The Philadelphia Eagles are a perennial contender. The 2000s have been kind to the City of Brotherly Love, as their team has seen five NFC conference championship games and one Super Bowl in the new millennium.
Without a single Super Bowl ring to commemorate any of it.
How many times does lightning have to strike to get this team over the championship hump? What must the team do in order to get to the top of the NFL?
The thing is, they've already done it. All they have to do now is put the pieces into place.
Donovan McNabb said after the season that he wanted playmakers. It might not have been done the way No. 5 had expected, but Andy Reid and company got McNabb the weapons he wanted.
All there's left to do now is play the game.
McNabb is a top quarterback in the league; without him, the Eagles aren't going anywhere. As long as he keeps his throws tight and his body healthy, Philly should have no problems.
The running back corps is strengthened with the drafting of LeSean McCoy. Think of him as another Brian Westbrook, but with a little more power behind his step. Of course, we can't forget about Westbrook himself, still one of the best backs in the league.
The wide receiver position is full of young blood and star power. DeSean Jackson is poised for a breakout season—as long as he keeps the ball in his hands. Jeremy Maclin is a great compliment to Jackson's speed with sturdy hands to boot. Jason Avant and Kevin Curtis will round out a scary four wide-out set with Westbrook in the backfield.
The offensive line has received the biggest boost with the trade for Jason Peters, one of the best at his position. Big, strong, and dominant, Peters is perfect for the smash-mouth Philly style. Add Jamaal Jackson in the middle, the Andrews brothers, Shawn and Stacy, on the right side, and Todd Herremans next to Peters, and this is a force to be reckoned with.
The defensive side of the Eagles looks a lot like the '08 squad, with a few adjustments. All four starters return up front, with Broderick Bunkley and Trent Cole coming off of terrific seasons. Look for Mike Patterson and Juqua Parker to improve this season.
The middle linebacker spot became more solid with Stewart Bradley's exceptional rookie season. Bradley's size and agility remind a lot of scouts of Brian Urlacher, which pleases the front office. Chris Gocong has the strong side locked up, while Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither will split time on the weak side.
The backfield has seen the most changes since last season. Lito Sheppard is off to New York, and Sheldon Brown isn't happy. Asante Samuel is a lock, and the trade for Ellis Hobbs will strengthen the other corner should Brown leave the nest. The two Quintins, Demps and Mikell, are two solid safeties in the backfield.
Special teams is all familiar faces. David Akers, Sav Rocca, DeSean Jackson, and Quintin Demps are all returning. Joining them will be two of the newest Eagles, Jeremy Maclin and Ellis Hobbs, as return men.
For the first time in a couple of seasons, every position on the Eagles roster is filled by a solid or exceptional player. There are some position battles, but all in all the team on paper looks like a fierce contender in the NFC.
Of course, there are always some concerns.
A lot of this team is very young, and a lot of the hopes for success are pinned on rookie and second-year guys. If inexperience starts to pile up, the Birds could be in trouble.
Sheldon Brown could prove to be an unwelcome distraction. The last time the Eagles were distracted by contract disputes, the team went 6-10.
Then there's the injury bug, but everyone in Philly is quite familiar with that.
If the team stays healthy, and the young players come in and run the system effectively, there's no reason that this year's Philadelphia Eagles team can't make a serious run at the Lombardi trophy.
What will the season hold? Only time will tell.