How much of what we see in the preseason translates to the regular season? Is what we saw from the Eagles a preview of what is to come starting on September 7?
After some mistakes and hiccups early in the preseason, the Eagles were dynamic in wins over Pittsburgh and the Jets, a team with depth and energy and purpose. It's fair to feel positively bubbly about the progress the Eagles made in the preseason and the fortunes ahead.
Some takeaways from the preseason ...
- The offense is functioning at a very high level and the opportunities are there for big plays all over the field. If the Eagles can stay away from the self-inflicted wounds - the turnovers, the penalties, etc. -- that plagued them early in the preseason, they can be dominating on offense. Maybe there won't be as many passing plays of 40-plus yards as there were last season (19 total) without that one blazing, stretch-the-field talent, but the Eagles are well-equipped to gash defenses in a variety of ways.
- This group of tight ends has the versatility and the skill set to take over games and create nightmare matchups. When Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur can match up Zach Ertz against a slow linebacker, they're going to do it. And if a defense moves a safety to cover Ertz, the next read is who covers LeSean McCoy or Darren Sproles out of the backfield. A linebacker? Good luck. Or maybe when Jordan Matthews comes from the slot the advantage is so obvious he becomes the first read. Exciting to see how the offense morphs from one game to the next.
- Four preseason games told me that the depth of talent on this roster is a strong as it's been in the last decade. Early indications are that the 2014 draft has a lot of promise and that at least Matthews and defensive tackle Beau Allen could get some immediate snaps. Combined with the 2012 and 2013 drafts and the Eagles have a very fine foundation.
- Don't look for a single defensive player to substantially lead the way in quarterback sacks. From this perspective, Bill Davis has some personnel options he can go to. Vinny Curry can rush from a 4-3 alignment when the Eagles go to nickel and use him as a tackle. Mychal Kendricks clearly has speed and power and technique to get to the quarterback. Trent Cole is outstanding off the edge. Connor Barwin has a track record of success when called upon to rush the quarterback. Allen has a lot of bounce for a man his size inside. Even Bryan Braman, who got into the backfield off the edge on Thursday night against the Jets, has the burst to come off the edge and cause some havoc.
- These special teams have a chance to be great, especially in coverage. Braman and Chris Maragos and Brandon Boykin and others are hunters out there on the field. They get after it in a big way. Looking forward to seeing Sproles in the return game as a difference maker.
- As encouraging as anything about the long-term future here is the way the offensive line and defensive line displayed so much depth in the preseason. There are some young players who have a chance to develop into some key pieces in the near future. That's huge.
- Feeling pretty good about the three-deep look at quarterback? You should feel really good about it. Nick Foles became sharper and sharper in the preseason, Mark Sanchez was outstanding throughout and Matt Barkley found his groove in Thursday's win over the New York Jets. How many teams have a quarterback picture as healthy as the Eagles have? It's a really promising situation.
- You have to think that a defense is going to try to take it to Allen Barbre at right tackle in the first month of the season. This is a chess match worth watching. How do the Eagles counter?
- I like the way Earl Wolff came on in the final couple of preseason games and Maragos looked like he could play when called upon, so the safety depth is much better perhaps than some anticipated.
- There is no singular star at wide receiver here, and Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Matthews are going to be needed to be consistent and productive and to stay healthy the entire season. That said, maybe the Eagles look at Ertz as a "receiver who can line up wide" and maybe they have a few packages in mind for Sproles. I just think that Kelly and Shurmur can scheme up as many sideline-to-sideline routes to keep the chains moving as their hearts desire.
- Here is the preseason takeaway that means so much: The Eagles escaped Training Camp and the preseason games without any kind of major, season-ending injury. That's so remarkable. The season of attrition begins with the Eagles at full health. Is there another team in the league that can say that?