Seeing DeSean Jackson back on the field, gleefully striding down the field, beating the defense and hauling in a Kevin Kolb pass was a glorious sight in Friday's practice. He had gone down seven days prior, a sudden crash after making a catch. And while Jackson was writhing in pain on the ground, a sudden fear swept through the world of Eagles fans.
Injuries have already taken down some of the most valuable players in the NFL and a preseason game has yet to be played. The Eagles are going to lose their share of players, as happens every season. You just hope and pray that the very most valuable Eagles stay healthy.
Jackson's injury also raised a question in my mind, one that kicks around from time to time: Who is the most indispensible Eagle? Which player, above all the others, would be the most difficult to replace?
Fortunately for Jackson and for the Eagles and for everybody, Jackson's injury was minor. He suffered a lower back strain and spent a week rehabbing the injury before his return to the practice field in the team's 10/10/10 practice. Oh, it was so great to see Jackson running wild on Friday.
Every day, you hold your breath at this time of the season. You never know when an injury will happen. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin went down on the final day of practice the other day, an injury that immediately looked serious and scary, but in the end turned out to be minor.
Last year, of course, Stewart Bradley was that player. The Eagles moved quickly after Bradley suffered a torn ACL in early August, signing veteran Matt Wilhelm, promoting Joe Mays and keeping Omar Gaither ready if needed. Of course, it didn't work out very well at all. Wilhelm didn't make it here, Mays had his ups and downs and Gaither suffered a sprained LisFranc injury and was done for the season.
At the end of the year, Jeremiah Trotter and Akeem Jordan and Mays anybody Sean McDermott could get played MIKE linebacker.
We look at this year's roster. There are a large handful of players who fit the category of "most indispensible" here. Cornerback Asante Samuel is an incredibly valuable player, a playmaker who has range all over the field. The Eagles are in a situation now where they are looking for players to emerge at cornerback to team with Samuel, and it is simply too early to know about Trevard Lindley and Ellis Hobbs and Macho Harris and the rest of a competing group at the position.
Trent Cole is a Pro Bowl right end on a team that has seriously bolstered its line. Cole is an every-down ball of energy, one of the very best players in the league at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles have some skill in reserve -- Brandon Graham is off to a good start, Darryl Tapp is an experienced veteran, Juqua Parker is a proven end in this league and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is a battler as a rookie. But Cole is a warrior, an ironman, and so, so valuable.
How about left tackle Jason Peters? I know there are some out there who are critical of the way Peters played last season, but think what happened to the offense against Oakland when Peters was injured. No offense to King Dunlap, but there was a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the offense when Peters was hurting. The Eagles can slide Todd Herremans from left guard to left tackle, but Herremans hasn't practiced throughout training camp and there are already questions about the offensive line and, well, you hope and pray the line gets healthy and stays that way before September 12.
Jackson is certainly a tremendously valuable player on this team. Nobody comes close to his explosive ability as a receiver and a return man. Few in the league have his skills with the ball in his hands. And while Maclin is a rising standout and Jason Avant could start for many teams in the league, losing Jackson -- as the shudders that Eagles fans felt for a few moments last week -- would be a huge blow.
Tight end Brent Celek is one of the best in the league, and while they are high on young prospects Cornelius Ingram, Clay Harbor and Martin Rucker, none are in the class of Celek. He is an improving, hard-working blocker and, of course, catches the ball and runs with it as well as any tight end in the league.
Then there is the quarterback position. Kevin Kolb is the starter and he is going to have a chance to pass for a ton of yards and make big plays in every game. The Eagles have a lot riding on Kolb, who has responded to the challenge to date. Losing a starter at quarterback is a huge blow to every team. At least, though, the Eagles have a veteran who has won game, heck, who has been to the NFC Championship Game in Michael Vick behind Kolb.
There are a lot of candidates, then. You could probably add Quintin Mikell to the mix as well. Leonard Weaver makes such a huge difference for a team that has not always had the answer at fullback. LeSean McCoy is a go-to running back who is coming into his own very nicely in this training camp.
The most indispensible? Not sure. Hope I don't find out. Keep knocking on wood, rubbing your rabbit's foot, doing whatever it takes to keep the Eagles as healthy as possible from one day to the next.