Chef Spouse and I made the pilgrimage to the Goodman Stadium at Lehigh University Friday, Aug. 6, thus fulfilling both this year's New Year's resolution and a life-long dream. And it truly felt like a pilgrimage -- due to major storms in the DC area, it took me more than an hour and a half to cover the nine miles between my office and my house, and things didn't get any better Friday, as we hit an hour of just sitting there (literally - we turned the car off) on the Northeast Extension due to an accident and then, when we approached Bethlehem, it became apparent that Chef Spouse had gotten directions *to Lehigh* rather than to the stadium. I should've known we were in trouble when I asked him about directions that morning and he'd gotten directions to Lehigh, PA, rather than to Bethlehem. Important tip: ask more precise questions about whether or not Chef Spouse has directions to the ACTUAL destination next time.
If you want deep coverage of training camp, you've definitely come to the wrong place. I love the Eagles, I love to write about the Eagles, but they don't know me from Adam (more on that below). You want opinions from people with stuff like "credentials" and "access" and "this is their full time job"? Check out Bleeding Green Nation and Iggles Blog (the new home of the fantastic Tommy Lawlor, who's also syndicated here). I don't have that kind of time. Or level of professionalism.
So here's what I saw (in between talking to Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom and You-Two-Calm-Down-or-I'm-Turning-Off-the-TV Dad, who came with us on Saturday. I convinced Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom to ditch a bridal shower. Why would you want to go to a bridal shower when there's football to be watched?):
Kolb is not... is not... I can't bear to say his name. I am NOT talking about Donovan. I'm still at "denial" in the stages of grief. The current Redskins ad campaign featuring McNabb? Clearly an elaborate practical joke.
Moving on, I did see some good connections between Kolb and Celek on Friday. On Saturday, he had some good completions with Peanut for like 60+ yards, some good hookups with Maclin for more like 30 yards, and some very nice short passes to Avant over the middle.
Speaking of Avant, I think he is going to have a breakout year (and I'm not the only one), which is a good thing, since I only have a jersey for 1 active player (Trent Cole), so I need to pick another one up ASAP. Avant's currently in the lead. Kolb likes the short pass (unlike his predecessor), and Avant is Mr. Hands at that distance.
I thought Vick looked bad. I expected him to have improved his ability to complete passes in the off-season, and I was sorely mistaken. Worse, rather than going through his reads, he kept taking off running. Now, he did look faster than last year, but all I could think was: "You're wearing the red jersey, donkey! Stop running! No one is going to hit you! Throw some passes for chrissakes!"
Number 3 QB Mike Kafka looked REALLY bad. I'd be surprised if I saw him complete even a half dozen passes. Yikes.
The defense is kind of an unknown, although it was really good to see Stewart Bradley out there and his knee seems fine. We picked up Marlin Jackson, and he didn't even manage to make it TO training camp. Ernie Simms was the big off-season signing, and he looked good, at least in practice. Asante Samuel still can't seem to tackle (then again, it was training camp). And if you look at the current roster, there are a LOT of rookies.
It was interesting to see the kinds of drills they run: blocking kicks using soccer balls, linebackers trying to cover skittering balls, the kickers throwing to simulate punt returns, etc.
So back to that whole "they don't know me from Adam" thing. I mentioned that there are a LOT of rookies at training camp, and a lot of missing familiar faces. I was having the whole "I don't know who these guys ARE" experience. And it hit me: I have a one-way relationship with the team. I know, late realization, but it really struck home when I was looking at all the new names on the backs of jerseys (54!...is Brandon Graham?!? Who the hell is that?!?). Time to start stalking a whole new crowd.
I thought Andy looked a little thinner. I have a theory: he stress eats. Which means he loses weight in the off-season, only to fall prey to the siren song of the Tastykakes once guys start screwing up or getting injured or both.
One thing that was really cool is that you can get pretty up close and person with the players, many of whom turn out to be really nice guys. There are official autograph signings after the morning practices, and it's a lottery system and it's all regimented and it's only a few players and whatnot. But a lot of the guys go to the edge of the field after both morning and afternoon practices and will sign anything you shove at them - or take pictures with you. And they're kind of like normal people - I mean, they aren't like Godzilla to your screaming Japanese person - only amazingly ripped normal people.
I also got to meet up with long-time blog fan rocketman for a beer after Friday's practice, which was nice. Even though he's really a 49ers fan. But I forgive him.
My tips to have a Snarktacular Training Camp (aka, "What I'd do differently next time"):
- Go to Philly for flight night
- Spend the night with the 'rents (You might not have that option. On the other hand, Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom is REALLY nice. She might let you stay.)
- Drive up from WEST CHESTER (rather than DC) Friday morning
- Stay over in Bethlehem Friday night and hit Musikfest
- Buy a team football
- Bring a Sharpie
- Don't worry about the "autograph rules"
Check out all the snaps on Flickr.
Next up? First preseason game against the Jaguars...on Chef Spouse's 40th birthday.
And a final note - Brees is on the cover of Madden 11. He's a dead man. Want to start an over/under pool on whether he survives the preseason?