It has been a good first week, injuries to wide receivers Riley Cooper (collarbone, out six weeks) and Ron Johnson (dislocated ankle, likely out for the season) notwithstanding. The Eagles look good out there on the lush fields (great job, Tony Leonard's grounds crew) of Lehigh University before the stands packed with the faithful fans.
The offense looks terrific -- fast and precise and confident -- led by a very sharp Michael Vick at quarterback. The top three receivers -- Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant -- are catching everything and running great routes and playing *fast, fast, fast. *LeSean McCoy is better than ever, and the other three backs in camp -- Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk -- have played very well.
The offensive line looks far advanced from where it was last season, and new left tackle Demetress Bell is more than holding his own.
Tight ends Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Chase Ford have taken advantage of the increased practice reps with Brent Celek out with a knee injury, giving the Eagles enough confidence that they haven't felt the need to go out and add a veteran at the position.
On defense, well, the play has been relentless. That's a fair word to describe the approach. The front four is a front eight, and it gets after offensive blockers. I'm not sure I've seen more depth in talent.
I wish I could tell you more about the linebackers other than they look strong and a good "fit," but I don't know the ins and outs of the scheme. The back four look really good, and the group of cornerbacks led by Nnamdi Asomugha and a dominating Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looks like it can match up against any group of wide receivers.
The kicking game is improved with both Alex Henery and Chas Henry booting the ball well, and should get better when Mat McBriar starts practice, hopefully on Wednesday.
I'll take from an interview I had with Jackson on Monday the defining indication that the mood of the team is optimistic, aware that hard work is required and exceedingly purposeful.
It's a good question in light of the concept that teams always look to improve, always look to tinker with the roster. I'm sure that every position is in play for Howie Roseman and Andy Reid to improve, and every sensible observer understands that there are some spots still in question here.
As in ...
- Backup quarterback. I think Mike Kafka has had a really tremendous week. He's throwing the ball with a measurable improvement in zip and in accuracy. His deep ball doesn't even resemble the efforts from last season. Kafka has made great strides. Rookie Nick Foles has had his ups and downs -- mostly ups -- and is making very nice progress. Trent Edwards remains the fourth quarterback and he is trying to get his work in without getting many reps in practice.
- The safety spots are under scrutiny, and so far they've held up well. Both Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have played good football. They've covered well and they've been physical. Oshiomogho Atogwe looks to still be getting his legs under him. Jaiquawn Jarrett is looking to string together a bunch of really good days. Colt Anderson has yet to practice, but could be close as he rehabs his knee injury.
- The depth along the offensive line needs to be determined. D.J. Jones and Thomas Welch have had good moments in practice and will battle with rookie Dennis Kelly for the right to team up with King Dunlap as a backup tackle. Mike Gibson and Steve Vallos appear to be asserting themselves as interior backups, along with Julian Vandervelde.
- At linebacker, I don't know how it's all going to shake out. Brian Rolle, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, weak side to strong side, have the starting jobs in good standing. They've all had strong moments. Behind them, players like Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews have flashed in camp and are vying for jobs. The Eagles figure to keep five or six linebackers on the 53-man roster.
There's more to look forward to, of course. For the moment, the Eagles can rest. They're likely to add a receiver on Tuesday to replace Cooper and Johnson on the practice field. Johnson almost certainly will be put on the shelf.
When the Eagles return on Wednesday, they'll go at it hard for about four days and taper back and prepare for the preseason opener against the Steelers.
Believe it, it's here. The preseason is right around the corner, and with it another test for the Eagles.
But, hey, all of the players are going to enjoy the day off. When Reid spoke to the team after Monday's practice and reminded them to take good care on Tuesday, they all cheered. It's time to catch the breath, and come back focused and ready for more. Training camp, off to a strong start, is just heating up with the preseason opener not too far in the distance.