By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun and Chris Murray Report
After struggling through last season’s mediocre 8-8 record, the Philadelphia Eagles have nowhere to go but up or else.
Team owner Jeffrey Lurie has made it clear in both the offseason and in his recent state of the team address that anything less than the playoffs, heads are surely going to roll including that of head coach Andy Reid.
“Well 8-8 itself isn’t good enough. None of us are shooting for 8-8. Nobody in this building is shooting for 8-8 so I’m all in on that,” Reid said.
The Eagles have had the full offseason and training camp to come together as a unit. But will all that translate into team capable of getting to the postseason and possibly going to the Super Bowl.?
The one worry that seems to stick in the crawl of Eagles fans is the health of quarterback Michael Vick. The concerns are justifiable because injuries including bruised ribs that limited the amount of snaps he took during the preseason.
But Reid insists that Vick and the offense will be ready roll in Sunday’s season-opener in Cleveland against the Browns and that he’s not worried about Vick not being in sync with the Eagles offense.
“He has enough experience where I expect him to go in and perform well. I think we got a good base game plan in today,” Reid said. “I expect him to go out and play and play well.”
Vick said he has been feeling much better since hurting his ribs in last month’s preseason game against the New England Patriots. If anything, the time off may have been more beneficial to him because it allowed to get rest and recover.
“I feel good going into this game. I feel like I’m 100 percent, and I don’t really have any nagging injuries. I think I’m fully recovered. The last two weeks have really helped me get there. I’m just ready to go,” Vick said.
Vick will certainly have his share of his weapons starting with running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The offensive line will come into the season with one new face in 6-foot-9 inch, 330-pound left tackle King Dunlap who is starting in place of injured Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters.
“I’ve got trust in [T] King [Dunlap] and he’s been here a while. I know him,” Reid said. “He’s played well in the preseason here, and the opportunities that he had to play before, I thought, were quality starts for him and opportunities for him, when he came in when either [T] Jason [Peters] went down or one of the other people went down. I’ve got confidence in him.”
With the exception of Dunlap, the Eagles starters have played together long enough to know that their main job without question is to protect their injury-prone quarterback. Center Jason Kelce said the team is not making the protection of Vick an individual cause celeb, it’s something that goes without saying.
“(Vick) is our guy and our job is to protect him and we’re paid money to protect him,” Kelce said. “We’re always rallying around Mike. To say that we’re individualizing Mike because he had a rough preseason, I don’t think so. We’re just ready to go with Mike as our starting quarterback.”
With last season and the offseason OTAs and training camp behind, the Eagles defense is looking to avoid falling into early hole as it did last year. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said the defense has a better feel for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s Wide-Nine defensive scheme and for each other.
“We’re a lot more comfortable and not with just the scheme, it’s with the players, it’s just relationships with everything,” Jenkins said. “We’re a lot more settled in and we’re approaching as a team now and this how we got to play.”
The glaring weakness that most football observers point to in the Eagles defenses is both safety positions with strong safety Nate Allen and free safety Kurt Coleman. But Allen said he’s not buying into the hype that they are somehow the weak link in the Birds defense.
“We hear about it and it’s in the back of our minds, but we can’t really worry about that with all that’s being said on the outside with the media and with the fans,” Allen said. “We just focus on what’s going on here and doing what we have to do to take care of each other.”