NFL Football Is Back

It’s time to learn about the Eagles.

Carson Wentz should be doing more than signing his name on Thursday night.

Our long national nightmare was supposed to end Sunday night when football returned to America with the Hall of Fame Game after an excruciating six-month hiatus that forced El Hombre to watch the Canadian version of the sport (not as bad as you think) and check out rebroadcasts of college games from 1993 (man, were shoulder pads big back then).

Thanks to some coagulated paint on the field in Canton, Ohio, it didn’t happen. But training camps are open, and that’s a great thing.

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Thursday night, the Home Team gets to show off what it’s been doing for the last several months under coach Doug Pederson when it hosts the Buccaneers. Granted, those who miss the first couple minutes of action won’t get to see the starters, but at least fans will be reminded of what a fullback looks like, after three years of Chip Kelly’s unbelievably revolutionary high-speed football disaster.

We’ll get to see Sam Bradford for a series or maybe two. We might find out if defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is as beastly against opponents as he is while abusing offensive teammates. The regulars will stretch their legs and hit a few people before retiring to the sidelines and letting Chase Daniel and the other take over. Of course, one of those “others” is rookie QB Carson Wentz, who will get to prove during the third and fourth quarters (probably) that he has a long way to go before he can become a starting NFL quarterback.    

It is always risky to read too much into any pre-season game. Remember when Sam Bradford carved up Green Bay last year in his sole appearance? Fans had the Eagles at 14-2 and were wondering what Bradford’s bust in Canton would look like. Then, reality set in. Until the games actually count in the standings, no team is really trying to win, so August superstars often become September also-rans.

Due to the sense that the Eagles aren’t exactly Super Bowl timber, there is a definite malaise that has affected the fan base. With Philadelphia sports in the crapper, expectations are low everywhere. The fact that only 18,000 or so showed up for last Sunday’s free practice indicates just how little people expect of the Birds. Even though the Eagles aren’t quite included with the rebuilding Phillies and Sixers, they are still viewed as strong candidates for 8-8 mediocrity and therefore not as hot a commodity as they were. We don’t know much about Pederson, except that he likes his practices long and filled with contact, and that he worships at the altar of Big Red. And let’s not forget that Howie Roseman is back in control of the personnel department—not exactly the biggest reason for optimism.

The Eagles have some talent. But they also have big holes at wide receiver and running back and along the back seven. Even if Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston comes out and throws for 150 yards in two series Thursday, we really won’t learn too much about the team. We will just witness another step toward the regular season and be able to watch a lot of second-stringers and never-will-be’s run around the stadium grass.

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But at least we will have football to watch, even if the start of the regular season remains almost five weeks away. After six months of wandering in the sporting desert, we have found the oasis. And it is beautiful.

EL HOMBRE SEZ: Jake Thompson’s first inning Saturday night and Jerad Eickoff’s sixth Sunday demonstrate just how hard it is to rebuild a baseball team that has fallen into disrepair. Both may become strong, reliable MLB starting pitches some day, but each still has plenty of work to do. The Phillies are giving fans reason for optimism this year, but the next couple off-seasons will require some shrewd moves to make playoff contention a reality.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!