They started lining up in the wee hours, before the players emerged from the Varsity House and onto the practice field. The fans were waiting to cheer the Eagles after their preseason debut, carrying some momentum into what is a very important week ahead for this football team. Business as usual? Yes, in a way. But in other ways, a different Eagles team stepped into action Sunday, one with a better understanding of what it can be in 2010.
Leaving training camp for a game and then a day off and then returning for two practices a day can take a team out of its rhythm. A flow and an urgency needs to re-established, and that is the intention for head coach Andy Reid and his staff over the course of the next few days. To a degree, some order has been added to the depth chart. The roster battles will only intensify as the Eagles point to Cincinnati and the Bengals on Friday night.
Let's take a look at some of the positions of interest and provide an update from this perspective ...
The best news of all on Sunday was the presence at practice of center Jamaal Jackson and offensive guard Todd Herremans. Both have come a long way in their rehab from injuries (Jackson, knee; Herremans, foot) and both were taken off the PUP list and working with the offensive line. Great stuff. What does it mean? Well, for one, it means that the Eagles think Jackson can be ready for the regular season opener against Green Bay. He cannot be placed on the PUP list again.
Herremans has been on this track for a long time. The Eagles were taking an ultra-cautious approach with Herremans just to keep him as fresh as possible for the regular season. How many preseason games will he play? I don't know, but the expectation is that Andy Reid will give Herremans some rest here and there so that his foot doesn't take a pounding.
Obviously, we will monitor both players throughout the remainder of the preseason. Jackson is coming back from a very serious injury. The Eagles gained a lot of confidence in Mike McGlynn based on his performance on Friday night.
Suddenly, the situation at the offensive line is much more positive.
Eldra Buckley is clearly the team's third halfback. He is so tough and he runs so hard, and Buckley's special teams ability really hasn't been taken into account here. Charles Scott seems to have transitioned totally to fullback, where he took reps on Friday night.
Martell Mallett? He is on the come after a good performance against Jacksonville, but he isn't in the class of Buckley.
J.J. Arrington did not play on Friday and he is going to have to take huge steps this week and next to make this football team.
Nobody is counting out Hank Baskett, but the day-in, day-out performance of Riley Cooper and the professionalism and play thus far from Kelley Washington certainly gives them a leg up in the battle for spots four and five on the wide receiver depth chart.
There are other players to consider. Chad Hall had a big game against the Jaguars. Dobson Collins can play, and the Eagles know it. Jordan Norwood always seems to be open.
It is an outstanding group and the Eagles are pleased with how the young receivers are maturing so quickly. The combination of youth and experience, of size and speed, is very impressive.
Macho Harris practiced on Sunday, a very good sign. Will he make this roster? The Eagles liked what they saw from rookie Trevard Lindley and Dimitri Patterson against the Jaguars. Joselio Hanson had a player or two that he would like to get back. It is a group that needs some players to step forward and Lindley has been doing that, along with Patterson.
Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel were both on point in their limited time on Friday. The key for this position is to improve every day. This is not a finished product.
There is some competition here, mainly because both Quintin Demps and Kurt Coleman have played so well this summer. Demps is sidelined with a knee injury (the extent of which has not been announced as I write this), but the hope is that the injury is not serious. Coleman had a solid game in his preseason debut and is certainly a player to watch.
It seems pretty established at this point that those four safeties are lined up on the depth chart. Having Harris back at practice, battling at cornerback, also raising the possibility that he could be an emergency safety. So, there is always that to consider with Harris. The ability to play both cornerback and safety is huge.
It is too early to tell, but it sure appears that Keenan Clayton made his statement against the Jaguars. The kid can run and make plays all over the field. Akeem Jordan remains the starter at SAM after his outing against Jacksonville. Stewart Bradley emerged from Friday night healthy. All good.
There is a jumble as far as the backups go, as well there should be. The Eagles like their depth here. They like the young guys. Even though only four days of training camp remain, there is a long, long way to go in the preseason overall.