“The Eagles have changed.
Since the end of the 2008 season, the team has parted ways with the building blocks that took it to regular playoff appearances and one Super Bowl. In their place is a team that is young and light on experience, but, according to several players, also closer, energized, and eager to make a new mark in Philadelphia.
As with any big change, there are fewer bedrock certainties – such as near-annual playoff appearances – but also fresh possibilities for individuals and the team.
“This is a time when you want to make a name for yourself,” safety Quintin Mikell said. “You want to create a legacy.”
Of the 80 players on the training-camp roster and two draft picks waiting to sign, 56 joined the NFL in 2007 or later. Ten arrived in Philadelphia that year or after.
Gone are stalwart tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. Gone is defensive leader Brian Dawkins. Gone is do-everything back Brian Westbrook. And, most tellingly, gone is Donovan McNabb, who for 11 years symbolized the Andy Reid era.
These revamped Eagles open training camp Monday with a rising core of young offensive weapons and a mix of youth and newcomers throughout the defense, including a rookie in Dawkins’ free-safety spot.
Only two players, Mikell and David Akers, remain from the active roster that reached the 2005 Super Bowl.
“That team, the Super Bowl team, was dismantled and it’s a new team,” Mikell said.
Talk to players about the generational shift and three themes emerge: energy, unity, and a college-like feel.
When he arrived in Philadelphia as an undrafted rookie, Mikell joined a team with a well-established foundation and said he didn’t quite feel that he was a part of the group that had already been together for years.
“I feel a lot closer with the group of guys that we have right now,” Mikell said. “It’s almost like a college atmosphere, where everybody’s been hanging out together. There’s no, quote, superstars or stars.”
Several other players echoed his thoughts. Stewart Bradley, Kevin Kolb, and Mikell each said they could feel the team coming together during off-season workouts, when nearly every player came to the NovaCare Complex.
“Everybody’s kind of looking out for one another. Nobody’s above the rest,” Kolb said.
The college feel he and others cited seems appropriate as the team arrives at Lehigh University for three weeks of life together in dorms.
“We’re all kind of a young group working together to be great one day,” Kolb said.
Of course, with the energy and excitement of youth comes inexperience.
The roster is dotted with high-profile players still in their early 20s who will be leaned on for big performances this year.”