PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles completed their three-day minicamp Thursday feeling more confident than ever about their chances of going deep into the playoffs this season.
"This year is our year," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "We all have one common goal. At the end of the year, we'll be standing tall."
By the time the camp ended Thursday, the upbeat attitude had spread throughout the offense, defense and coaching staff.
Even coach Andy Reid, who generally takes a glass-half-empty approach to just about everything, was pleased with the intensity level on the field and the chemistry that seemed to be quickly developing among the rookies, veteran newcomers and returning players.
"I loved the energy," Reid said. "I loved the mindset. There's no pads on, so they really can't compete, but the guys are still challenging each other and trying to get better. It's a good atmosphere. We're finishing up a nine-week stretch here (of offseason workouts) and it's been high octane all the way through.
"Now we have to take it and carry it over into training camp. When training camp starts (at Lehigh University on July 22), we want to hit the ground running."
The Eagles hit the ground with a thud last summer.
Like every other team, they were prohibited from staging any minicamps or organized team activities (OTAs) during the lockout. As a result, the Eagles had very little time to build comraderie among the holdovers and newcomers such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown and rookie guard Danny Watkins.
The Eagles won their opener, then lost four in a row and never recovered. They closed the season with a four-game winning streak, but still finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
This season, there will be no excuses.
"That atmosphere is definitely different this year," Jackson said. "I'm not really into comparing last year to this year, but we all know how important this year is. We definitely have to start fast and finish strong in order to reach our goal."
The offense was impressive during the minicamp, especially quarterbacks Michael Vick and Mike Kafka, Jackson and tight end Brent Celek. New left tackle Demetress Bell, who was signed to replace injured Jason Peters (ruptured right Achilles' tendon) also got off to a strong start,
Jackson and Vick are both looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons in 2011. Jackson lost his focus due to a contract dispute and was a distraction both on the field and in the locker room. Vick missed three games with broken ribs and threw 18 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Jackson signed a five-year, $51 million contract in March and promised to be more of a leader. Vick is trying to alter his playing style in an effort to avoid more injuries and cut back on turnovers.
"We didn't have this opportunity to be together last year, and now we had the chance to build this camaraderie every day and to have fun while we were doing it," Vick said. "We just feel like we should have accomplished a lot last year. We want to be the best that we can be and we're going to work hard to get there. We know it's not going to be easy, but we're going to work at it."
The defense also showed promise, especially linebackers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans, defensive end Brandon Graham and safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman.
Ryans, who was acquired via a trade with Houston, wasted little time in demonstrating the leadership the Eagles have been lacking at that position since Jeremiah Trotter was in his prime almost 10 years ago.
"(Showing leadership) is something that happens over time," Ryans said. "It's coming along, but I'm still working on it. You can't really tell what's going to happen with our defense until we start playing for real, but so far the vibe is good. As long as we can play physical and fast, we'll be OK."
Extra points: Eagles single-game tickets for the two preseason and eight regular-season home games at Lincoln Financial Field will go on sale Thursday, June 21, at 10 a.m. Fans can purchase tickets through philadelphiaeagles.com, Ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. No tickets will be sold at the stadium. Prices range from $70 to $95. There is a four-ticket limit per household.
Reid vowed Thursday that he will be running a "tough, demanding" training camp this year. He is also reversing the order of the practices for the first time since he became coach in 1999. The more intense of the two-a-day practices at Lehigh will be held in the afternoon.
Safety Colt Anderson (knee surgery), rookie Vinny Curry (high ankle sprain) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (brain surgery) did not participate in the minicamp. Curry is expected to be fully recovered for training camp. Patterson may be ready, but has to be cleared by the doctors. Anderson probably won't be ready to practice.
The Eagles signed linebacker Ryan Rau and defensive end Frank Trotter on Thursday. The rookie free agents attended the minicamp on a tryout basis.
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