IT’S TRAINING CAMP TIME, AND EAGLES FANS HAVE HIGH HOPES AND HIGHER EXPECTATIONS!

“Last year when we were struggling and losing those games in the middle part of the year, the other part of it is getting those guys to buy into what you’re preaching,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson has said. “You have to be honest, you have to be transparent and you have to be up front. There has to be tough love with the players, they have to see that you care. You can’t be a phony standing up in front of the room. I’ll shoot them straight. That’s just the way you get through that stuff. They have to see that as a head coach, you go through those tough moments but on Monday or Tuesday when you stand in front of that team and it’s chest up, shoulders back and let’s go to work this week.”

By Peter Gleason

As the Eagles open training camp for the 2017 season this week at NovaCare, those Gen. Patton-like words may come back to haunt the Eagles’ second year coach.

Pederson has reached this group of players, who expect another tough training camp to get them ready for a quick start.

There’s talk of Carson Wentz (above), Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount making us forget Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Shady McCoy.

The offensive line is healthy and capable.

Defensively, the Eagles aim to get after quarterback with such a vengeance that their unproven cornerbacks don’t look so overwhelmed. Coordinator Jim Schwartz did it with the Lions, although on his watch they had just one winning season in five years.

The Eagles believe rookie first-round pass rusher Derek Barnett will make a difference from the outset. Barnett has flashed skills his defensive mates cannot wait to see in the heat of full contact practices early in training camp.

Eagles veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins doesn’t take much, if anything, away from the offseason practices.

Just the same, Jenkins thinks this team has an attitude they spent last year searching for.

“When you can get a roomful of guys that always want to win, that motivate each other, that hate giving up plays, hate being the guy that caused the loss, it breeds competition,” Jenkins said. “There’s probably more trash talking now and elevated performances because of it. I just think the kind of personalities we’ve acquired over the past couple of years has created a different vibe for the team.”

In addition to securing the cornerback position, where rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas will get every opportunity to earn playing time, and linebacker, where Mychal Kendricks could get another chance, the Eagles have to determine who will be part of their eight-man rotation on the defensive line. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Barnett are the nucleus. Beau Allen, Gabe Wright and Destiny Vaeao also are in the fight.

The offense is much more complete as Wentz has solid receivers in Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and a proven three-down back in Blount, who last season tallied 18 touchdowns for the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

The only question on the offensive line is where everyone will line up. There’s been talk of moving Jason Peters inside to guard, shifting Lane Johnson to left tackle and playing Hal Vaitai or Isaac Seumalo at right tackle. Seumalo is the wild card up front.

“He’s got the feet to do it,” Johnson said. “I think he can play them all. It’s just where do you want to put him? I think we can be as good as anybody. We’ve just got to keep it all together.”

Wentz has improved the “quick-twitch” segment in his throwing mechanics and combined with his football instincts, has the potential to make teammates around him better.

“Yeah,” former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski said, “but guys have to make him better, too. They’ve got to catch the ball.”

The Eagles ranked seventh in the league last season with 24 dropped passes.

Veteran players don’t see “much of a difference” in Pederson. They have seen more of his personality.

“I think he is starting to really embrace that competitive nature in everybody,” Jenkins said. “He’s kind of stepping back and watching things unfold, which is good. He’s allowing us to really get after it in practice and all he has to do is kind of control the pace and make sure we don’t get too out of control. He’s not getting in the way of that competitive environment. It’s just all about competing to get better.”

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