Time is now for McNabb and other 'old birds'

Donovan McNabb is more than the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.

He is a symbol, representing the best and worst of what his team potentially has in store for the 2007 season.

On one hand, McNabb remains the most talented player on a club with enough talent to be a serious Super Bowl contender. On the other, he is less than four months from his 31st birthday, making him one of a few key 30-plus players on an aging roster that ultimately could prevent the Eagles from going the distance this season. Oh, and did we mention he was battling back from a major knee injury he suffered in 2006?

So when McNabb says "the time is now" for the old birds -- players such as himself, safety Brian Dawkins and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter -- to win it all, he is recognizing that such opportunities are dwindling on a squad that could field a starting lineup with an average age of nearly 28 years old.

McNabb insists he is not trying to say that the "window is closing," just that after four consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances (2001-04) and a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX, "it's time now to seal the deal."

The fact is the window is closing. The deal does need sealing.

And it can be done.

Start with McNabb. Before his injury, he was having what was shaping up as a career season statistically. The Eagles have been cautious with him this summer, giving him periodic time off from training-camp practices at Lehigh University to cope with soreness and swelling in his knee.

Other veterans -- including Dawkins, Trotter, and running back Brian Westbrook -- also have sat out with injuries. But head coach Andy Reid has not demonstrated a great deal of concern with the number of players watching rather than practicing.

The Eagles should feel better about their receiver situation than they did when Donte' Stallworth departed for New Orleans in free agency. That's because Kevin Curtis, the free agent they acquired from St. Louis, has been extremely impressive in camp. He has shown everything that made him a strong member of the Rams' elite receiving corps, especially reliable hands and precise route-running.

The Eagles should feel good that in Tony Hunt, a third-round draft pick from Penn State, they have the pile-moving, short-yardage/goal-line runner they needed.

They should feel good that their offensive line has shown impressive continuity and has rounded into an experienced group that should do a decent job of keeping McNabb upright and making holes for Westbrook and Hunt.

And they should feel good about the size, depth, and experience they have on defense.

What they need to worry about is whether they can take advantage of what they have. Are they too old? Are they going to be too hurt by midseason or down the stretch?

The window is closing, but the Eagles can keep it open. It is up to McNabb and the other old birds to find a way to do that long enough to allow the team to realize what very likely is a final Super Bowl shot for them.

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