A 'special' - not a 'dream' - team

Every preseason in the NFL, with hope unbridled, it's Super Bowl or bust. Cliches are tossed around, buzz words and phrases are used to encapsulate a team, and story lines are manufactured.

Last year, after Donovan McNabb and a cast of veterans were shown the NovaCare door, it was Kevin Kolb and the "Young Guns" that were going to lead the Eagles to Canaan. Oops. That narrative lasted all of a month and a half. Kolb suffered a concussion in the opener, Michael Vick assumed the controls and the season was turned on its head.

This year, after the Eagles blitzed the NFL with an unprecedented flurry of free agent signings, the Eagles became the league's version of the "Dream Team" when a freshly-inked Vince Young uttered those unfortunate words. Young, unkowingly, teed up a narrative for the media to sell on a 24-hour loop.

I have done over two dozen interviews with national and regional radio stations over the last few weeks and the first question in most cases has to do with the Eagles as "media darlings" and the self-proclaimed "Dream Teamers." I always make it a point to put Young's comment in context and how he is just one of many Eagles players and coaches. For the most part, the Eagles that I've covered for three seasons are a fairly modest group.

Young was an Eagle -- a backup, no less -- for all of a half day and suddenly he's the spokesman for Andy Reid and company. (I wish I could repeat what one person, who also worked with Young in Tennessee, had to say about the quarterback's slip.) Vick would never put a target that large on the Eagles.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Nnamdi Asomugha is as measured a speaker as I've ever encountered in an NFL player. So when the cornerback was asked following the Eagles' 13-6 preseason win over the Ravens whether he had a sense of how good the Eagles could potentially be, I took note. The Eagles should have given Asomugha the podium before Young that Saturday almost two weeks ago, because he gave an answer that was both confident and unassuming. 

"Yeah, I definitely have a sense," Asomugha said Thursday night. "I've had three practices and a preseason game, and obviously we're talented -- it's laid out all over the place and everyone sees it and the coaching is great here as well. So, we could be really special. I think we have a great opportunity to do some big things this year. But with those expectations, you have to put in a little more focus, so it may not be as easy as other people are expecting it to be. We still have a lot of work to do."

Indeed. There are still at least 19 games to be played. There are still a variety of issues -- the offensive line learning Howard Mudd's teachings, the lack of depth at defensive tackle, a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo, a very young linebacker corp, Jeremy Maclin's health, DeSean Jackson's contract situation, a rookie kicker and punter -- and when you spell them out like that you might think this was a 5-11 team.

But it's almost never as bad as it seems in training camp. And the same can be said from the opposite perch.

"It's awesome. It's awesome," Vick said of the Eagles' chemistry. "I wish every guy could make this team and be a part of it. But yeah, we definitely have something special and this was by far one of the best training camps that I had, one of the best teams that I ever felt that I've been a part of and I enjoy each and every teammate that I have in the locker room."

Reporters aren't allowed in the locker room at Lehigh University. We'll get our chance to sniff out the chemistry in a week when the Eagles return to the NovaCare. It will be a very different vibe with stalwarts like Quintin Mikell and David Akers gone, but general manager Howie Roseman and Reid really did a fine job bringing in new blood that won't be disruptive (well, except for maybe Young).

"When you bring in a bunch of new guys you never know how they're going to take to the locker room or how they're going to fit in," tight end Brent Celek said. "But ... the guys that [the front office] brought in are top-notch guys -- they are on the field, but off the field, as well. And the fact that we all just gel so well together on and off the field, I think that's what makes us so special."

There's that word again. (Full disclosure: I brought up the word "special" to Celek because of what Asmougha and Vick had said.) 

"You can have a bunch of guys with a lot of talent on the same team and not get anywhere because no one gets along," Celek continued. "But when you got guys that get along and want to be great together and want to have something special as a team like this, then you got something."

Something, maybe, you can dream about.