You can look at the numbers and suggest that Donovan McNabb is primped, primed and perfectly ready for the regular season. But numbers have a way of causing false illusions in the preseason, so let's not go there except for statistics' sake.
No, the really impressive part of McNabb's preseason has been his everything. The way he's smiling. The posture within the team. The demeanor on the field. The absolute calm he has playing the position of quarterback. The way he is delivering the football with such accuracy, touch and timing. There are moments that stick, like the post-press conference comedy routine he performed the other night at Gillette Stadium. McNabb had just finished talking to the press and he took the handle of his travel bag and walked in front of Brian Westbrook, laughing and cackling and joking.
"Whoo, Brian, whoo!," McNabb yelled, interrupting Westbrook's press conference, as he exited the room and headed for the team buses.
Westbrook laughed. "Donovan's a loser," he said, chuckling.
McNabb has been the Master of Comedic Ceremonies for 10 seasons now inside the locker room, but there is something different about him this year. He has struggled through some tough times of late, and there is no doubt that last season tested McNabb like never before. He smiled, yes, but it was more of a forced act. McNabb wasn't having a lot of fun coming back from a knee injury and answering question after question about his future with the Eagles.
All of that talk of the future is in the past. McNabb, having completed 34 of 54 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns in three preseason games, is squarely focused on the regular season ahead.
"I feel very comfortable with all the rest of the guys and where we're at," said McNabb. "Coming into training camp, we were all on the same page and I thought we all kind of had that same mindset where we were going to get better each day. Not each game, but each day. I think where we're at right now shows a lot of progress from day one. We know that we might not be playing next week (against the Jets), but we can still go into that week like we are and continue to prepare and when the whistle blows for St. Louis, we're on top of our game.
"I pretty much don't set goals early on in the season. What I try to do is have the mindset of coming into camp in great shape, being able to build that chemistry and timing with the receivers and then just go out and play football. We've all played together for a long time, and for us it's just a matter of being consistent."
McNabb is well aware of what is going on with his offense. He will enter the regular season minus leading wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who caught 77 passes and had 1,110 yards a year ago. Starter Reggie Brown has not played in the preseason and is going to need to spend some extra time with McNabb to nail down their timing for the games that count in the standings.
The offense has been energized by the emergence of rookie receiver DeSean Jackson, who has 16 receptions in three games, and the return of tight end L.J. Smith, who got right into the action on Friday night and is ready to be a big part of things once again.
"I'm very excited that we got him involved in this game," said McNabb. "I thought in the first two games we didn't get him as involved as we needed to. Other guys stepped up and shined and did well for us, but we need to give all of our guys opportunities to make plays and get their confidence so that when the season starts everyone is ready to roll."
The interesting part with McNabb is that when you try to bait him into saying this year is a different season, he resists the idea. Instead, McNabb talks about how the team is looking to "erase" what happened last year when the team went 8-8. Team first. Team always first.
McNabb is just doing his thing.
"It's easy to say that I look great, that I'm bouncing around -- I'm healthy. That's the most important thing," said McNabb. "I had an opportunity to rehab and strengthen and just prepare myself to have a great camp. I look forward to leading that into the season and doing the right things."
More than anything at this stage of the preseason, McNabb's health, happiness and performance is the biggest reason for optimism. He looks great. He feels great. He is great.
The laughter is back. All the way back. When McNabb is the funny guy, well, that is seriously good news for the Eagles.
NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- No surprises among the first mini-wave of cuts, although it was disappointing that Luke Lawton never mounted a serious challenge at fullback. For whatever reason, Lawton did not make his mark as either a tough guy at the line of scrimmage or a demon on special teams.
- No injury update on safety Brian Dawkins. Tune in to Eagles Live! at 11 a.m. and find out the latest on Sunday morning. Andy Reid's press conference comes your way at 11:30 a.m.
- Instant impact from the rookie class? So far, yeah. Trevor Laws, DeSean Jackson, Quintin Demps and Joe Mays have shown they are ready to be on the field in some way, shape or form based on their impressive preseasons. Mays has been terrific in the run game, and he needs more experience in the pass coverage aspect of the job. But he has, for sure, been a very pleasant surprise.
- Is there a better team in the NFL at running the screen pass than the Eagles? With Shawn Andrews back on the field, the Eagles are electric when Brian Westbook is involved in the screen game. I am looking forward to seeing Lorenzo Booker get some of the same opportunities.
- Injuries change everything in the NFL. Ask the Chargers, who are suddenly staring at a season without linebacker Shawne Merriman. And Redskins and Giants fans are holding their breath over the condition of ends Jason Taylor and Osi Umenyiora, respectively.