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'Enter As Players Leave As A Team'

Eagles Kick Off Training Camp Tomorrow
By Lance Epstein

Can you feel it? It is that time of the year that every Eagles fan waits for since January. The time of the year where aspirations are high and the fans believe the Eagles can do anything. It is the time of year where the Birds bring excitement back to its fans and gives them goosebumps thinking about an improvable Super Bowl run.

More importantly, tomorrow is the first day of the long, grueling and demanding journey for the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though it has been fifty years ago since the Eagles sat a top of the football universe and had the best "team." That has been the last “team” to fight through the rigors of the game and became the toast of the city.

Right now the Eagles are not getting a whole lot of respect from around the league. Many “so-called” experts envision Andy Reid's young squad being contenders for a playoff spot but not much more. However, this is what training camp is meant for: bringing a team together for one ultimate goal and proving people wrong. This could be the reason why the Philadelphia Eagles decided to use the slogan of "enter as players, leave as team," for the 2010 training camp.

There are no truer words for a franchise heading into training camp. On Tuesday, the Eagles begin to scout their own players to trim down to an 80-man roster to a 53-man wrecking crew. Additionally and perhaps the most significant part of training camp is the Eagles searching to find continuity among the line (something that was non-exi

stent last year), Kevin Kolb demonstrating his moxie and why the club decided to trade Donovan McNabb to take a chance on him and for a extremely youthful defense to gel.

Besides training camp being for the players it is also to assist the coaches. They have the intriguing jobs of crafting and molding the 13 drafted rookies and finding the strengths and weakness of the new faces via free agency or trade. If that was not enough, they are required to meshing those news faces with the key veterans coming back for another season.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has nine of 11 starters back from last year. But it is the two starters he doesn't have that will determine if the Eagles offense flourishes.

So can Kolb replace McNabb? He has the all the talent in the world and is actually better suited for a traditional west coast offense, which the Birds have abandoned over the years with McNabb’s accuracy issues. The Eagles will make the switch ba

ck to that traditional west coast offense with Kolb running the show.

Kolb's pinpoint accuracy in throwing the short-to-intermediate routes makes Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Brent Celek even bigger threats after they receive the ball. This is something the Eagles only really had if McNabb launched the ball deep to the speedy Jackson who burned his defender. Now the Eagles can still do that, but also have a chance to take it to the house on a simple slant route. A route, which has been slowly and steadily been eliminated from the Eagles playbook over the past couple of years.

However, Mornhinweg's key assignment is to make sure Kolb can avoid the dreaded turnover. Over his short career, Kolb has a tendency to be mistake prone and quite a few of his errors have come inside the red zone. If the coaching staff can ingrain McNabb's mentality of taking care of the football (not throwing the costly interception) than Kolb makes this offense even scary than it has been in previous seasons.

In order for Kolb to even achieve that kind of success as the starting quarterback, offensive line coach Juan Castillo must find a replacement for starting center Jamaal Jackson. Of course, Jackson is going to be back sometime this year, but it is not expected to be until after week six (assuming he is going on the PUP list).

Last year after Jackson went down with a torn ACL, the Eagles offense became just as immobile. Dallas annihilated the interior line of the Eagles in the final two games and McNabb had no time to deliver the ball. Even when he did get some protection up the middle, his wide receivers were blanketed.

Castillo has a difficult task, as he must transform Nick Cole from an adequate right guard into a sufficient center: a position where he has played two games since college. Moreover, Castillo must have a backup option in place in case Cole fails miserable again. Backup lineman Mike McGlynn was drafted to eventually be a starting center, but with no regular season playing time, Castillo is forced to sculpt him into a capable understudy. Both McGlynn and Cole play will be extremely vital to the success of the Eagles so there is a ton of pressure on Castillo to have them prepared.

While the offense needs to come together and overcome some obstacles, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has the job gelling and teaching up a very young defense. Still, the return of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley (defensive leader who missed the entire 2009 season) will certainly help in a leadership category and improves a below average linebacking corps.

Furthermore, the acquisitions of Ernie Sims and Darryl Tapp will assist the Eagles in solidifying their front seven. Moreover, once rookies Nate Allen and Brandon Graham are signed, McDermott will have even more ammunition to work with and the talent to be a top ten defense in the NFL.

A hidden gem of the Eagles offseason was the signing of secondary coach Dick Jauron. Jauron makes McDermott's job a bit easier. Jauron has always been known as a great teacher and gets the best out of his secondary players. This will definitely be needed with a rookie free safety in Allen starting and Ellis Hobbs filling the void of the departed Sheldon Brown. Plus, Jauron’s experience as a head coach and defensive coordinator makes him a valuable tool at McDermott’s disposal.

Finally, this camp might be the biggest in Reid's 11-year coaching career. All the success or failure of this season starts on Tuesday for him. It is necessary for the man known as “Big Red,” to get the best out of his young and hungry unit. Without a doubt, there will be ups and downs for the team built with his Reid’s fingerprints all over the blue prints, but ultimately Reid's coaching will determine if there will be playoff football for a four consecutive year or if the team is picking in the top 15.

Rookies and selected veterans (free agent signings, injured players from last year and trade acquisitions) will arrive at Leigh University tonight. The rest of the players will individually show up on Friday (first team practice is Saturday), but the Eagles are hoping by the time they break camp in Bethlehem, they will be entering the season as a cohesive championship “team.”

Watch for Andy Reid’s press conference quotes later today….

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