The air is changing, the leaves are turning, and sounds of “boo” fill the air. Halloween is still eight weeks away. So the sounds must mean another season of Eagles football is upon us.
The armchair quarterbacks are geared for at least 16 weeks of cheering, grumbling, whining, and shouting. And praying for even more with hopes of making the playoffs.
Every season starts with its share of optimism and concern. But not too many have had the level of controversy we see this year.
By now, Philadelphia football fans have gotten over the shock of Michael Vick wearing Eagles green. He’ll be eligible to play in Week Three against Kansas City. The Birds have a bye the following week, giving Philly fans and sportscasters an extra week to bemoan his level of play.
With McNabb looking in what may be his best form, signing Vick may prove to be a stroke of genius by Andy Reid. Opposing teams will have their hands full trying to defend against the weapons this Philadelphia offense presents.
Donovan has faced adversity since the day he was drafted by the Eagles. Busloads of fans traveled to New York to strong arm management into drafting another player with a background eerily similar to Vick’s. We all know how that turned out. Ricky Williams became more famous as the poster boy for anti-drug campaigns than as a star running back.
But Ricky would have owed the Dolphins $5 million had he chosen to smoke grass instead of bury his cleats into it. New team ownership decided to give him one more chance. And in his first full season back on the gridiron, he gained almost 1000 yards.
We may see Vick prove that he, too, can overcome a storied past.
Yet for all the quarterback talk, any team’s strength depends on who controls the line of scrimmage.
This is where the current team bears only a slight resemblance to the Birds who came one game short of last year’s Super Bowl. Gone are the familiar names of Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyun and Tra Thomas.
Even Brett Favre in 1995 form would struggle without the protection of a tight offensive line.
The Andrews brothers remain a mystery. Let’s hope their preseason problems were merely a ruse to keep opposing defensive coordinators guessing.
Expect the Eagles defense to live up to their legend, despite their losses.
With Dawkins, the Eagles lost more than his field talent. Trent Cole can fill the sack gap. His leadership will be a harder role to fill.
Jason Babin is a bright spot coming out of training camp. He played in all four preseason games, recording 14 tackles and three sacks.
Gaither will be formidable against the pass, Bunkley and Patterson can stuff runners in their tracks.
Perhaps the biggest question on defense is how tall Sean McDermott can stand in the shadow of Jim Johnson. I’m thinking that shadow may quickly fade with the glimmer of a Super Bowl ring.