 times in 2011.
The Eagles can extricate themselves from Vick's contract after this year with few major consequences, adding pressure on the 10th-year pro to rebound in 2012.
For his part Vick doesn't seem to be feeling that pressure. According to ESPN, Vick recently told Comcast SportsNet that the Eagles "have a chance to develop a dynasty," although Vick also admitted that the team needs to take things one step at a time.
"I think just getting to the postseason right now is our focus," he told Comcast SportsNet. "The Super Bowl is going to come if it's meant to happen. Some of the best teams have some of the best luck. Maybe we'll have some of that. I think our focus needs to be one game at a time, just getting into the postseason."
Will DeSean Jackson Earn His Fat New Paycheck?
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One of the Eagles biggest problems on offense last year lied with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who pouted, groused and moaned about wanting a long-term contract on the way to posting his worst numbers since his rookie season.
Of course, after that disappointing season Philadelphia did the logical thing and caved in to the fifth-year wideout's demands, inking Jackson to a five-year, $51 million deal in March.
Now that Jackson has the new contract he coveted there are no excuses for the 25-year-old to fall back on if his two-year statistical slide continues, although Andy Reid recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he thinks Jackson is primed for a bounce-back season.
"He's bouncing around, playing fast. He's got a load off his mind," Reid said. "He's a young guy that had a whole lot of things on his plate. . . . Sometimes he did good with it. Sometimes he didn't do so good with it, but he worked through it. I think he grew up and now he was able to make some money here doing what he loves to do."
For both his sake and Jackson's, Reid and the Eagles are surely hoping he's right, as the Philadelphia offense is much more formidable when Jackson is stretching opposing defenses.
The Impact of Jason Peters' Achilles Injury
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The offseason has had its share of bumps in the proverbial road for the Philadelphia Eagles, but none looms larger entering training camp than the loss of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters, who was lost for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in May.
The team acted quickly to address the situation, signing free agent tackle Demetress Bell, and if there's a silver lining to the Peters injury it's that it occurred early enough for the team to not only secure a potential replacement but also acclimate Bell to the Eagles' system.
Whether it's Bell or King Dunlap lining up at left tackle when Philadelphia opens the 2012 season against the Cleveland Browns, how the offensive line fares without its best player will go a long way towards determining what kind of season the Eagles have, especially given Michael Vick's penchants for scrambling and getting hurt while doing it.
How Will a Revamped Front Seven Fare?
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As a whole, the Eagles defense would appear to have performed pretty well last year from a statistical standpoint, ranking eighth in the NFL in total defense and 10th in points allowed.
However, the Philly defense was inconsistent at times and was susceptible to being gashed up the middle a season ago, weaknesses that the team addressed by revamping the front seven in the offseason.
The Eagles added veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans in a trade with the Houston Texans and continued the overhaul in April's NFL draft by selecting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, both of whom will probably start as rookies.
How these newcomers fit in with the Eagles defense will not only have a significant impact on how Philadelphia fares in the NFC East this year but it will also likely determine whether second-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be back for a third season in 2013.