When the smoke cleared after the 2009 NFL Draft, no fans were more optimistic than the Philadelphia Eagles fan base.
The loss of Brian Dawkins still stung, but the flurry of moves made by the Banner Crew had Philadelphia buzzing. All signs indicating sunny skies in the forecast for the fellas in Midnight Green.
Then the rain began to fall.
First came the news that Brian Westbrook, the most irreplaceable player on the Eagles not wearing the No. 5, would miss time after having a "clean-up" procedure done on his ankle. This meant a heavier load would be placed on the rookie LeSean McCoy and the questions began.
Will this hurt or help McCoy's progression?
Should the Eagles bring in a veteran back? Someone like Warrick Dunn?
During the OTA's it seemed the answer to this question was clear, as McCoy proceeded to impress all in attendance. In fact, nearly everyone looked good; rookies were well ahead of the curve, injured vets were progressing steadily.
Of course there was no hitting and football players always look fast in shorts, but the ingredients were there to improve on last seasons' impressive post-season run.
Then we saw Jason Peters and Shawn Andrews get injured during the conditioning run on the first day of camp. Considering the importance of the positions they play, this sent up another red flag. Bad enough McNabb's most explosive offensive weapon was out, but now the bookends for (on paper) the Eagles most talented offensive line were banged up too. All before any hitting actually took place.
Shawn Andrews went out with back issues (unrelated to his previous injury) which kept him off the field all last year.
Adding insult to injury, is the fact that this camp was supposed to provide Andrews the opportunity to fill the void left by Jon Runyan's absence. Anyone that thinks that Andrews would simply slide one spot over and have no problem is sorely mistaken. Reps are needed, especially in Andy Reid's offense, to be successful.
More questions followed like:
Is Shawn Andrews as commited to football as he says he is?
Now that Jason Peters got the payday he couldn't get in Buffalo is he no longer as driven as he once was?
Days after these questions first surfaced they were soon forgotten with the heart-breaking news of Jim Johnson's passing. Nothing could have prepared Philadelphia for the loss of such a great coach and person. He embodied everything that was right with football, not to mention the reason most of us are such rabid fans of the Eagles in the first place. Everyone he coached reflected his fire and determination which led to a decade of success.
Adding to McDermott's already seemingly impossible job was the subsequent loss of Stewart Bradley, who tore up his knee on a completely innocuous play.
Despite this huge setback (and Andy Reid's blow-up regarding media ethics) panic didn't set in. This meant fan favorite Joe Mays would get an opportunity to showcase his ability and failing that weak side linebacker Omar Gaither could do the job in a pinch.
After all, Gaither has played Middle Linebacker before, so he's familiar with the calls and adjustments. He has good range and instincts, proving that by leading the team in tackles the year he started all sixteen games at the position.
The Eagles even brought in Charger cast off Matt Wilhelm, who at 6'4" 245lbs is more of a traditional looking Middle Linebacker, to create more competition at camp.
The injuries were bad, but manageable. Just over a week into camp though, Defensive End Juqua Parker ended up being arrested on a marijuana possession charge. This was while he and Todd Herrermans were driving around Bethlehem, PA making illegal turns. This brought additional distraction to a team that with so many new pieces on both sides of the ball could ill-afford it.
Still Parker said all the right things and seemed sincere in his regret over the situation, so maybe this was the end of the storm.
The black cloud still looms over Lehigh as this weekend brought more bad news.
After having, by all accounts an incredible camp, TE Cornelius Ingram re-injured the same knee that had him sitting out his last year at Florida. He is now expected to miss this entire season as well.
As camp draws to a close and the preseason clash with New England edges ever closer there are several key positions up in the air.
So, with all that's happened in since July 27th, is it time to push the panic button?
Not yet, anyway.
Despite all the negatives, there are still some very positive reports coming out of Lehigh that should help settle the nervous constitution of the Philly fan.
Brian Westbrook is continuing to progress and may be ready sooner than initially anticipated.
Jason Peters has rejoined the team from injury and is working his way back to 100%.
Joe Mays has looked explosive running with the first team defense and Gaither has been confident in the Nickel package in coverage.
Brent Celek has looked every bit the part of a No. 1 Tight End; catching almost everything thrown his way and proving to be a much better blocker than last year. Along with that Eugene Bright, who is a solid blocking tight end has shown some skill in the receiving game as well.
1st Round pick Jeremy Maclin is signed and although there's some obvious rust his talent continues to shine through.
Desean Jackson has decided against having a Sophmore slump and has consistently beaten every corner he's been matched up against.
LeSean McCoy continues to progress and he can be a real compliment to a healthy Westbrook in the running and passing game.
Leonard Weaver is the first true Fullback the Eagles have had since Jon Ritchie and you all remember how that season turned out.
And almost as an afterthought because it's what most have come to expect, Donovan McNabb has looked very good in camp. Confident, happy and in great shape.
Things may not have gone exactly as Eagles faithful may have hoped, but it's still much too early to give up hope or give away those season tickets.
So for now you can rest assured that the sky is not falling.
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