The regular season begins in, hold your breath, three weeks from the time I write this. The Eagles still have two preseason games to go, two cuts to make, and a roster to finalize. Are there areas to improve upon? Of course. Every team has its rattles in the attic. That's what the preseason is all about. Treated properly, teams work out their kinks and prepare for the regular season. With that, the Eagles have wrinkles. Here are some to discuss ...
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
It needs to be better, particularly in the running game. The Eagles haven't had a lot of push in short-yardage situations, especially when they run to the left. Of course, the expectation is that Todd Herremans is going to make a big difference. He could play in a game right now, if needed. Will Herremans play on Friday night at Kansas City? It wouldn't be a surprise if he saw some snaps and that is the plan, barring a setback.
The Eagles are also playing in the preseason with their third-string center. No offense to Mike McGlynn, who is a good player, an improving young linemen, but he is behind Jamaal Jackson and Nick Cole on the depth chart.
So the Eagles are learning a few things about their offensive line with every day of practice. They are developing some depth -- you can now safely trust Cole, Max Jean-Gilles, McGlynn, King Dunlap and rookie Austin Howard as backups -- and that is all good for the long haul. But the line has to be a lot better. No question about it. Three times combined Jason Peters and Winston Justice lined up in an illegal formation. That is just a lapse in concentration and it is unacceptable, even in the preseason.
I wish the Eagles had gone for it on a fourth-and-1 play from the Bengals 45-yard line after missing on the third-and-1 run to the left side. The line needs to be challenged. The line needs some success in short-yardage situations with the running game. This group really needs to attain some success heading into the season.
**SCORING TDs IN THE RED ZONE
It is an interesting story to tell: On one hand the Eagles are running very vanilla plays in the red zone and they are keeping their A-level playbook under wraps. On the other hand, they need to score touchdowns in the red zone to avoid losing confidence there. In the first preseason game, Kevin Kolb put a touchdown in the hands of tight end Brent Celek, and Celek couldn't hang on. In the second game, a touchdown pass to Jason Avant was called back because of penalty. So .... the plays are there. Receivers are open. Touchdowns are there to be had.
But the Eagles haven't scored a red-zone touchdown with the first-team offense on the field. And Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are clearly in testing mode. The direct snap they called on Friday night to LeSean McCoy screamed of a "setup" look. Now that play is on film. Now teams take a look. And maybe in a regular season game the Eagles have that look and McCoy does something different with the ball. DeSean Jackson came in motion on the play and McCoy kept and went nowhere.
Is there concern? There is an urgency, and the Eagles are practicing their red-zone packages, and the team knows it has to score more touchdowns. The weapons are in place. The scheme is a good one. Kolb has shown accuracy, so there is every expectation that the red-zone offense should be fine.
But it sure would be nice to see some touchdowns on Friday night in Kansas City.
**A REVAMPED SECONDARY
There have been plenty of encouraging signs here. Ellis Hobbs is a battler. We sure have seen that. He is physical and tenacious and he has the skills to run and cover. He has done a good job in the preseason. Asante Samuel is on top of his game. No worries there, even with the questions about his tackling.
Joselio Hanson was beaten on the fade to Terrell Owens, and that happens. Hanson was not in awful position there by any means. He needs to make sure he jams if he is in press coverage on a big, strong receiver.
Dimitri Patterson has had a very strong summer and he deserves to be part of the rotation. Rookie Trevard Lindley has been OK, and it is time for him to get a long look and make some plays.
Macho Harris needs to get back on the field to earn a roster spot. He is in a tough spot, having missed two preseason games and a lot of practice time.
Rookie Nate Allen had an excellent game in coverage against the Bengals. The way he cut off Chad Ochocinco on the deep route was masterful. He runs well and, while he needs to be more certain on his tackling, Allen has the goods in coverage. That's what it looks like, anyway. The young man is communicating and working well within the scheme. Allen is off to a very good start.
DEPTH AT RUNNING BACK
This is a big week for Mike Bell. He is back at practice on a full-time basis and needs to stay on the field and get in some reps against Kansas City. From this perspective, the question of depth at running back is a serious story as the regular season advances. McCoy has been strong throughout the off-season and Eldra Buckley brings it when he carries the football. Bell is the big wonder here. He runs hard and looks like he can be very effective in the offense, but he hasn't been healthy.
So keep an eye on Bell. If he can't stay healthy this week, you wonder what is next for the Eagles at running back. Would they then have to look for some depth at the position?
**COVERAGE ON SPECIAL TEAMS
It hasn't been very good, as Reid has pointed out. That is one of the staples of the preseason as personnel is shuttled in and out. Coordinator Bobby April has a proven track record and he believes in the personnel here, so the Eagles should be fine.
We're not going to know about the coverage teams until the regular season starts and April has his people in place. Until then, it is all about holding on and hoping these young players and thrown-together personnel combinations play with better discipline and tackle better.
Penalties committed are a problem, too. They have to stop right now.
THE INJURY GAME
The good news is that the Eagles haven't suffered any long-term injuries to date, other than the one to safety Antoine Harris. Harris was going to have an uphill climb to make the roster, anyway. But through two games, the casualty count is minimal. Jeremy Maclin avoided a serious injury against the Bengals, a big relief. Jeremy Maclin is good to go. Asante Samuel is fine. Two games down, and no major worries.
Players like Jamaal Jackson hopefully are ready to step up their involvement and we will follow that. Harris, Bell and a few others need to get on the field with the first round of cuts -- from 80 players to 75 -- in a week.
Keep your fingers crossed every day. The injury count is perhaps the most important one of every team's preseason.