x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Eagles ready to fly to top of NFL

There are a lot of new faces to go along with the established veterans with the Philadelphia Eagles, but that has not stopped people from making them a favourite to win the Super Bowl.

Dion Lewis is a rookie but he has impressed the Philadelphia Eagles' coaches with his savvy.
Dion Lewis is a rookie but he has impressed the Philadelphia Eagles' coaches with his savvy.

PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES // With so many new faces in new places, no one quite knew what to expect from the Philadelphia Eagles in the pre-season.

There were holdouts. There were new contracts to be signed by current players. There were new players in camp, but they could not work out right away.

And even with a roster laced with stars on both sides of the ball, there were questions to be answered.

A month later, and Andy Reid, the Philadelphia coach, feels just fine about his crew.

The Eagles, perhaps the most talked about team in the NFL this summer, wrapped up a 3-1 pre-season with a 24-14 victory over the New York Jets at the Meadowlands on Thursday night.

"Are there things we can do better? Absolutely," Reid said. "But we've played pretty well."

Now for the hard part. With Super Bowl expectations, and a target on their back, the NFC East champions are beginning preparations for their regular-season opener on September 11 at St Louis against the Rams.

"We have a lot of work to do. With the new coaches and new players, we're still gelling together," said Asante Samuel, the Eagles cornerback.

"We'll see how it goes on September 11."

The Eagles played three teams this pre-season who made the AFC play-offs last season: the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jets. They went 2-1 against those teams, averaging 20.3 points.

There is some slight concern about the quarterbacks behind starter Michael Vick.

While Vince Young (hamstring) is expected to practice all week and be available against the Rams, there is a possibility that the Eagles have to give the untested Mike Kafka the nod at No 2 on an interim basis.

"I've said this before: Without my confidence in Mike, I would have never done the Kevin Kolb thing," Reid said, referring to the trade that sent Kolb to Arizona before training camp began.

"I'm just very comfortable with him. He's had a good pre-season, and so I have enough trust there."

He is also building some trust in Dion Lewis, the rookie running back. A shifty, explosive back from Pitt, Lewis could find himself returning kicks for the Eagles.

Against the Jets, he had a 40-yarder, and he finished pre-season with 148 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries from scrimmage.

"He's got great instincts. He's got balance, strength and he's patient," Reid said, "and that's something you don't see with a lot of kids coming out of college."

Lewis also caught six passes for 102 yards, including a 40-yarder.

"Being a rookie, and a new guy in this league, the biggest thing you need to do is gain the coaches' trust," he said. "The more growing up I do, the more they might trust me in a live game."

Lewis and his teammates will have to prove themselves on the road early on.

The Eagles, who have their bye on October 23, will only play two games at home before Week 8.

But they will play four at Lincoln Financial Field in a five-week span, starting October 30.