John Smallwood: Will Eagles deliver this time or is this just more talk?

Posted: June 15, 2012

IT'S BEEN an eventful offseason for the Eagles — one of the most ever during the Andy Reid era.

Through trades, free-agent signings and the draft, they addressed several needs.

Contract extensions to wide receiver DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy solved their most pressing in-house concerns.

The rookie minicamp and offseason training activities went smoothly and, on Thursday, the Birds completed their final mandatory minicamp practice before training camp opens at Lehigh University in July.

Oh, yeah, and after 12 years, team president Joe Banner voluntarily decided to step down and become a strategic adviser, leaving little doubt that head coach Andy Reid has consolidated his power as football grand pooh-bah.

None of that matters.

The Eagles have had big offseasons before. Last year, they brought in a crew of high-tier free-agent talent, making them an "on-paper" favorite to challenge for the Super Bowl.

We all know how that ended up once they slipped on the pads and things started for real.

"These last 3 days were set up so that when we hit Lehigh, we hit it running," Reid said Thursday after the close of minicamp. "It's learning. There's no contact. It's the precision of your pass game. Your coverage, the combination of your coverage.

“We need fundamentals and tackling, but we need to do that live. There is still a lot we have to work on, but the frame of mind of this football team, if they carry it over to Lehigh, we'll be fine."

Honestly, is that anymore than just talk?

The Eagles were in T-shirts and shorts and there was less contact allowed than in flag football.

Anything that looked good the last 3 days must be measured by the fact that the Eagles did things at about a third of the speed and with no contact.

That's not the football that will get things done come the fall.

Really, it's just the waiting game now.

Of course, we'll still talk about them — they are the Eagles, after all. But unless something unexpected occurs, the conversations will simply be a rehash of what we've discussed the past several months.

Can Michael Vick evolve as a quarterback, stop taking unnecessary risks, stay healthy for 16 games?

With a year of experience, plus a normal offseason that included minicamps and OTAs, is second-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo better prepared to overcome his shaky debut?

Will the addition of former Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks boost a deflated linebacking corps that created so much angst, frustration and misery?

Will a happy Jackson be a re-engaged Jackson, now that his contract concerns are behind him — at least until he thinks he's underpaid again?

Is rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox really the impact steal of the draft that slipped to the Eagles?

All those things will make for interesting conversations, but we won't start to get any answers until Sunday, Sept. 9, when the Eagles open the 2012 season at Cleveland against the Browns.

Each year since Reid took the Eagles to the playoffs in his second season, we've heard talk about how this would be the year that they Eagles finally brought home a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Each year, the Eagles performance failed to cash the check their talk had written.

"We've got all the pieces in place," Vick said. "It seems like everything is there for us.

“What I say is, this team is in a position to make a run?…?It takes years to put a team together. When you finally get to that moment, you're like “OK, here we go. Let's go get it."

That sounds good, almost as good as the "Gold Standard" or the "Dream Team."

And it gets the Birds as close to a parade down Broad Street as the others did.

It's interesting that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to end the front-office power struggle in favor of Reid.

Many took Lurie's comments after the disappointing 2011 season to mean that Reid was in a "Super Bowl or Bust" scenario.

That certainly doesn't seem to be the case now.

Thirteen seasons without a championship for a coach seems like a long time, but Lurie appears to be as enamored with Reid as the day he feels he discovered him as a quarterback's coach for the Green Bay Packers.

At this point, Reid appears to be a lot closer to joining the legacy of a Bud Grant or Marv Levy — great coaches who never won a Super Bowl — than Bill Walsh, who built the San Francisco dynasty Lurie swore by when he purchased the Eagles.

At this point, nothing Reid can do will satisfy Eagle fans except win a Super Bowl.

Nothing else will do, not a division title, not a deep run into the playoffs, not even another NFC Championship.

The Eagles are in the ultimate all-or-nothing scenario. We won't how they'll contend with that until things start for real in September.— n

Contact John Smallwood @smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, visit www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.

|
|
|
|
|