It's okay to be excited for the upcoming Philadelphia Eagles season. It really is. Don't let the nay-sayers rain on your parade (or your hopes thereof).
As a Philly boy who hasn't lived in the Delaware Valley for nearly a decade, I took to purchasing, for the very first time, that ubiquitous out-of-market package (you might have seen a commercial or two for it) which allows me to watch all 16 of the Iggles's regular season contests. Despite the impassioned pleas of my spouse not to use our hard earned cash to acquire the admittedly-expensive package, I couldn't help myself.
The fact of the matter is, I am all in for this Eagles season. I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl on the opening night of the next Twilight flick. It has been a long time since I've been this excited. If you share my sentiments, read on. If you begrudgingly await the opening kickoff at 4:15 on Sunday, hear me out.
Let me preface this diatribe by saying that I am extremely appreciative of everything that Donovan McNabb did for this team and so should the city of Philadelphia. His draft selection and eventual emergence as one of the NFL's top offensive (and yet most enigmatic) weapons was a welcomed changed of pace to the days when Brad Goebel, Bubby Brister, Ty Detmer, and Bobby Hoying stood under center for the Eagles.
That said, it is the opinion of this scribe that while "5" would have still been productive in an Eagles uniform, the time was right for him to exit, stage left. Not because he couldn't cut it anymore but for the opposite reason; he was still productive and the Eagles were able to get a relatively high draft pick in return (which, as you know, was used to select Nate Allen, the new starting free safety).
In addition to improving other glaringly poor positions (such as free safety), the McNabb trade sends a message to the youthful Eagles that this is their team. That, in itself, should excite the players on this roster as well as its burnt out fan base.
Why should Eagles fans place its trust and desire to win a Super Bowl Championship with this team, you ask?
For one, this team's mentality should be improved following McNabb's departure. I'm sure that there are those on this roster who respected and looked up to Donovan while I am also sure that there are those who may have resented him.
If you look at it from the side of those players who adored McNabb as a teammate, they may have felt the pressure of needing to win a world title just to legitimize Donovan's legacy in Philly instead of incurring the wrath that is Philadelphia's vitriol. If you think Don's teammates despised him, then, obviously, they should feel a bit better not having to ignore what they considered to be the elephant in the room.
Physically, what's not to like about this team? Offensively, there are current or potentially-future Pro Bowlers at every skill position, save for running back.
DeSean Jackson is probably the most electrifying athlete this team has ever had, including McNabb and Randall Cunningham. As an aside, it's nice to know that America has taken notice of this kid ("who's been eatin' hummus?")
Meanwhile, ESPN NFC East Blogger Matt Mosley believes Jeremy Maclin will put up better numbers in 2010 than DJax. I'm not sure I buy that but Mosley has bought in to Kevin Kolb's supposedly-budding relationships with Maclin as well as Brent Celek.
Sure, the Eagles are handing over the keys to their west coast offense to the unproven Kolb but his is not a role like that of Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Kolb has weapons. Ironically, he has more weapons now than McNabb did when he became the starter back in 2000.
Also, don't let the naysayers and the preseason sour you on the offensive line. With Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson back and Stacy Andrews dispatched to Seattle, the o-line should be much improved. It has to be, doesn't it? It certainly can't play any worse than it did the last two games against Dallas last season.
Defensively, where does one start? The Eagles now have two (count 'em, two!) "fastballs" at opposite defensive line positions. Trent Cole is a Pro-Bowler and, by all accounts, Brandon Graham has done all that he can do to be the perfect compliment to Cole.
An improved defensive line should help improve the defense overall. More pressure on the quarterback means the linebackers will be required to do less in coverage and the secondary can afford to make one or two mistakes a game, a luxury they did not have last year.
On the topic of linebackers, welcome back, Stewart Bradley! The hard-hitting Ernie Sims fits perfectly into a defense that has never been big but has, for the most part, been fast. The big question mark in this defensive unit will be the performance of its secondary.
Ellis Hobbs has looked good in the preseason and we know we can conservatively pencil in Asante Samuel for about four or five interceptions, at least one of which will be returned for a touchdown. Allen, meanwhile, still may not make anyone forget Brian Dawkins, but he certainly should be an upgrade over the mess the Eagles had at free safety last season.
I could go on gushing about this Eagles roster for at least four more paragraphs but the point is this: This Eagles' team is exciting because it's something new, something fresh. I haven't been this excited for the start of an Eagles' season since 2004.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not that excited. I don't see this team reaching the heights that the '04 team did, although they have the potential to do so. For better or for worse, though, this isn't going to be your run-of-the-mill, garden variety Andy Reid-led Eagles' season. There will be some ups and downs but the talent that this roster possesses can make even the most comatose fans jump out of their seats. For my money, that talent, combined with that new team smell, makes this team exciting.
That's why, for my money (literally), I'll be glued to the television at 4:15 on Sunday.