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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Birds are Back

Romanticize the day pitchers and catchers report all you want, the first day of Eagles training camp is what brings Philadelphia sports fans back to life. By now the Phillies are usually buried in the standings, the Sixers off-season becomes as disappointing as their season, and Flyers fans think this is their year and are ticked that their team isn’t talked about enough. (Sound familiar?) Finally, we are rescued by the slap of colliding pads in Lehigh, and at least a few die-hards — even after a 6-10 season — whisper about finally seeing a Super Bowl champion in the Eagles.

Despite their off-season slumber, I think the Birds will bounce back this season. My official prediction . . . I know you’re waiting breathlessly . . . will come just before Week #1. That said, I think the over/under of 8 ½ wins I’ve heard is low, assuming they only incur an average amount of injuries (and Donovan McNabb isn’t one of them).

The Eagles essentially have what they want — a personality-less, vanilla roster, no one that will rock the boat, and a few All-Pros leading a bunch of guys they think are on the verge of stardom after the Eagles wisely signed them to long-term, cap-friendly deals. Andy Reid knows the only hint of controversy will be about psycho-yet-damn-good wide out Terrell Owens, and even the Philadelphia media will eventually tire of asking about the attention seeking Owens now that he’s in Dallas. (Won’t they?)

They’ve won this way before, and, yes, even got to the Super Bowl without T.O. My early guess is that the offense will go as far as Brian Westbrook and McNabb take them. After that, there’s just a whole lot of ifs. If Reggie Brown and Jabar Gaffney (a signing I liked) are for real, if they’ve found a play-making tight end in Matt Schobel or L.J. Smith, they could be very good. If they’ve rediscovered a pass rush with Darren Howard and Javon Kearse, a deep playoff run is possible. If Reid remembers how to call a running play, and if McNabb’s psyche isn’t lost forever, that would help, too.

They even have one more thing they love — low expectations. Early on, I think they will exceed those expectations, possibly by a lot, only to break the hearts of Eagle fans in January. (Sound familiar?) But there’s well over a month before anything counts.

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