The offensive playbook constructed as it is by Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg is so vast, so detailed and so enormous that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to know what is coming from one play to the next. Formations are often the same, with variations from those formations almost countless. You may, as a defense, detect pass more than run -- and the numbers would back you up -- but to know specifically what the Eagles are doing is not possible given the multiple options on every snap.
Keith Brooking claimed to know what the Eagles were running in the playoff loss to Dallas, and Brooking and the Cowboys deserve credit for whipping the Eagles in those two games. The challenge for this offense is to learn from those two disappointing games and become better, more diverse and more consistent in 2010.
And that thought brings us to the mini-camp the Eagles are conducting. It has been a daily study, this Eagles offense. What is different with Kevin Kolb at quarterback, and with LeSean McCoy at running back, and with two of the most potent receivers the Eagles have ever had at wide receiver, and with a star-in-the-making tight end, Brent Celek?
I wish I could tell you specifically what has changed. There certainly appear to be tweaks to the scheme, an evolution of sorts with Kolb running things. The suggestion out there is that the Eagles will alter their scheme and go with a more "traditional" West Coast offense" that features more short passing and move-the-chains throws rather than the quick-strike attack that personified the Eagles' offense of the last few seasons.
Maybe that ultimately will be true. But then came a play like we saw on Wednesday when Kolb dropped back and read Jackson flying from the right side of the formation on a post route and threw a perfect pass that Jackson, two steps behind the defense, caught in stride as the offense exploded in appreciation. Mornhinweg gave Kolb a well-deserved "five" and the practice script moved to the next play.
The goal of the offense is to be as multi-dimensional as possible. The Eagles must establish the line of scrimmage and run the ball effectively and keep defenses honest. They need to be efficient throwing the ball. They need to convert third downs. They need to protect Kolb, who has to make good reads and deliver the football accurately and protect the the rock
Kolb is all about dropping back quickly, seeing the field and throwing the football. He isn't as likely to try to make plays with his legs, as did Donovan McNabb, but Kolb is athletic enough to scramble for positive yards. He won't try to make a defender miss. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Kolb practicing his sliding in training camp, because he's either going down safely or running out of bounds.
The Eagles have moved their personnel around liberally in this camp -- rookie receiver Riley Cooper, for instance, has had his reps seemingly increase with his fine play -- and they have installed a lot of motion. Kolb clearly has no problem with advanced motion, with open formations, with a lot of pre-snap change.
And there is no doubt that an emphasis is on getting the football out of his hands. Don't be shocked at all if the Eagles go to more three-step drops, more checkdowns and maybe even more rolling pockets with Kolb passing on the move.
The Eagles have the ability to spread the field and send four receivers on an "all go" and then drop the football off to an underneath receiver who would then have one man to beat for a big gain. They can line Jackson and Maclin up on the same side. They can send Jackson in motion more to get him to catch the football on the move, and to have him moving at the snap of the football to give him a chance to blow past a helpless defensive back.
Celek's versatility, along with the athleticism of backup tight end Cornelius Ingram, gives the Eagles a chance to create some favorable matchups with their big receivers in tight spots. How the team looks in the red zone should be especially interesting, and how the Eagles use their tight ends, and even Cooper or Hank Baskett -- the two largest receivers on the roster -- is going to be fun to see.
A lot has changed about the offense. There just seems to be a different, faster, tempo. The urgency level is higher in practice, no question about it. Everyone is out to prove himself, coaches included. And yet there is a familiar cast, save the quarterback position, and that comfort level with the scheme has the offense playing fast, faster, fastest in this camp.
It is a daily study, for sure. The Eagles are learning more and more about the personality of the offense, particularly the passing game. We won't know what the plan is for McCoy, for Mike Bell, for rookie Charles Scott (running as the third team halfback) until training camp starts and the pads go on.
This is a fun group, no doubt. The Eagles should score a lot of points, in a variety of ways. Defining the offense is going to take some time, and that's fine with Reid and with Mornhinweg. The less other teams know, the better.