Eagles look to prove last year was aberration

Were the Philadelphia Eagles underachievers or overhyped last


The Dream Team failed miserably to live up to enormous

expectations, finishing 8-8 only because they won four straight to

end the season. But winning nothing didn’t stop Michael Vick from

saying this summer that the Eagles have the potential to be a


”I know that we are very tough,” Vick said. ”We are a very

tough football team. I know we have guys on this team who care and

who want to win. We’ll go the extra mile to make sure that we have

a great chance of having success.”

The first step to becoming a dynasty is winning one Super Bowl.

That’s something the Eagles have never done. Their last NFL title

came in 1960.

”I think any team is ready to win the Super Bowl,” Vick said.

”I think it’s all about the mindset that is created among the

players and among the coaches. I think, more so than anything, the

players have to be able to come together and put it all together

when we’re out on the field. I’ve said it before that our coaches

can’t play for us. They can only coach us up on what to do. We have

to go out there and execute it, and believe and trust in them.

Usually when we do that, we have success.”

Simply making the playoffs isn’t so easy in the tough NFC


The New York Giants are defending Super Bowl champions, the

Dallas Cowboys have Tony Romo and new talent on defense, and the

Washington Redskins won’t be a pushover with Robert Griffin III at


”You take one play at a time, one practice at a time, you bust

your tail and you work hard, and then good things happen,” coach

Andy Reid said. ”And so that’s what we are going to do and that’s

what I believe in.”

This was a particularly difficult training camp for Reid. His

oldest son, Garrett, was found dead in his dorm room at Lehigh

University on Aug. 6. Garrett Reid was volunteering as a strength

coach with the Eagles and had a friendly relationship with many

players. The team rallied around Reid, and several players

dedicated the season to Garrett.

”Garrett was a brother and friend to us,” All-Pro running back

LeSean McCoy said. ”When Coach Reid and his family are down, we’re

down also. It’s up to us as brothers of his and sons of his to back

him up.”

It could be a make-or-break year for Reid, who enters his 14th

season as coach. Reid has led the Eagles to nine playoff

appearances, six division titles, five NFC championship games and a

Super Bowl loss. But he could be running out of time unless he

delivers that elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Owner Jeffery Lurie admitted days after last season ended that

he thought long and hard about making a change. It became even more

clear that Reid could be on the hot seat when his agent Bob LaMonte

stirred up controversy just a week after Garrett Reid’s death.

LaMonte said Lurie told him ”that as long as he’s the owner of

the Eagles, Andy Reid would be his coach.”

That prompted a quick denial from Lurie.

”As much respect as all of us have for Andy Reid, it is the

nature of the profession that all coaches, executives and players

are evaluated each year,” Lurie said. ”That’s the way we have

always operated. But our focus right now, and I know Andy feels the

same way, is solely on the 2012 season.”

So, this just could be a win-or-else season for Reid.

With Vick, McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy

Maclin, the Eagles have a dynamic offense. But they’ll need Vick to

stay healthy, even though rookie Nick Foles was impressive in the


Vick hurt his thumb in the first game and his ribs in the second

one, ending his August with only 12 snaps. He’s missed three games

each of the last two seasons because of injured ribs.

”He knows that he needs to stay healthy,” Reid said. ”He

still needs to play competitive football though, and aggressive

football. There is just a time and a place for everything in life

and on the football field and he understands that.”

The key to Philadelphia’s success will be a revamped defense

under second-year coordinator Juan Castillo, who struggled after

making the switch from coaching the offensive line.

The Eagles focused on defense throughout the offseason. They

acquired two-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans to fill a major

need. They also drafted three defensive players in the first two

rounds, taking tackle Fletcher Cox in the first round and

linebacker Mychal Kendricks and end Vinny Curry in the second.

”It’s exciting because we have some really good young

players,” Castillo said. ”Some of those young guys have a chance

to help this year.”

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and