07 August 2006

It's the Pre-Season, Baby!

First of all, welcome to the 2006-2007 season!

Well, OK, the season hasn't officially started yet, but I ate a burger and drank a Yuengling and watched a game last night, so that's close enough for me. Is it just me, or is the off season too damn long? Chef Spouse was so cute - the Sunday after the Super Bowl, he looked at me in the early afternoon with sad puppy eyes and said, "What are we going to do now?" Indeed, my friend, indeed.

We didn't beat the Raiders, but as far as I can tell, Andy Reid has never given a damn about winning pre-season games. It's all about letting EVERYONE play. I think I saw Vince Papale out there sacking Aaron Brooks at one point. Speaking of, mark your calendars for August 25 and the premiere of Invincible. From what I've heard, Marky Mark's Philly accent sucks (duh! He's a Southie!), but his athletic chops are pretty believable. And Greg Kinnear looks surprisingly like Vermeil.

Anyway, on to the real purpose of the pre-season: eliminating the lingering stink of last season.

The way I see it, we had 4 major problems last year:

1. Distractions
2. Injuries
3. Lousy offensive second string
4. Our D checked out by mid-season

So is there any reason to think these problems have been addressed?

In reverse order: we've extended Dawk for two more years. He wants to close out his career in Philly, and it's looking like that's going to happen. So that's locked up. Trotter doesn't figure to be going anywhere. He seems to have learned his lesson with that whole 'Skins mess a few years back. Lito Sheppard is healthy again, and hopefully Sheldon Brown will be able to play more consistently. On the D line last year, Jevon Kearse was MIA after a terrific 2004-2005 season. Maybe his intensity level wasn't quite there, but I think it's more likely that the right side of the line held no threat so opposing teams could jam him with the double team every play. Picking up Darren Howard from the Saints should help with that. Some of the young guys are getting more experienced, and we've got a little more depth on D this year. For a long time we had a top ranked D. I'm cautiously hopeful that we will again.

I'm not so hopeful about our offensive second string. Jeff Garcia was terrible and Koy Detmer was worse. I hear Vinny Testaverde's available, though. We still don't have a number one receiver. We're still short on backs. And Jackson's a new center, and Hank Fraley's day is probably passed. Which brings us to...

Injuries. That first offensive drive was a thing of beauty. The O line actually created some holes for Westy to run through, and run he did (the guy's a munchkin - y'all don't need BIG holes, just a little somethin-somethin for him to slip through). Come to think of it, we actually had a running game. Balanced offense. What a concept. D-Mac looks 100%, relaxed and fit. Everything went perfectly (against the sad sack Raiders, but still). As long as we can stay healthy, we still have - I firmly believe - the class offense of the NFC East at the least, if not the whole conference. But if key players start going down, we're in trouble, at least based on what I saw last night. Sure, there aren't many teams in the NFL that can keep on winning after losing their starting QB. Our remarkable run to the NFC Championship game in the 2003-2004 season on the back of third-stringer AJ Feeley is just the exception that proves the rule. And I think by the end of last season, every single one of our offensive starters had been out for at least a game. As the first team goes, so goes the franchise. Hey, the fact that they were on the field for about 45 minutes of every game may have had something to do with the defensive breakdown. But we're lacking offensive depth in a big way, which is probably really going to bite us at some point. D-Mac seems good to go, as does Akers (that 55 yard FG was a record for the Hall of Fame game) and Westy. Pinkston's Achilles is still twitchy, and we have a lot of young guys who might be great some day, but it's still pretty early to tell.

All that said, I'm still feeling pretty positive about the upcoming season because the biggest distraction of all is The Tuna's problem now. And that's enough to put a smile on my face any day. None of the national commentators are even picking us for the playoffs, and that's fine by me. We have a softer schedule than we've had in years, and with TO and his antics elsewhere, hopefully we'll be able to fly below the radar and concentrate on playing some football. That is, if TO doesn't get murdered at the Linc on October 8th.

I wrote recaps all last year for a private group. I'll be posting them up here so y'all can get a sense of how I roll.

And in closing, in case you missed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk_KBtgBCcM.

Up next: Browns in Cleveland this Thursday, August 10 at 7:30 pm.

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!


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