Enough is enough. It’s time for a quick preview of the Philadelphia Eagles. I just can’t take it anymore, this waiting around for the football season to start while our hometown baseball team plays meaningless game after meaningless game.
So even though the Eagles aren’t even halfway through their preseason schedule yet – they will be after tonight’s game against the New England Patriots – I’m focusing on the Birds this morning.
Much like last year at this time, expectations are high for the Eagles entering the 2012 season. This year, though, it’s not because of high-profile off-season acquisitions but rather because the team underperformed last year. This off-season, the focus was on re-signing core players to long-term deals and supplementing their talent with solid players who would improve the team on the defensive side of the ball.
First-round draft pick Fletcher Cox should be a big part of the defensive line rotation. Second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks should grab a starting spot at outside linebacker next to middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Houston Texans. In the back-end, cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha should feel more comfortable – and perform better – at their natural positions with Asante Samuel gone.
All signs point to a promising season with a playoff berth, division title and maybe even Super Bowl run in the cards. But that was the case last year at this time, too. The difference is motivation. The players and coaches know that they must prove themselves on the field, following a brutally disappointing 2011 season that saw them finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
There isn’t another team in the NFC East division with the pure talent that the Eagles have – not the Dallas Cowboys and not even the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Eagles have question marks on the offensive line, with Pro Bowler Jason Peters out for the year, and the health of quarterback Michael Vick is always a concern.
Barring major injuries, though, the Eagles should win the NFC East division and make a serious run in the playoffs. They won’t be without competition from the Cowboys and Giants – and maybe even the Washington Redskins – but in the end, if they play up to their talent level, Philadelphia should be riding high with a division title.
On the MLB
The Philadelphia Phillies (yawn) won their game against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday (yawn), giving them two wins in a row (yawn), and a 2 win, 2 loss four-game series (yawn).
It’s frustrating, maybe even depressing, that August baseball games mean next to nothing in Philadelphia this year. It makes the games hard to watch and hard to follow – at least for me. But in all honesty, these games aren’t meaningless, at least not to the players on the field.
These games are early Spring Training for players like Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Kyle Kendrick who are trying to prove that they deserve to play significant roles on the 2013 roster. These games are extended rehab games for players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay who are all coming off major injuries. These games are mental tests for players like Jimmy Rollins who, at least lately, aren’t used to losing.
While these games may be uninteresting to people like me, they are important building blocks for next season. Don’t believe me? Look back to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006-07. That year, they slumped to fifth place in the division, traded away some high-profile, high-cost talent and missed the playoffs. The games at the end of the season were meaningless in the standings, but they were tryouts and experience for young players and tests of willpower for the veterans. The following season, the Flyers bounced back to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Two years after that, they were in the Stanley Cup Finals.
These games mean something, even if they aren’t any fun to watch.