This is typical of what we might see from the Eagles' offense this season: Four receivers spread across the formation – Nelson Agholor, Trey Burton, Darren Sproles, and Alshon Jeffery. Quarterback Carson Wentz, in the shotgun, took the snap. He looked right and floated a deep pass to the right sideline, where Jeffery made a beautiful leaping catch.
It was a moment. The First Training Camp moment. An opportunity to see how it all might come together with the newfangled offense that involves veterans like Jeffery and wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back LeGarrette Blount.
Everyone is excited. There was some bounce at practice on Day 1, Full Team, at the NovaCare Complex.
"It was great. Good energy by the players. Good recall from the OTAs. It was a good, fresh start," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "We've added some personnel and that gives everybody more confidence, a little more swagger. I think everyone is feeling that much more confident in our game."
Thursday was a first look at the entire offense, with Jordan Matthews on the field after missing most of the spring practices as he rehabbed his knee injury, and, yeah, it was exciting. Isaac Seumalo, the starting left guard – "for now," said Seumalo after practice, knowing he has to win the job outright – was the new face along the offensive line and Jeffery and Smith and Blount and rookie Donnel Pumphrey dotted the landscape at the skill positions.
The sidelines celebrated the big catch by Jeffrey. Reich nodded in approval.
"I want to see a lot of that this year," he said.
Don't we all? The Eagles ranked tied for 28th in the NFL last season in passing plays of 20-plus yards and they went about overhauling the skill positions. Wide receiver is dramatically improved with Jeffery and Smith projected as the starters outside and with Matthews, a deadly slot receiver, expected to line up inside. Agholor has come on, rookie Mack Hollins is impressive, and the tight ends are versatile and reliable.
Having the big man in the backfield, Blount, adds a dimension the Eagles have not had in many, many a season.
"Having a back like LeGarrette does a couple of things," Reich said. "It makes defenses respect the play-action game and it makes them think a little bit about personnel. A lot of teams these days will play nickel in a heartbeat, no matter what set you're in. If they see (Brent) Celek and (Zach) Ertz in the game together, they think automatically that it's a three-receiver set. Now all of a sudden if you've got LeGarrette in the game and the defense has one less linebacker in the game and one more defensive back in the game, you've got to think twice about doing that."
The structure of the offense isn't going to change much. Head coach Doug Pederson runs his offense, his version of the West Coast offense which, Reich says, "is tried and true and proven in the NFL. The offense has won Super Bowls. It works if you execute the plays."
But having the new look at wide receiver, having a hammer in the backfield, those things change the offense in its level of confidence and in the way the coaching staff can employ the personnel. For those back in Year 2 of Pederson's offense, there is much higher level of knowledge and trust in the scheme. Adding the players the Eagles brought in provides depth and allows more personnel variation.
The Eagles have running backs – Sproles, Pumphrey – who line up as receivers. The tight ends are everywhere in the formation. Matthews and Agholor can play in the slot and on the outside. All of this flexibility gives the Eagles an opportunity to create favorable matchups and then take advantage of them.
"That's the key to what we're doing," Reich said. "Of course we need to call the right plays and we need to execute, but by having so many players capable of doing so many things and lining up around the formation, we can put them in good spots where they have matchups that we like.
"Then you go out and win that matchup."
The Eagles have a long way to go before the opener -- 44 days as this is written. There are wrinkles to iron out. There is timing to build. The pieces have to come together. But you see the tremendous improvement made on the offensive side of the ball. Jeffery is the real deal and he's motivated and he and Wentz clearly have a strong connection. Day 1 was a promising beginning to a much-anticipated growth process offensively.