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News » McNabb primed for return to playoffs, MVP season

McNabb primed for return to playoffs, MVP season

McNabb primed for return to playoffs, MVP season
Spending time with the Philadelphia Eagles on their final day training camp, there is one storyline that is crystal clear.

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Donovan McNabb is healthy both physically and mentally, primed for a Pro Bowl-caliber year, and will lead the Eagles back to the playoffs after an 8-8 campaign a year ago.

You can lock that in.

I've never been so sure about anything.

I fully anticipate McNabb being in the mix for league MVP.

According to all accounts, McNabb is having the best training camp that he's ever had. Nobody has ever doubted the talent and the leadership. It was the health holding McNabb back one year ago. The star quarterback had surgery at the end of the 2006 season to repair a torn ACL. It was obvious in watching him play last season that he was hurting during games. McNabb's athleticism was compromised. And it was hurting his mindset. Now McNabb will not get back to his 'salad' days at Syracuse or early in his Eagle career when he could easily make plays with his legs. But he be a major threat with his right arm and now can at least keep teams honest with the threat of the run, over 12 months removed from surgery.

"You know, I was never 100-percent healthy last year," McNabb said recently. "You don't want to get too much into percentages because then it becomes a big issue. But I was never close to 100 percent. I felt like last year I was just really trying to prepare my body for the next week. This year, coming into this offseason I worked with the new trainers and worked a lot on strengthening the core, the back, the lower legs and getting my legs under me. And as a result, coming into this camp, I truly, finally felt 100 percent and ready to roll."

Forget Donovan's stats last year. Focus on the stretch run. McNabb finished last year with three straight wins. He stunned the Cowboys in Dallas, torched the Saints in a big game for New Orleans, and threw for 345 yards against the Bills in the season finale.

Eagles coach Andy Reid couldn't say enough good things about how McNabb has handled the last nine months.

"I think he's really in a great place physically and mentally," Reid said. "He finished up the season with three really strong games and maintained that type of play through our mini-camp and OTAs and the offseason program, and it has carried into training camp.

"He came into camp in great shape. And he's the team leader and he's handled that with great responsibility and grace. He's unique. He has that great sense of humor where he can be the funniest guy on the bus. At the same time, when he needs to crank it up he can get after you a little bit. To have a leader like that, from a head coaching stand point, you cannot get enough of that."

The Eagles tried to nab Randy Moss for McNabb in the offseason. They kicked the tires on Chad Johnson, Roy Williams and Anquan Boldin. But the receiver depth chart looks at same at the top.

Maybe I am the only one, but I don't think that's a huge deal.

Brian Westbrook is a go-to guy for McNabb. It's a main reason the running back was just rightly rewarded with a mega-bucks contract extension. With Westbrook's brilliance as a receiver and runner, McNabb doesn't have to worry about being the runner he was early in his career and shouldering the entire load on offense. Westbrook has been the team MVP and that makes things easier for McNabb.

Kevin Curtis thrived in his first year in Philadelphia, putting up big numbers with 1,110 receiving yards and 77 catches. Reggie Brown hauled in 61 passes. After an injury-plagued 2007, pass-catching tight end LJ Smith is healthy. And Reid smartly plucked speedster DeSean Jackson out of California in the second round.

There's a theory that Jackson could turn out to be the difference maker for the Eagles.

"Well you hate to put that much pressure on a youngster," McNabb said. "You don't want to put that much pressure on one individual, in his rookie year, learning a little bit about the game we play while also learning a new offense, trying to learn his teammates. It's too much.

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"I think with Kevin Curtis' second year in the system, Reggie Brown having another year under his belt of working with me as well as the rest of the offense, having LJ Smith back healthy pays dividends for us on the offense side. And also having Brian Westbrook, Lorenzo Booker and Correll Buckhalter at the running back position is huge for us. We have some depth. It's very important for us. And we want to use that to our advantage. We just have to continue to stay together, let the chemistry flow, and put up as many points as we can."

McNabb is also comfortable in his role as mentor to Kevin Kolb. He hears the footsteps. He knows Kolb was Andy Reid's hand-picked young quarterback. McNabb knows that Kolb has enjoyed a fantastic training camp, impressing everyone. But McNabb isn't intimidated. He won't pull a Brett Favre and not talk to his young understudy. In fact, he is embracing Kolb.

"I cannot say enough good things about 5 (McNabb's number)," Kolb said. "We've become friends. He's taught me so much about the quarterback position. I've learned so much."

Read the buzz words again — healthy and comfortable.

When was the last time you said that about Donovan McNabb.

Expect a brilliant season from No. 5.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 17, 2008

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