Training days: Eagles seek to return to their winning roots

PHILADELPHIA -- The way Brian Dawkins sees it, if the Eagles are to return to NFC East supremacy and beyond, they must return to Eagles football.

And to Dawkins, that means more than blocking or tackling or making big plays.

Dawkins, the Eagles' spirited and reliable safety, says if they return to their roots, they will gain those elements and much more. And the roots he speaks of run deep.

"We have to flat-out come out and play football with confidence and not worry about anything," Dawkins explained. "The one thing I have always believed about our team, about our way, is that we have to play for one another. I don't want to disappoint the fans. I don't want to disappoint the coaches. But who I really don't want to disappoint is my teammates. I play the game for the guys next to me. If you can look the guy next to you in the eye and know you have given all for him and you to succeed, well, that's Eagles football."

And that is the Eagles at their zenith.

That is the type of character that players such as Dawkins has shown and the type of leadership that coach Andy Reid has exhibited in Reid's 10-year reign in Philadelphia. Last season, the Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Injuries were a crippling factor. But the Eagles also missed that special spark. That unique unity and sense of purpose that is infectious and enduring.

"And I want that back," Dawkins said. "That kind of accountability. That kind of responsibility from each and every link."

The Eagles know that does not come easily.

But they showed signs of it in their 24-13 preseason victory over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in a game they trailed 10-0 after three quarters. The passing game (33-yard strike from Kevin Kolb to Greg Lewis), the kicking game (40-yard field goal by rookie kicker Richmond McGee), the running game (51-yard scoring rumble by back Tony Hunt) and the defense (74-yard interception return by linebacker Justin Roland) exhibited the across-the-board effort and production that Dawkins seeks. It was a 24-point Eagles barrage in the game's final 6:41 that rocked the Panthers.

And reminded the Eagles who they are. And what they can do.

Accountability.

Eagles running back Lorenzo Booker, acquired this offseason via a trade with Miami, has it.

"We showed a lot of heart out there, but I dropped some balls on special teams and was not on in that area of the game like I should have been," Booker said. "Special teams are huge here. I'm not happy with my contribution on special teams in this game. And I've got to get it fixed before everyone around here fixes it for me. No excuses."

For Reid, that is sweet music.

"He's a smart kid and he gets it," Reid said when told of Booker's assessment. "Our team is built that way, where the guys take it upon themselves, first, to get in order."

It was offered from rookie cornerback Kyle Arrington from Hofstra.

"I did some things okay, but I had a pass interference on me that didn't make any sense," Arrington said. "I can do much better. You just fly around out there yet be disciplined in it and let your athleticism lead you. That's how I see Eagles football. Let it fly and give it up for your teammates."

Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, the former New England Patriot, made his home debut. He, too, was not satisfied.

"I got my hands on a couple of balls but I could have made more plays that made a difference," Samuel said. "This has been a good experience. I am with a team that cares about winning and each other. I feel appreciated here. They let me know they really want me here. They show it. I try to show how much it means to me to be here."

Reid liked the effort, but wants his team to play a cleaner brand of football. He is looking for more offensive explosion that results in more points. He wants quarterback Donovan McNabb to continue the focus and leadership he has strongly exhibited in camp. He is asking his special teams and defense to remain locked on excellence.

Camp: Bethlehem, Pa.

Preseason games:
Aug. 8: Steelers 16, Eagles 10
Aug. 14: Eagles 24, Panthers 13
Aug. 22: at New England, 7:30 p.m. ET

Aug. 28: N.Y. Jets, 6:30 p.m. ET

Thursday's game was delayed in the first quarter for 58 minutes due to lightning. Once it resumed, the Eagles struggled to keep pace with Carolina. But they eventually caught and surpassed the Panthers by relying on depth.

The Eagles reserves were dominant late in the game. The Eagles starters know they need more work.

"We had a couple of miscues that led us to not score points," McNabb said. "Being delayed takes a toll on you. I wish we could have come out with more points. We did a great job in certain instances. I felt pretty good flinging the ball around. Things like that happen and that's what the preseason is for."

It is also a time for the Eagles to return to their roots.

A time to get all of the Eagles involved in a way that is interlocking. That breeds pride and accountability.

"We had a lot of injuries last year, so, first off, we need to have all of our soldiers, so to speak," Dawkins said. "We have to get the young guys to understand more what Eagles football is. Doing it the Eagles way has led us to be able to win games big and win them close. It's brought us a lot of success in the past. It will in the future."

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