Throughout the Organized Team Activities and the post-draft mini-camps and the various practices the Eagles employed since Chip Kelly became head coach, watching the offense was a prime focus. We had heard so much about Kelly and his mystical ways with an offense -- so much tempo, so many snaps, a ton of variety and a team-first approach -- and now that we've had a taste, the appetite is insatiable for more.
So what is the offense going to look like? Well, if you believe in what those who studied Kelly's offense at Oregon, the Eagles will spread the field, snap the football every handful of seconds and play speed football with a heavy emphasis on the read-option scheme.
If you believe in what Kellys says, that he has no preconceived notions of the players on the roster and that he will play to the strengths of what he learns of those players, the Eagles will be as multiple in their approach as possible, hopeful that they are as efficient in the passing game as they are in the running game.
For those who watched some of the practices at the NovaCare Complex, as reporters were permitted to do, the offense showed a lot of different formations and approaches as the coaching staff introduced its scheme. The Eagles ran the ball. They threw the ball. The quarterbacks moved the pocket at times and at other times the quarterbacks dropped back in the pocket and threw the football.
As we pause in this can't-wait-until-training-camp-is-here period of time, the feeling from this perspective is this: The Eagles have a chance to be very, very good offensively, and I wouldn't dare try to label the scheme.
Why judge based on practices during which the players wore shorts and shells and there was no tackling involved? Why presume that Kelly has fed his players all that there is to see in this offensive structure when those who understand know that we're in the infancy stages of Kelly's time in Philadelphia?
What *was *clear during the practices was that the number of mental mistakes, physical errors and footballs on the ground diminished greatly over time. The tempo of the offense increased incrementally, and that is something to be expected as the players became more ingrained in their playbooks and more comfortable in their assignments.
My thoughts on what I saw: The Eagles have all of the pieces to be outstanding on offense. The line is athletic, talented and has played together, with the excepton of potential starting right tackle Lane Johnson. Isn't it fair to think that this group can be outstanding as it continues working together through training camp and hits its stride in September under new coach Jeff Stoutland?
The wide receivers are, collectively, terrific. Give me DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant in any offense and the passing game can be productive. The key here is that players like Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson and Arrelious Benn and the remainder of a talented group continue to improve.
Tight end may be the most interesting position we've seen in a long time, not only to learn how Kelly intends to use them, but also to see if veteran James Casey is ready to blossom into a standout in an offense that can use him and to see how second-round draft pick Zach Ertz's big-time college skills translate into the NFL.
At running back, there is no denying that the Eagles are loaded on paper. LeSean McCoy has been as productive a back as you'll find in the NFL the last three seasons (OK, Adrian Peterson is in another class, but ...) and his versatility seems like the perfect fit in an offense that could ask him to run the ball a lot and to get into the passing game as a receiver a lot, too.
Second-year man Bryce Brown returns after showing enormous promise in 2012 and envisioning McCoy and Brown as a 1-2 punch in the backfield is exciting, indeed. Second-year back Chris Polk and former Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones lend great competition to the picture, as does rookie Matthew Tucker, signed after April's draft.
All of the optimism regarding the offense, of course, assumes that whoever wins the quarterback job -- Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley or Dennis Dixon -- will make good decisions and carry out the gameplan put together by Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
I'm not sure that his is going to be a "passing" offense or a "running" offense, but I know it has to do both, and that labeling an offense is so, like, *yesterday *and that Kelly and his offensive strategy lead the Eagles into the bright, bold present with a promising picture of the future.
Run or pass, it doesn't make a difference. The Eagles have the pieces to do both. They need a sound game plan each week, great decisions at the quarterback position and discipline and execution of the X's and O's from everyone to make it work. The offense, having watched it just enough to get a taste, has a chance to be really, really good.
Leaving the mini-camp a week ago, the Eagles had something going in the right direction, a large gulp of optimism moving forward.