Still, idle time throughout the off-season invited scrutiny, analysis, and projections. And when the Philadelphia Eagles fell under the off-season microscope, it was a field day of “fix this” and “replace that”. But for the most part, the analysis was designed to sell viewership, and not serve as a template to take this team to the next level. Nobody wants to read an analysis that says “nothing to change, just give them time to grow and come back and see!” But that is exactly what a majority of this team needs.
Much like an offense, a defense relies upon trust, responsibility, and teamwork. Players who have played together know what their teammates will do and act accordingly. Many of the big plays given up in 2013 were miscommunications in the backfield. A defense must react to the offense as the play unfolds. In a first year defense, much of that communication did not take place as players were frantically assessing their own role, let alone reminding teammates of the proper adjustments.
The theme for the 2014 off-season is nothing new to the 2013 off-season. But with a team and coaches knowing far more than a year ago, the tweaks were more precise, less “grand” in nature and far more subtle. The players are adaptable – flexible enough to offer skillsets of multiple defensive tasks. The players bring a new element of fierceness – whether that is a strong knowledge of the game and the ability to articulate, or a courageous and fearless style to the field. But most of all, the players bring humble confidence. What is that? It’s the “We’re from Philadelphia and we fight!” persona. It’s a blue collar mentality. It’s a work hard, play hard attitude, the kind of attitude that embraces the hard training style of the head coach who has already placed the Eagles back into playoff discussions in one year.
So when players showed up to the OTA’s in late May 2014, some were surprised that the guys came at virtually ideal playing weight for their position, arriving with cannons for arms and a matter of fact look that suggests the work hard part of the script is now officially underway. So much for all of the experts suggesting upgrades for this Eagles team in the off-season. The upgrades HAVE arrived. They are our own players with a year under their belts, fire in their eyes, and an appetite for winning in their guts. If nothing else has changed in this NFL, this team is showing up in mid-season form already.
And when you place THAT kind of team in the hands of Chip Kelly, I can only guess that the playbook will be wide open, the offense will be on speed dial, and the defense will snuff and frustrate opposing offenses.
In short, 2014 should be a good year to be an Eagles fan. How do I know? An angry bird told me, that’s how.