So, what has brought about the change in team chemistry? For Dawkins, he believes that a lot of it comes from Donovan McNabb. "Well, I think he's been one of the main components in that [building chemistry]. I think he's been one of the spirited leaders of that, of being himself in that chemistry. It has definitely helped him, don't get me wrong, but I think he's been the spearhead to that, of being who he is and having that great time and keeping this thing light; having a great time on the field, pushing each other, offense pushing the defense and vice-versa, so I think he's being the head of that," explained Dawkins.
While the entire Terrell Owens debacle cast a huge question mark over McNabb's ability to be a team leader, Dawkins believes that there is no question now as to whether or not McNabb can, and is, leading this team. "He's the leader on this team," said Dawkins. "It just pulls everybody in the right direction on that offensive side of the ball. He's the captain over there and when he's doing his thing and being who he is, he's pulling everybody along, he's making everybody else better."
Dawkins believes that McNabb is going to return to be the dominant Donovan McNabb that the team needs. He also believes that the defense has a leader of their own in Jeremiah Trotter. "Trot's Trot. I mean, there's only so much you can squeeze from an orange or something. There are only so many drops you can squeeze; if he squeezes any harder, man, I don't know if I'm going to have him for the whole season," said Dawkins. "Trot gives it everything he has, emotionally and as a leader, so I don't expect anything different from him."
With three more pre-season games left, Dawkins knows that there is still a lot of work to be done and that the team needs to stay focused on their goals. "As a defense, we have a lot of new people going through the system and we are trying to gel together as a defense. And offensively, the same thing, a lot of young people, a lot of young guys coming in and trying to make plays and trying to make this team," believes Dawkins. "But, at the same time, I've always said that pre-season is a little too long for me."
As the Eagles get ready to leave the Lehigh portion of their training camp behind, Dawkins believes that there is a lot you can tell about this team already. "Obviously last year felt different. You can throw that one out. But, every other year besides that one felt the same as I'm feeling right now. We have a chance to do something and take ourselves deep into the playoffs hopefully and win it out," explained Dawkins. "It starts with every game, we take one game at a time and that approach is always the key to success. But, the big picture is that that's what we are thinking about." Going into his 11th season, Dawkins sees a lot of things to be optimistic about with this Eagles team. "The tempo of practice has been tremendous and we carried that over into the games. Defensively, we know what we are trying to do and offensively, they are trying to do the same thing. And that's a unit that goes out and pretty much tries to dominate the field of play. It's not going to happen all of the time, I understand that, but that's what you try to do and I think we are going in that direction."
So, with McNabb predicting a Super Bowl caliber team, does Dawkins agree? "To me, that should just basically go hand in hand with what you already think. If I'm thinking that and then Donovan says that, then we basically are on the same page. When the leader on this team is saying we are going to the Super Bowl then whoever I am on this team, if I'm thinking that, then we are heading in the right direction," said Dawkins. "That's no different from any other year, even last year, going into the year, of what we expected of ourselves."
What else Brian Dawkins had to say...
On whether he is going to miss Lehigh training camp:
"I mean, yeah, until next year. This time next year we'll be back here, but we get our job done. We come up here and pound it out a little bit and get used to these pads and get ourselves ready for the season."
On whether he feels like the team got the work in that he wanted to at training camp:
"We got a little bit more than what I wanted to. This was a tough camp and I expected it to be that way, it to be a real tough camp. Guys are supposed to do a lot of things, a lot of different nicks and bruises and injuries. But, I know we'll be better in the end for it."
On whether he thinks of this defense as being one of the best the Eagles have had going into the season:
"We'll see. The potential is there, the athleticism is there, the hunger is there, the play making ability is there, but until we get on the field and do it â€" it's yet to be seen, but all of the potential is there."
On whether he only focuses on the positives coming out of camp or whether he focuses on the negatives, such as what they might not be able to do on the field, as well:
"No, those are things, whatever the negative so-called playing on the field goes; those are things you hash out in practice. You keep on working on those things to try to get better at [them]. The things that you are good at you continue to make sure you don't get a lapse in that area or a mental mistake. But, as far as any negatives, you just continue to hash those things out to make sure that when the season finally hits those things are taken care of."
On guys saying this is the toughest camp yet and whether he thinks head coach Andy Reid has been tougher this camp than in previous years:
"I was here from the beginning so I'm kind of the wrong person to ask that. When [Reid] came in it was worse than this, so I've been through some tough camps with him."
On whether he thinks that the team has to come out of the fire in regards to their tough schedule, especially in the end with division away games:
"I don't look at it that way. I look at it like we need to come out on fire regardless. That we need to come out and to get on the winning side of things to get that losing taste out of our mouths and get that confidence where it needs to be so we can keep on rolling. As far as the different teams and people saying it's going to be stacked up towards the end, you never know what the schedule is going to turn out to be because teams that you thought were going to be the best in the league turn out to be not so great towards the end. Whether it's the injuries, as you saw with us, or other circumstances, so you can't look at the later part of your schedule and say that, oh man, those are going to be some hard teams that we are going to face, so we [should] make sure we jump on these first guys. No, you should have it in your mind that we are going to do that anyways because, first of all, that is the type of team we are trying to be regardless. We are trying to win. We are trying to go out and dominate, we are trying to go out and get a sense of who we are and who we've been in the past and get back to that level. So, I don't see that we need to look past those first couple of games."
On how much difference it makes for the team psychologically to have a healthy McNabb out on the field:
"I mean, you've been around Don. You know how he is and he's that same way in the huddle. He likes to have fun, likes to laugh and make guys around him laugh and keep everything on the lighter side of things. When you go through the injuries that cat went through last year, not being able to move around and do the things that he needed to do, that hampered it. And I'm pretty sure, I'm going to speak for myself, going into a game with my foot injury, you go out there knowing that if I take a bad step or a bad move, I'm going to hurt this thing worse. So I'm myself, but I'm really not fully myself. And you see Donovan, he's Donovan this year. He's having a great time; he's putting the ball where it needs to be. You can see him conversing with the young receivers, left and right, talking to them after routes and after practice. So, that's great for this team to have him doing what he's doing."
On whether he feels bad for DE Jerome McDougle because of his injury:
"Yeah, hopefully this is not something that is going to be lingering. I don't know the severity of it and you know I won't talk about it, but it's just one of those things. Certain guys go through certain things in certain parts of their careers. He's going through some tough things right now, but hopefully, like I said, it's not something that is too severe [and] he won't miss any time this season."
On his assessment of where S Michael Lewis is and what he expects from him this season:
"Well, coming into this camp, I know I [could] sense the determination that he was going to be a lot better and make bigger plays, lets say it like that, than he did last year. In every aspect, whether it's making interceptions, he's been diligent in working on his ball skills and myself included. But, I really do expect big things from Mike this year, seriously, that's not because he's my teammate. But, I really do because I think last year hurt him, it hurt me also, but I think it hurt him tremendously to know some of the plays that [were] given up."