Yesterday was the official start of Eagles training camp, coach Andy Reid's 14th with the team, and the pressure may not have been ever higher for this team. Last year's "Dream Team" was a debacle. Longtime president Joe Banner is gone and Reid only has two years left on his contact without a sign of an extension yet.
It isn't a stretch of the imagination to say that this training camp might be one of the top 10 most important training camps in Eagles history. With that being said, there are many questions about this Eagles team going into training camp that will greatly affect the team this year. Here are my top five.
The Michael Vick of 2010 was phenomenal. He looked like he was becoming a complete quarterback and was one bad decision away from completing a comeback against the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers in the opening round of the playoffs.
However, the 2011 Mike Vick had all the signs of the guy who had the pressure squarely on his shoulders. He threw more interceptions than he ever did in 2011 with 14, and his QB rating went down 15 points.
Any Eagles fan can hope that the addition of several pieces and lack of a training camp is what led Vick to be so inconsistent and careless with the ball. But if the reasoning behind his poor performance is due to his inability to handle pressure, Vick could be in for a long season, especially after his now famous ‘dynasty’ comment.
Every great Eagles defense had one leader in the linebacking corps. Whether it was Chuck Bednarik, Byron Evans or Jeremiah Trotter, it was clear there was a leader in the linebacker unit. This team desperately needs not just a leader in its linebackers, but a leader for its whole defense.
DeMeco Ryans was brought in to be just that. The rest of the youngsters on this linebacking unit will be looking to Ryans for leadership and cues during practice and games. The big question is how he will be able to play coming off of his Achilles injury in 2010?
Will we see the DeMeco who had over 100 tackles over his first for seasons? Or are we going to see the DeMeco who only had 64 tackles last season? The last thing the Eagles need is another slow linebacker who will have trouble in coverage. If Ryans can not be a three-down backer, the Eagles defense may be in big trouble.
The Bills called on Demetress Bell to take the place of Jason Peters in Buffalo. The Eagles now are asking him to do the same for this season.
Although there is a slight chance Peters may come back into the lineup this year, chances are Bell will have to perform at tackle for the whole season and at a high level for the Eagles offense to work efficiently.
Everyone knew that the development of Fletcher Cox was going to be under the microscope, but with the announcement that Mike Patterson is going to miss training camp, the pressure is on for Cox to live up to his first-round selection immediately.
Guys like Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri may “start” over Cox, but with the way defensive line coach Jim Washburn rotates his linemen, the way Cox’s responds to his increased playing time will go a long way in deciding if this defense can stop the run.
This might be the biggest question going into camp. It is well documented that the Eagles have struggled greatly since the departure of Brian Dawkins at safety, and in order for this year to be successful, there will have to be two clear-cut starters in the safety positions.
Kurt Coleman should come out as the starter at the free safety position. But the biggest question comes at strong safety. Will Nate Allen finally be able to live up to expectations? Will O.J. Atogwe end up with the starting position? Could Jaiquawn Jarrett become the dark horse to win the spot in training camp?
Regardless of what happens, the Eagles need both safety positions to come up big for the defense to be like the ‘Gang Green’ of old.