BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- You hope that this isn't a mirage. You hope that the Cornelius Ingram who is dominating practice now, and who showed so much ability in the spring, is the same Cornelius Ingram who will put on the pads on Friday and have so much success. You stand and watch and see Ingram race down the seam and catch a Kevin Kolb pass in traffic, and then you see Ingram rise above coverage in the end zone and snatch a Kolb pass out of the air for a touchdown.
Please be the real thing.
Because the Ingram who has been on the field these first two days of practice at Lehigh University provides goosebump moments. He is a man at 6 feet 4, 245 pounds. He runs well, and is so big and physical that you can imagine the things the Eagles might be able to do with him if, well, if, if, if ...
Please be the real thing.
"I know that this is just the beginning. I feel great and I think I'm going to have a lot of opportunities to get better," said Ingram, a fifth-round pick from Florida who missed all of last season with the Gators after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in practice. "My goal is to keep improving every single day and if I do that, I'll be where I want to be."
Spring and early training camp phenoms are scary. A big tease, if you will. You look at them and they are just great out on the field when players are wearing helmets and shorts, and then when the pads go on and the defensive players can tee off, some of the bloom -- yes, including Jeremy -- comes off the flower. We've seen it before. We will see it again.
Let's hope Ingram is the real thing.
So far, he has been a pretty remarkable story and player to watch. The Eagles played the wait-and-see game during the draft and one tight end after another went off the board, and they took Ingram and privately celebrated. The team had its eye on Ingram long, long ago. He is a physical speciman who would have gone much higher in the draft had he not been injured.
As it was, Ingram was rated as a middle-of-the-group tight end the way they all came off the board in the draft. The Eagles didn't move up to take one of the players more highly rated by the draftniks. They stayed put and got their guy, and they have loved what they have seen from Ingram thus far.
Every move he makes is a step beyond the injury. Take, for instance, the catch down the field on Tuesday. Ingram made the grab and then tumbled to the ground, leaving himself in a vulnerable position. Maybe there was a pause. Was he OK? That surgically-repaired knee ... how would it react?
Ingram popped right up and hustled back to the huddle, a test passed.
"I'm glad I popped straight up. If I didn't, everybody would have probably thought I had a problem," said Ingram. "It felt fine. It feels like nothing really happened since the surgery. It was a key moment, I guess, because everybody probably looked and saw that I had to fall down as I caught it and rolled up on my knees a little bit that there could have been a problem.
"No problem at all. I feel great. Hopefully I showed the fans and anybody who has concerns that I am fine and that everything is good with my knee."
Ingram potentially figures to be a major contributor to the Eagles' offense as a rookie. He could very well back up Brent Celek, who should not be forgotten or overlooked after his improvement as last season progressed. Celek deserves to be the starter. He also understands the business and the fact that there is always going to be competition.
After a good spring and a great first two days, it seems that Ingram is here to provide immediate contribution.
Certainly, Ingram adds great athleticism to the position. He is big and strong and runs so well. He is maybe as athletic as any tight end the Eagles have had -- I'm going out on a limb and say that he compares in that way to former Eagles great Keith Jackson -- and that Ingram is picking up the mental part of the game. The speed, says Ingram, is all the way back, and then some, after his surgery.
"I think I'm faster than I was before. Strength-wise, I feel real good and I'm in great shape. I've worked very hard to get to this point and I'm going to keep working hard," said Ingram. "I've shown them that I can run and catch the football. That is why they drafted me. I've got to show them a total package to get on the field and stay there."
Ingram says the playbook here is "two phonebook sizes" compared to the one he got down pat in the post-draft camps. There are things that the Eagles do here as far as formations and terminology that are similar to what Ingram learned at Florida. He is making terrific strides in all areas that involve routes, catching the football, lining up and recognizing things.
Next challenge: Pads.
Ingram didn't have to do much of it at Florida, in that spread offense. This is a whole new ball game.
"I'm excited about that. Blocking is one of the most important things to show the coaches. I know that when the pads go on, it's a totally different story. I haven't done it in a while," said Ingram. "Friday is going to be a very important day when everyone is here and we're live with pads on. I am looking forward to it."
So are the Eagles. So are the fans. Ingram and running back LeSean McCoy are the standouts in these early days, and by this time in a week nobody is going to remember who did what when the players were running around in shorts.
If Ingram is the real deal ... Then the Eagles are going to have something special to add to the offense.