It is a number that jumps off the page, even in a preseason game and maybe because it is a preseason game: 496 total yards of offense. That is the number the Eagles put up on Friday night against Jacksonville, and while the play in the red zone was clearly not up to the level the Eagles need to win a Super Bowl (yes, I said it), the offense offered glimpses of just how potent it can be.
There was Kevin Kolb throwing darts to receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. There was LeSean McCoy gaining tough yards between the tackles. There was Brent Celek and Jason Avant creating space and getting open and making themselves available in the passing game. There was Michael Vick coming in on a second-and-2 snap and completing a pass to Celek for the first down.
Later on, players like Riley Cooper and Kelley Washington and the rest of the offensive firepower coming on to bring the Eagles back from a deficit to finish strong and to win the game.
It was such a feel-good game in so many ways, and anybody who watched the game came away feeling excited about what this offense is, and most important, what it can be this season.
The idea of Kolb running the offense and manning the huddle and understanding the coverages is not at all daunting to the coaching staff or his teammates or, in fact, anyone who has paid attention to Kolb in the last year. He is a student of the game and he gets it. All of it. Kolb may force a throw here or there, but he is not going to take sacks and he is going to generally be an accurate passer who can run when the opportunity is there. An over/under for Kolb rushing yards this season? How about 250 yards? He is a mobile quarterback. Kolb may not run out of the Wildcat, but he has the foot speed to get to the first-down sticks.
The weapons this team has have been discussed many times and the truth is that the upside is simply sensational. If Riley Cooper is truly as good as he appears to be, I'm not sure the Eagles have ever been this good one through four at wide receiver. And if you prefer Kelley Washington as the fourth receiver because of his play on special teams, I'll go beyond and say the Eagles have never been this good one through five at wide receiver. Hank Baskett returned to practice on Sunday after missing time with a knee injury and promptly caught a touchdown pass in a red-zone drill, and he knows he is fighting for a roster spot.
We didn't get to see much of Clay Harbor or Cornelius Ingram against Jacksonville, so it is understandable that there are questions about the tight end position behind Celek. Internally, there is a lot of confidence. Both Harbor and Ingram have done it in practice and they have earned the trust of the coaches, and now it is time to do in a game.
LeSean McCoy has been a daily standout throughout the off-season, and he is primed for a big, big year. He runs well inside, can get to the edge, has excellent shiftiness and is a durable, strong back. If there is a concern, from this vantage point, it is that Mike Bell has not been healthy since the spring. Just when a hamstring injury heals, he suffers a calf injury. Are the Eagles OK at the No. 2 running back spot? That is something the coaching staff and the personnel department must discuss.
As for the offensive line, well, the situation is very positive. The Eagles welcomed back Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans to practice on Sunday, albeit on a limited basis. Both are optimistic about being in the lineup on September 12 when Green Bay comes to town, and that makes the prospects up front all that much better. Already, though, the Eagles saw Jason Peters and Winston Justice enjoy fine summers, and they are pleased with Stacy Andrews and his development, and they've seen Mike McGlynn come up big in a preseason game, and they know that Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole can be counted on in a variety of roles. Plus, rookie Austin Howard has been a standout at left tackle, and is going to get some reps at right guard, too.
The scheme is the final part of the equation, and it has been proven to be effective in the NFL. Clearly, the stumbling block has been the touchdown ratio in the red zone, and the Eagles have a lot of work to do in that department. A significant improvement there and this offense could be off the charts in a very good way.
Friday's sneak peek was enticing enough to make me wish the days until the game in Cincinnati could zoom by faster. Where is that remote control from Click? Don't you just want to see what comes next for this team? Andy Reid is going to keep it "vanilla," as he explained on Sunday in his press conference, but there is still going to be enough to get a feel for what the Eagles can do with an offense that has a chance to be among the league's best.
Hey, I'm not expecting smooth sailing every week. The NFL doesn't work that way. But I've seen enough 13-9 preseason games with three-and-out-series and punts every other minute and games in which you look at the guy next to you and say, "*This *team is going to win 11 games?" That didn't happen in the preseason opener. The Eagles moved the ball up and down the field and they scored 28 points and they probably left about 17 more points on the field.
This offense can be special if the right steps are taken every day in practice. What the Eagles have put together here is an explosive, well-balanced attack that can be lethal in every way imaginable.