Eagles placing big bets on upcoming season

Posted: September 07, 2011

ALL IN.

It has become shorthand for what this Eagles season is about, with the acquisition of big-name players and $230 million spent on contracts in 5 weeks.

While the goal of winning the franchise's first championship since 1960 is clear, the process to get there is never easy to navigate.

"Whatever it takes to try to get there, that's what we're going to do," team president Joe Banner said recently. "I want the players to feel like that's the goal. If we fall short of that, then we didn't hit the goal."

Since last season ended with an interception in a playoff loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay, decisions have been made (sandwiched around the lockout) to put the Eagles on the path to a title.

Overhauling the coaching staff, especially on defense. Selecting a 26-year-old left tackle with their first-round pick and hoping he would be the starting right guard. Adding two big-name cornerbacks to join All-Pro Asante Samuel. Beefing up the defensive line with free-agent acquisitions Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. Replacing veterans with rookies at placekicker and punter.

"The expectations are high internally as well as externally, and I think that's a good place to be," Banner said.

He disputes a bit the notion of "all in," saying it implies a short window for success. The Eagles had the second-youngest team in the NFL at the start of the 2009 season, with an average age of 26.5 years. That figure dropped slightly at the start of the 2010 season to just less than 26. They begin this year with a group of still-young skill players on offense and only five starters 30 or older, including 31-year-old Michael Vick, who just signed a $100 million extension.

Over the next nine pages, the Daily News will examine the Eagles' "all in" approach and take a close look at five defining moves that could help determine whether this becomes a championship season.

"We definitely have one of the most talented teams in the league and it's a matter of bringing it all together," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl with the Packers last season. "You just don't put talent on the field and win because of that. You have to build the camaraderie, the trust, the work ethic, everything has to come together."

Does "all in" mean "all win"? The journey begins Sunday in St. Louis.

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