Eagles try to shake off nightmare

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson Wednesday at Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in...

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson Wednesday at Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. (JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

BETHLEHEM, PA. - The Dream Team was a nightmare. Maybe The Dynasty will fare better.

The Philadelphia Eagles began last season full of bravado, amid great expectations.

Then backup QB Vince Young infamously tempted fate with this pre-season assessment that head coach and head of football operations, Andy Reid, had amassed a "Dream Team."

The rude wakeup calls came early, then often. The Eagles started out 1-4, lost dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick for three games with a ribs injury, and finished 8-8 — out of the playoffs.

Hopes and expectations are high again that the Eagles will bounce back and make the playoffs.

Vick pulled a page out of Young's book last week and made another prediction that probably has Eagles fans wincing:

"I think we have a chance to develop a dynasty."

Well, first things first. And that starts with taking better care of the ball.

The Eagles didn't stink last year. Often far from it. But they turned the ball over more times (25) than any other team in the NFC. That'll do it.

"Turnovers are the key — giveaway/takeaway," Reid told me after Wednesday morning's training-camp walk-through at Lehigh University, some 60 miles north of Philly.

"We've got to do a better job there — red zone in particular. But, yes, turnovers in general."

Otherwise, the 2011 Eagles actually had a proficient season.

For example, Vick led a dangerous Eagles offence, which rang up more first downs (356) than every other NFC team except the Saints. And only the 49ers and Seahawks in the conference allowed fewer points (328).

Most years, moving the ball that successfully and preventing other teams from scoring to that extent gets you into the playoffs. The Eagles just couldn't stop giving away the ball, and one of the main focuses this year is rectifying that.

"We should do better — we should do a lot better job," Reid said.

Vince Young was actually correct last summer, on base observation. There is indeed a ton of talent here.

Last year's big-name acquisitions included cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — who now anchor the Eagles secondary — and defensive end Jason Babin.

This year's additions plug holes or add to the Eagles' depth, including first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle, former Buffalo Bill Demetress Bell at left offensive tackle (acquired after starter Jason Peters went down in March with a serious Achilles injury) and veteran safety O.J. Atogwe, a Windsor, Ont., native.

Of course, Vick has two of the NFL's most dangerous playmakers at running back and wide receiver, in LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, respectively.

So Reid, of course, prefers to talk about the offensive line. It had two rookies last year, one of whom was Kelowna, B.C., native Danny Watkins.

"It helps to have your offensive line back together," Reid said. "That's where you REALLY want the stability."

Watkins was the Eagles' first-round pick last year, and it appeared he was going to be a bust.

"Danny went through a little spell there early where he kind of took a step back to take a step forward — and he did take that step forward," Reid said. "When he came back in, he played very well for us. And it looks like he's taking another step up this year, so he looks good out here."

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' "wide-nine" defence returns a deep, aggressive line full of playmakers.

The squad hit aggressively in full pads Wednesday, and the depth on the DL was evident.

DE Darryl Tapp told reporters afterward that Reid is running a "tough camp" and players are responding.

"He has been working us, but you have to get ready for the season."

The Eagles hope it won't be another nightmare season. Dream season? Dynasty? Better left unsaid.

 

EAGLES PUNTER GETS WORK VISA IN OTTAWA

Mat McBriar can now kick for the Philadelphia Eagles thanks to a stop earlier this week in Ottawa.

A native of Australia, the punter signed with the Eagles last week, but he needed to renew his work visa after the Dallas Cowboys let him go earlier this year.

So, he flew to Ottawa on Sunday.

"I had an early Monday morning meeting at the U.S. Consulate," McBriar told QMI Agency following Wednesday afternoon's training-camp practice at Lehigh University.

"It went well. They processed my visa yesterday, and it was back to Philly last night."

Why Ottawa?

"It was one of the closer Canadian cities that had a U.S. Consulate," said McBriar, 33, in his thick Aussie accent.

"I walked around the Parliament a little bit. It was pretty neat. I didn't go in the (Rideau) Canal, but I definitely saw that as well. But, yeah, I read up on some Queen Jubilee stuff. It was good."

McBriar will now battle incumbent Chas Henry for the starting punter's job, and already on Wednesday McBriar took the first snaps in short-punt drills.

McBriar had surgery in Februray to correct a lingering nerve problem in his left plant leg. He said he's now 90% healed. Until he's fully healed he is wearing a protective brace.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/

 


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