OK, so there are no pads, and at times there isn't even a defense on the other side of the ball. This is only the first mini-camp of 2010, for goodness sakes, so why go overboard in any read on the weekend's action? I understand. The picture changes completely when the pads go on, but this much we know for sure: The Eagles have as many offensive weapons as they have ever had, and the coaching staff is going to be creative making sure all of the pieces are used.
It was very, very apparent on the first day of the post-draft camp. The offense was flying out of its shoes in every drill. The speed off the line of scrimmage and down the field was unlike anything we have seen in the Andy Reid era, and certainly in seasons before Reid arrived in Philadelphia. Whether it was a talented group of receivers led by Pro Bowl standout DeSean Jackson and second-year star-in-the-making Jeremy Maclin, or a deep group of tight ends paced by Brent Celek, or a slew of fast, talented backs that feature second-year man LeSean McCoy and Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver, the offense put on a display that reminds you that they have something special in place here.
Kevin Kolb, looking comfortable and throwing on-the-money darts, loves what he sees. This is a playground for a quarterback. The Eagles are loaded with skill-position players that stepped up and paced the first day of practices in this camp.
"You can go anywhere in this offense and know the play is going to be there," said Kolb. "Everybody is here to do is job and prepare. I think we can spread it around and be as diverse as we want to be. I enjoyed it out there. It was fun for me. My job is to be accurate and get the ball in the hands of these great players. The yards after the catch is going to be a big part of our offense. I know this group will make the plays if I give them the chance to do so."
It was sure fun to watch.
The Eagles have scored a lot of points in this Reid offense and the explosiveness has always been apparent. Now, though, it just seems to have grown by leaps and bounds. I don't think the 80-degree day and the brilliant sunshine at the NovaCare Complex altered any perceptions. Everyone who was there saw the same thing, and in the end those on the sidelines gushed about the performance by Kolb, by Michael Vick and by the offense in general.
There are some first days when the timing isn't quite there, when the practice tempo is just a little off and when the ball is on the ground far more than the coaches want. There are first days when the players struggle to get their bodies up to speed and the lethargy is clear to all.
The first day for the Eagles offense was just the opposite. It was fast, crisp and intense.
"The players are working hard and they are having a little fun doing it," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg after the two practices were over. "You see the players who have had a year or two in this offense and they're fast. The rookies, I thought, caught on quickly. And our receivers, man, they're big."
Maclin is a great example of the "then" Eagles offense and the "now" Eagles offense. He was new to the NFL 12 months ago and by season's end he was a huge contributor, even as he battled a foot injury. Now Maclin is physically stronger and mentally wise and he is outstanding on every route.
"His foot is better and he has a whole year under his belt and typically players make a pretty big jump from year one to year two in the NFL. And even though he played outstanding last year, he is going to play even better this year," said Mornhinweg. "We have high expectations for him, and he has those same expectations."
Of course, the story all comes back to Kolb and his performance. Would he be jittery, even just a tiny bit, knowing he was going to take all of the reps as the starter here? You know the story: He is replacing Donovan McNabb, the face of the franchise for 11 seasons and more than 100 victories and all of those playoff appearances ...
What was it like for Kolb?
"I thought it was good. There are always mistakes and things you need to correct, but it was smooth for me out there. It was a good lead-in for tomorrow. This was really the first time I was more excited than nervous coming into a mini-camp," said Kolb. "In the years past, I was a little nervous about getting back into it, but this time I was excited about getting in here and being a starter and getting back into the whole swing of football."
From a coaching standpoint, the critical analysis of a performance is always the key. The focus is sometimes more on what a player needs to improve upon rather than on what a player did well.
Mornhinweg, though, was pleased. Very much so.
"Kevin Kolb had a great start, a great first day," said Mornhinweg. "Now he's got to keep it going. He's got to clean a couple little things up and keep working hard."
On, then, to day two of the practices and another chance to see where this offense can go.