It was just about a year ago that Chip Kelly’s first training camp as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles got under way – the first time since 1998 that someone other than Andy Reid was in charge. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of anticipation about what the former Oregon Ducks head man would bring to the table, including questions about how a high-energy college offense would translate to the pro game, and whether perceived No. 1 signal caller Michael Vick was really the right fit for Kelly’s offense. All of that amid expectations by even the most die-hard fans that the Birds would finish about 6-10 or – at best – 8-8 in Kelly’s first pro season.
What a difference a year makes. Vick once again couldn’t stay healthy (and is now an ex-Eagle), Nick Foles took over and had a season for the ages, and the Eagles finished with a 10-6 record and a division title, plus the trip to the postseason that went with it. So, as Kelly & Co. open their second training camp, the stakes are significantly higher, with the Eagles an overwhelming favorite to win a second-straight NFC East crown – and fans now wondering if this team just might be good enough to earn a trip to Glendale, Arizona, for Super Bowl XLIX.
Sure, the start of another NFL training camp is always exciting, but Eagles fans this year seem to be more fired up than in any July since back in 2004 when the team had a new wide receiver who was known to most football watchers by his initials, T.O. And, yes, that season did culminate with the Eagles’ second Super Bowl appearance.
All of the optimism about the 2014 season is understandable. LeSean McCoy set a franchise record with a league-leading 1,607 rushing yards and 2,146 yards from scrimmage last year and is now arguably the best running back in the league. Foles put up some fantastic numbers in his sophomore season: a 64% completion rate, 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions, and a passer rating of 119.2 – the third-best in league history. The Birds’ defense showed marked improvement in the second half of 2013. And it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the NFC East, against whom the Eagles will play six of their 16 regular-season games, looks to be pretty mediocre. (In a recent Philadelphia Daily News readers poll, 88% of respondents predicted the Birds would win 10 or more games again this season.)
As training camp opens, there’s plenty to pay attention to for Eagles Nation.