2011-12 Philadelphia Eagles Complete Training Camp at Lehigh
The Philadelphia Eagles have arguably made the most noise in the league since the NFL lock-out ended a few weeks ago. The team traded back-up QB Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for pro-bowl CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round draft pick in 2012. That move got the ball rolling, and it has yet to stop.
The team signed former pro-bowl QB Vince Young to replace Kolb as Michael Vick’s back up. Looking to bolster the defensive line, the Eagles signed DT Cullen Jenkins and DE Jason Babin. Jenkins had seven sacks last season and Babin recorded a career high 12.5 sacks on his way to the pro bowl.
Already the proud owners of two of the league’s best DB’s, the Eagles shocked the NFL when they signed the prize of this year’s free agent class, DB Nnamdi Asomugha. Very similar to the Phillies signing of Cliff Lee before the 2011 baseball season, Asomugha was expected to either sign with Dallas or New York (Jets). Instead, at the last minute, Philadelphia stepped in and rubbed more salt in the wounds of Texas Rangers and New York Yankees fans that still haven’t fully recovered from the Phillies signing Lee.
With a legitimate back up QB, potentially the best secondary in league history, and a stout defensive line already secured, the Eagles next added a few more weapons for Vick. The team signed former Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown to spell Shady McCoy and signed former New York Giants WR Steve Smith (in a move that shocked the Giants front office).
On paper the Eagles are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl, but for a city and an organization longing for their first ever Super Bowl victory, a paper championship is meaningless. The Eagles players have to go out there on the field and do it.
With only a few short weeks for the team to integrate all of their new players and evaluate their draft picks and undrafted free agent signings, the team has been conducting their annual training camp at Lehigh University over the past few weeks. Several faces from last year have moved on to other teams, most notably LB Stewart Bradley who joined Kolb in Arizona and PK David Akers who spent twelve years with the Eagles (and is the team’s all time leading scorer) who signed with San Francisco after Philadelphia drafted his replacement, Alex Henery, in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
The team played their first pre-season game last Thursday when they hosted the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. While the starters played only briefly, they looked sharp, and the Eagles won.
Today, the team held their final practice at Lehigh (opting to end camp a day early) before they head to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Thursday evening. Head coach Andy Reid has stated that the starters will play for the entire first half.
Lehigh was a total mess today. After heavy rain over the weekend, the already muddy fields turned far worse with the light drizzle and heavy downpours that occurred during the morning walk-through. To say the mud was thick and slick would be a complete understatement. The conditions made it unsafe to practice at anything close to full speed. For the hundreds of fans that showed up today to brave the mud and rain in the hopes of seeing their favorite players (and possibly securing an autograph or photo) it was anything but easy going.
The morning session started just after 8am and continued until around 945am when the team assembled in the center of the field to chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!”. When the team huddle broke, Coach Reid led the players to the barriers that surrounded the playing field so that fans and players could shake hands and exchange high-fives.
When the players were done with the gauntlet of high-fives, many of them stopped just outside the locker room area to sign autographs and conduct media interviews.
From there, the players changed and headed out, looking forward to getting home to spend the night in their own bed (or at least away from Lehigh).
The players that we talked to said that this year’s training camp had a different feel to it due mostly to the long lockout and the discontinuation of two-a-day workouts. With so many new faces in camp, there was a lot of hard work to be done and both the players and coaching staff thought that the team bonded over their time spent at Lehigh.
After returning from Pittsburgh the Eagles will resume practicing at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. Their final two pre-season games will be played at home on August 25th against the Cleveland Browns and on September 1st against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.
The regular season (and road to the Super Bowl) kicks off with two road games (at St. Louis and Atlanta) before the Birds play their first home game in week three against the Giants.
For additional game photos, as well as video interview clips with Trent Cole, Vince Young, and Michael Vick…