Congratulations, fellow Eagles fans. It’s summer time and hot enough to fry an egg on the Broad Street black top. It’s late July and humid enough to inhale the thick Center City air and taste cheese steaks from the food truck five blocks east. It’s oppressive, it’s torturous, but it’s Philadelphia and we’re gluttons for punishment. And it doesn’t matter. Because the day. Has. Come. Football, the likes of which the city has never seen before, is finally here. I can’t contain myself. Forgive my fingers for getting overly excited for a moment: lcvkneuipgyasrhvilawhbvwirgh3ignrg-92347056985=fmqwenvg=!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Summer is also when I get to combine two of my favorite things: football and beer. Although beer will not be served at training camp, so what? That won’t stop me. However, if you want to keep cool, stay away from the Millers, the Coors, and the Buds. They’re not exciting enough for this Philadelphia Eagles team. Instead, here are five beers to pair with five things to watch at Eagles training camp.
Chip Kelly – Dogfish Head Festina Peche
The summery beer from Milton, DE is refreshing, with bite. So is Chip Kelly. He is the head coach savior evacuating us from the doldrums left behind by Andy Reid. A breath of fresh air was never so sorely needed, and what fresh air! This is not your typical coaching change of direction. Pundits speak of Kelly revolutionizing the NFL! This is a little over-the-top. But the argument to support this claim has so far been pretty convincing. Just as with the OTAs and mini-camps, you will hear of the music, the Big Brother-ish overtones and the feverish activity on the practice field. Practice is for the reps. Coaching is for the film room. Kelly seems to practice what he preaches; every position is an open competition. Beware the overpaid, complacent, entitled veteran. Watch for the hand signals from multiple coaches on the sideline relaying plays to the field generals. Some hand signals are decoys (take that Belichick!), some are not. Be mindful of the speed, for it’s just not a strategy, it’s a lifestyle, a religion, a way of life, a culture. Jason “Chasin’” Peters should be right at home. Pay really close attention to Kelly’s press conferences. Record them and re-watch them. He speaks fast, with clarity and conviction and a little snark. He says a lot in a little time. So grab a Festina Peche. It’s lighter than you think and drinkable by the dozen.
The Defense – Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Ok, I kind of like Dogfish Head Brewery, but I really think this one pairs well with the defense. I’ve written before about the parallels between Andy Reid’s hire of Jim Johnson and Chip Kelly’s hire of Billy Davis. The potential is there for some bite, a defense with attitude that is sound. But unlike Johnson’s defense, this one will have an amoebic quality. We don’t quite know what to expect. Brandon Graham and Trent Cole as linebackers? 3-4 or 4-3 or 4-3 under? Wide receivers as cornerbacks? A defense built to confuse an offense? But there are so many more questions. Will the secondary be improved (or at least competent)? Will the linebackers (three or four of them) stifle the run? Cedric Thornton at nose tackle? Is Fletcher Cox really a stud? Also, keep an eye on rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer, the steel of the draft. At any rate, this IPA hits you hard, in exactly the same way you want the Eagles defense to. And you know what, muddle a raspberry and drop it in there… to symbolize the blood we want the defense to shed.
The Quarterback Competition/Offensive Line – Corona (with lime!)
You need a standby summer beer for the long haul. Something on which you can rely, for you know it will always be there. Something you can always come back to. This summer, it’s a Corona with lime, paired with the quarterback competition and the offensive line play. Chip has said he’s not going to name the starter, and why would he? He hasn’t seen up close how Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley have played when the pads are on, in his offense. And Kelly’s decision will be based on how each QB plays with an untested offensive line. First round draft pick Lane Johnson projects to be a “ten year” tackle, but he’s not there yet and he is a rookie with question marks. Ten years from now, will we classify him as one of the best draft picks in Eagles history? Or as a draft bust? How will Jason Peters respond after injury? Will he return to his Pro Bowl form? And how will this line respond to a persistent no huddle pace of play? But be careful because blink and you may miss it. That’s how fast the offense will operate. Efficiently slick, some will call it. Blistering and relentless, others will say. All of this will impact quarterback play. Will it favor a decisive quarterback or reactive? A young one or an experienced one? A fast one or a slow one? These questions may not be answered until September, so sit back, kick back, pretend you’re on a beach with a Corona, and enjoy the ride.
Tight Ends – Blue Moon
Blue Moon is a guilty pleasure of mine. I could drink it in the summer or winter and still enjoy the citrus notes and versatility of flavors. Likewise, the tight end position is as guilty a pleasure, because today, even more so than I can remember, the tight end position has become increasingly versatile. A wide receiver/full back/offensive linemen hybrid. How can you not love a position like that?! The Eagles will employ six tight ends on their training camp roster and four of them could be on the opening day roster. Watch closely the development of rookiebeast Zach Ertz, as well as Houston transplant James Casey who, from what I’ve read, will quickly become a fan favorite. They will play alongside reliable holdovers Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, but I’m also interested to see how last year’s practice-teamer and Division III standout Derek Carrier will play in Chip Kelly’s offense. He’s a pass catcher who possesses a 4.44 40 time and could be dark horse.
Special Teams/Free agents – Harpoon Summer Beer
Harpoon’s Summer Beer is a German Koelsch-style ale, which basically means it’s specifically defined, meticulously crafted, clean, crisp, and slightly hoppy. It’s all business and means business. Many of the free agents signed this off season by Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly were meant to add depth at certain positions, but more importantly, improve the special teams. Players like Bradley Fletcher, Jason Phillips, Kenny Phillips, Patrick Chung, Isaac Sopoaga, Connor Barwin, Arrelious Benn, Cary Williams, and Felix Jones were not meant to be the saviors of their respective positions, just improvements to depth. Expect Special Teams Coordinator Dave Fipp to employ many of these players to bolster a unit that struggled mightily last season. And when Jason Phillips crushes a return man, with beer in hand I can scream “Dude just got harpooned!”
There are so many more things to look forward to in this camp. My suggestion: identify it, find your beer of choice and savor until September.