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Five Eagles who deserve your attention (and one Eagles giveaway to draw your attention)

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A look at guys to keep an eye on — and a chance to win a Wilbert Montgomery jersey

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The arrival of a new Philadelphia Eagles season is something like Christmas as a kid, is it not?

Lots of anticipation — lots of gifts — stuffed together to be unwrapped in a short period of time. Maybe a few new toys to play with. Maybe a couple disappointing ones (which we pretend, of course, are just fine and dandy for as long as we can). All of it nestled within the community — the celebration — of close family, with or without a couple of hearty arguments.

Now, Christmas is a good four months away. But the Eagles’ first real game of 2017? That is just 17 days away. And the gifts have already been stuffed under this Bleeding Green Nation tree.

First, a real gift. You know, one you can touch with your own hands, begrudgingly loan to your sister and then try to pawn off on eBay after she’s let the neighborhood kids get a hold of it. A physical, tangible thing — certainly not the career Andy Reid imagined for Danny Watkins. No, what I’ve got is a Wilbert Montgomery jersey, unworn, stitched and complete with the Kelly green for which you clamor unceasingly.

It’s an official NFL Throwbacks Vintage Jersey (adult large), a reminder of 1970s and ‘80s Eagles lore, and it’s waiting to be shipped to you.

Give me a follow on Twitter @CodyJBenjamin and retweet this promo for “The Eagles Notebook,” the Birds-centric paperback I released before last season, before my next column hits BGN on Aug. 31, and I’ll throw your name into a random drawing for the jersey.

(If you’re really not about the whole Twitter thing, go ahead and share the book link on Facebook, screenshot it and show me, and you’ll get a shot at the jersey, too.)

If you already own the book — that means you, Mom — and want to be entered into the drawing, just shoot me a selfie with your copy.

In the interest of time and those who’d rather digest my weekly words without a precursor of a self-promoting advertisement, I’m not going to say much more about the book except that it’s got a foreword from wise, old sage Les Bowen, it notes a training-camp Rita’s ice discussion with Jimmy Kempski and Cary Williams, and it explains how one man went from fan to reporter to fan amid an Eagles upbringing. You can get plenty more details — and order the thing — at Lulu or Amazon.

And if you don’t want either the book or the free jersey, don’t fret. Because the other gifts are right here: Five Eagles players who deserve your attention for the better entering 2017.

  1. Carson Wentz: OK, so this is the easy one. If you’re not excited about Big No. 11’s second season at the helm of the team, then, well, I suppose you’re just recovering from the stenches of a post-Donovan McNabb quarterback history that’s often teased but rarely delivered long-term. But Wentz, as unsure of a thing as he may be coming off an up-and-down rookie year, has the “it” factor. He’s got the poise. He’s got the leadership. You absolutely aren’t going to find him fumbling his off-field priorities. (Friendly reminder this man now has his own devotional on the Bible app.) And the way he moves in the pocket, he looks an awful lot like a guy with special, special things in his future. It’s hard not to pay attention to the QB, but Wentz’s importance in this city, on this team, cannot be overstated.
  2. Chris Long: Whether he plays like the Vinny Curry of 2014 or the Vinny Curry of 2016 up front, Long has made about as big a mark as he could’ve left in just a few months’ time as an Eagle. The off-field hurrah can fade quickly once the games begin and things become more about stats, wins and losses, but for now, if you haven’t yet paid respect to or at least considered Long’s stand for unity both in the Eagles locker room and across the country, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Politically charged emotions will forever impede on these conversations, but the veteran’s decision to wrap his arm around Malcolm Jenkins and support his teammate’s national-anthem fist-raise for social equality this preseason was bold. It was moving. It was an overdue mark of racial togetherness. There was talk of how Long might quickly become a Connor Barwin-type figure with this team, and it’s safe to say he’s on his way. Plus, he’s funny. Tell me his comments in the background of the Eagles’ solar eclipse watch party — “We’ve been waiting for this moment since we were babies” — didn’t make your night.
  3. Ronald Darby: Jordan Matthews’ departure elicited a fond farewell from me. But the very, very premature reaction to seeing Darby in live action, in the Eagles’ secondary this preseason, is this: Wow. Maybe, much like our eyes, conditioned to the mediocrity of starting wideouts, will probably be in awe at the sight of competent receivers in 2017, I was entranced at the realization cornerbacks can, you know, be play-makers. Maybe, just maybe, Darby is the closest thing the Eagles have had to a rangy, all-star-caliber cover guy since ... Asante Samuel?
  4. Darren Sproles: If the only knowledge of the Eagles you had came from this preseason, you might not even know Sproles is on the team. Here’s a reminder: He most definitely is. Lost in the exaggerated LeGarrette Blount concerns and third-string competition predictions is the fact that Philly still has one heck of a dependable play-maker thanks to the ever-churning little legs of Sproles. Maybe this is the veteran’s last year. But I reckon, once this team actually takes the field for real games, people will quickly restart the campaign for him to stick around beyond 2017.
  5. Derek Barnett: If you’re building the Eagles from scratch and get to take one defensive end from the current roster, do you dare snag Barnett over Brandon Graham? I think you have to consider it. Only time will tell how the rookie fares, of course, but something seems so rock solid about his approach — or his preseason dominance. He looks the part in all the best ways.