Five thoughts from being up-close and personal at Eagles training camp:
1) Despite early injuries to the defensive line, the Eagles’ front seven looks vastly improved from a year ago. With new acquisition DeMeco Ryans entrenched at middle linebacker and first-round pick Fletcher Cox joining Jason Babin and Trent Cole on the D-line, the Birds should be much better on defense in 2012.
2) With a hefty long-term contract extension signed, DeSean Jackson looks like a new man compared to a year ago. Looking loose and happy instead of disgruntled, Jackson appears poised to return to being the big threat Eagles fans became accustomed to in his first two years in the league.
3) Quarterback Michael Vick looks to be in the best shape of his career, physically and mentally. The newlywed signal-caller is hoping to bounce back from a poor 2011 season that featured too many critical turnovers. Eagles fans should expect to see the Vick they hoped they were getting when he signed a $100 million contract extension before last season.
4) The biggest concern for the Eagles and their fans is protecting Vick, who is prone to punishing hits when he takes off downfield. A stout, vaunted offensive line will provide plenty of protection, even without star left guard Jason Peters, who will miss the season with a torn Achilles. Todd Herremans is a rock, Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins should be much better in year two with the Birds, and Jason Kelce is already one of the best centers in the league after his rookie season. But seriously, Jason, what’s with that crazy beard? Kelce hasn’t shaved since February and vows to keep it that way until the season ends…hopefully in February.
5) This team is not a legitimate Super Bowl threat…yet. All of last year’s hype ended in disappointment, something the team seems to want to avoid by keeping a lower profile this summer. In practice, they look to be among the best in the NFC. On the field? We’ll soon find out. ••
Sports editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org