Eagles have positive outlook, but they'll need time to prepare for season

Posted: June 12, 2011

Jeffrey Lurie would never tip his hand, never reveal the Eagles' master plan, and certainly never discuss the intricacies of the NFL's business at such a tumultuous time as now.

But asked a simple question last week about how he thinks the Eagles will look in 2011, Lurie gave an incredibly optimistic answer, especially given that there is no new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players, and plenty of speculation that there might not be one soon.

"We're ready to roll when there's a new league year, and we're all very excited both about the opportunities for free agency and whatever other opportunities exist," Lurie said. "We've been ready to roll for a while. We've got a great plan in place, and you never know what you can accomplish, but I know we're going to be both aggressive and hopefully make the right decisions.

"It's frustrating to be a team that's poised to make some of the moves we want to make and not be able to. I think we'll be very excited when the league year starts."

Reading between the lines, it sounds as if Lurie has given his staff the green light to spend big money once free agency starts. Despite a recent CBS Sportsline report to the contrary, their plans could involve Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a press corner who would give the Eagles two of the better corners in the NFL. Asomugha will be expensive, but he would be an invaluable upgrade for the Eagles, who did not find a suitable corner to replace Sheldon Brown opposite Asante Samuel.

It also sounds as if the Eagles could look for another impact defensive lineman. And Kevin Kolb gives the Eagles the added flexibility to try to acquire a defensive playmaker through a trade.

The defense certainly is the worrisome part of this team. With a new defensive coordinator who has not coached on that side of the ball in more than two decades, and with only two position coaches returning from last season, the Eagles needed the minicamps. With those gone, they will desperately need some semblance of a training camp.

The less time they have for Juan Castillo to implement his system and Jim Washburn to teach the linemen his techniques, the harder it is going to be for a unit that struggled mightily down the stretch last season.

Andy Reid has his normal preseason plan in the event there is a full training camp and exhibition game schedule, and then he has four contingency plans in the event the labor dispute stretches past July, through August and, God forbid, into September and October. There is a plan for an abbreviated training camp. There is a plan for no training camp. And there is a plan for a firestorm, which would potentially be a week of practice and then the first regular-season game.

Under that last scenario, there would be some hideous football played in the early weeks of the season. Teams with veteran defensive players and veteran defensive coaches who have worked together for a while presumably would have the upper hand. The Eagles certainly don't have the latter.

What they do have is an offense that is built on the big play. If things break right and Michael Vick is able to get his timing down quickly with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, they could strike quickly. It is asking a lot, but then again, Vick started quickly out of the gate last year after not having an inordinate amount of time with the first-string offense.

If he is right physically and ready to go under the doomsday, one-week-to-prepare scenario, Vick could be a handful for rusty defenses. If the timing is there, big strikes could turn into big points, and the Eagles could be off and running.

It of course is all speculation now, all fodder for discussion as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith and others on both sides of the labor dispute we hope continue to meet in private this week. The discussions can't be anything but positive, particularly because so little information about what is being discussed has leaked out.

Gone is the rhetoric of the last few months. Typically in labor disputes, when things get quiet, deals get done. There are 32 coaches who are hoping something gets done quickly, so that they can gather their teams and try to make up for all of the time that has been lost this offseason.

The Eagles are no different. Reid would much rather have his team together at Lehigh University than have the players scattered across the country, working out on their own. It is nice that many of the Eagles players have cared enough to practice together in New Jersey, but there is little practical value to it. It looks good and might help with team chemistry, but nothing has been gained from a football perspective.

The real work goes on in training camp. The Eagles defense certainly needs the time. To be sharp out of the gate, the offense will, too.

Lurie has big plans for this season, plans that very well could include Plaxico Burress as yet another offensive weapon. But the Eagles cannot get started with their plans until this labor mess is resolved. The more time they have, the better, because they certainly are going to need it.


Contact columnist Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064, afox@phillynews.com,

or @AshleyMFox on Twitter.

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