Michael Vick says he is 100 percent healthy, and will use his brains, rather than his brawn, when he takes off and runs in the future. DeSean Jackson was on the practice field on Monday, an encouraging sign, even if it was on a limited basis. Jason Peters says his knee feels better than it has felt in years after having surgery to repair torn meniscus.
As the Eagles got back to work on Monday with the Colts in their sights, the offense started to take shape. In fact, the offense looked healthier than it has looked since the season began, and now the imagination rolls with what could be ahead for the Eagles. There have been sporadic periods of brilliance for the offense, which has been better more often than it has been worse this season. The Eagles are scoring points, but they certainly can improve their consistency, especially in the red zone.
With Vick as the starter, the Eagles led the league in their touchdown efficiency in the red zone. But they went 3 for 10 in the red zone in the last three games and clearly, as was the case in Tennessee, the lack of effectiveness cost the team.
How does the personality of the offense develop with Vick at quarterback, with the offensive line healthy and as stable as it has been all year, and with the wide receivers deep and talented? What does it mean that the running backs are as strong as they have been in years -- and I know I'm assuming that Jerome Harrison is a great fit in this offense -- and that the coaches seem to have more confidence in the ground game than they have in many seasons?
Into what will the offense become?
Certainly, the offense is as dynamic as they come in the NFL. The vertical passing game should be explosive and successful, provided Vick is as on with the deep ball as he was prior to the rib/chest injury. The weapons are there. Vick's job is to put the ball in the hands -- in stride -- of Jackson and of Jeremy Maclin and of tight end Brent Celek. The Eagles have to do a better job of including Celek, who needs to control the middle of the field to open up the outside for the speed threats.
Vick is not here to run around and go crazy and make every play. He is here to be a threat, yes, but more importantly to distribute the football to the playmakers in this offense. Teams have to account for Vick and his mobility, of course, and it is going to be interesting to see how defenses match up against a more-polished version of one of the game's most dynamic players.
If teams blitz Vick, they risk allowing him to gash them with sprints down the field, or screens to McCoy, who has become so good at setting up his blocks in the receiving game. Lay back and allow Vick to have time in the pocket and he has the ability to pick apart a secondary. Who can cover Jackson and Maclin for four seconds, anyway?
It is likely that teams are going to mix things up and try to get Vick to commit mistakes. That was Vick's strength early in the season -- his control of the football and his command of where to go with the ball. Vick had no turnovers in his time before the injury, one of the reasons he is back in the lineup even after Kevin Kolb played so well as the starter.
Having Jackson back means so much for the offense, of course, and the Eagles had better keep in mind the great things they did with him early in the game against Atlanta when he scored on an end around, picked up another first down running the football and then torched the Falcons running a post route into the end zone to catch a perfect Kolb pass. Jackson needs to move around the formation, get in space and have the ball in his hands. His presence totally changes the way defenses cover this offense at the line of scrimmage and in the secondary.
Peters is a huge plus, too. He is a Pro Bowl left tackle who certainly has not been perfect in his time here. But if you look around the league, and you study left tackles, you understand that nobody is even close to perfect. Peters wants to "get off the rock," and get back in his stance and set up quick, and sometimes he moves a touch early and it costs the Eagles 5 yards. He has to have better concentration there. He has to decrease his mistakes.
But the Eagles know they can leave Peters alone with the right end in a defense and feel good about the matchup. Having Peters back, with Dwight Freeney on the horizon, is a comforting feeling. Juan Castillo can slide his protection throughout the line, rather than concentrate it at the left tackle spot.
So now the offense is relatively whole. There is no Jamaal Jackson and no Leonard Weaver, but the Eagles have found capable replacements in Mike McGlynn at center and Owen Schmitt at fullback, respectively. The offense is ready to take off. We've seen signs of it through seven games, but only in bits and spurts. Now is the time to put together some consistency, and to carve out a personality.
Vick is in the lineup, ready to lead the way. He has a lot of help as the Eagles offense takes steps to put it all together in the final 9 games of this season.