In baseball, they say the pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the spring. In football, it is the defense that generally comes out ahead in the early going of training camp. Too much timing on offense. Not enough repetitions from the spring practices. It sometimes takes a week or two for the offense to show up in practices and make plays and take advantage of openings.
And with the Eagles, who return 10 starters on defense from 2008, it's fair to assume that the defense will come out snorting at Lehigh University. The men on defense are frothing at the mouth to hit somebody, so the tempo should be high from the very moment practices begin. The defense is ready to go.
But I want to see the offense show something very early on as Donovan McNabb and the pieces around him work to create an early identity. We don't know yet when Brian Westbrook will practice, but I happen to think he is going to respond very rapidly to his intensive rehabilitation with head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. And the Eagles aren't yet sure when Stacy Andrews is going to be ready to go, but he indicated late in the Organized Team Activities that he thought training camp was a reasonable goal. How early, we'll find out.
Otherwise, the Eagles have their pieces ready to go. And it's important that they find their stride early, to build on that confidence and then head into the regular season on point and ready to play well from Week 1 on.
One of the major keys is for McNabb to be sharp from the get go. He looked great in the OTAs and he has had his contract questions answered. McNabb is the leader of the offense and he must project great confidence heading into what is going to be a spirited, exciting training camp. He has his timing together with the receiving corps, for the most part, and some extra time spent with Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Gibson and Cornelius Ingram in Arizona will help the kids catch up to the veterans.
Juan Castillo has his work cut out for him with the new-look offensive line, but I guess I have so much trust in Castillo that I don't see that as a problem. Shady McCoy and Lorenzo Booker must carry the load in Westbrook's absence, but both players took a ton of reps in the spring and they are going to be up to speed right away in the offense. Fullback Leonard Weaver was superb in the spring, and he appears to be a great fit in the offense.
Look for some wins by the offense early in camp. If there is one thing that the OTAs showed in the spring, it was that the Eagles' receivers are good enough to get open against any set of cornerbacks. Nobody can cover DeSean Jackson on a one-on-one basis. There, I said it. Jackson is too quick, too fast, too elusive in and out of his cuts. He will be open a lot in camp, and certainiy a lot during the season.
So that is something I want to see in the early stages of training camp. I want to see what this offense is all about. I want to see the offense come out of the chute with something to prove. I want to see that all the hubbub we talked about and saw in the spring translates to practices when the pads go on and the play is live.
I want some offense, man, some offense. Right away. I'm almost desperate for training camp to begin right now, to give us all a clue about how truly good this Eagles team can be.