As Sam Bradford continued to fire perfect passes to all of his receivers – Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Trey Burton, Brent Celek – the Eagles season expectations grew a little more.
Bradford’s perfect night at Lambeau has set off a wave of hope for the quarterback that carries so much of the Eagles season.
While it is true that any success the Eagles have will rest on Bradford’s health, the potential of having a healthy Bradford brings on greater expectations.
So far this preseason, the Eagles have scored 115 points. In Bradford’s latest start, he had three touchdowns and there were 25 points up on the board by the close of the first quarter.
There is certainly reason to get excited. But there are reasons to be wary as well.
The pending success still rests on the shoulders – and knees – of Bradford. So who shows up? The excelling quarterback that warranted the first overall pick in the draft or the injury-prone player that can’t seem to find a way to make a lasting impact on a season?
So far, it has been Bradford at his best.
Health in general is still a big question mark. But consider that every team in the NFC has suffered an injury to a player that will be difficult to overcome and replace in the lineup. The Eagles are on track to start the season with a healthy roster.
Another reason to be wary is the sense of positivity. It’s very easy to look at the Eagles and think those two magic words in football. I wouldn’t tell you you’re wrong either.
That said, it is the preseason and three weeks into a 23-week grind to that heralded game.
Expectations early can do one of two things: motivate or engulf a team. The Eagles have been on both ends of the spectrum.
In 2004, the Eagles were the talk of the town, having just signed the big-name wide receiver many believed they needed in Terrell Owens, and with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and a stifling defense on the other end, it was a team that looked poised for a Super Bowl run.
The finally made it over the hump, winning the NFC Championship game for the first time in four consecutive attempts. They fell to the New England Patriots by just three points in Super Bowl XXXIX.
On the other hand, the 2011 Eagles had put together a team of similar depth, similar build, similar expectations. And then the season started.
The team that made so many adjustments to the defense, signing one all-pro player after another, and being called the “Dream Team” by Vince Young, was 4-8 after 12 games, already out of playoff contention. They finished the season with four straight wins to salvage an even 8-8 record.
So expectations can have both effects. There is a thing about this team that tilts the scale closer to the 2004 team.
This team seems very positive and upbeat.
You look at the new players — Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, the list truly goes on – and all of them have discussed a sense of newness, the feeling that a change of scenery and working with the innovative Chip Kelly will revitalize them and put them in a position to succeed.
Win-loss records can be deceiving, especially in the preseason. Very seldom do you look and say that a team is good or bad based on preseason record. It takes an eye test. The Eagles eye test and record go hand in hand here. That 3-0 record isn’t fooling anyone. This team is a team to be reckoned with in the regular season.
Thursday’s final preseason game will come and go without much fanfare. In fact, given that most of the starters are done seeing the field until the season opener in Atlanta on Sept. 14, the Eagles may not even win the game.
But it hardly matters. The excitement is already there because of the way Bradford, Murray and the rest convincingly had their way with the Green Bay Packers.
The calendar has flipped to September, and with it, the start of the NFL regular season is closing in quickly. And the Eagles look ready to embrace the expectations and deliver a memorable season.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.