We're in the early stages of training camp, obviously, and the offense runs through its paces with a great tempo and near-perfect steps on every play. One, two, three and boom! The ball is out of the quarterback's hand and into a receiver's mitts and then it's off to the races.
We feel, don't we?, like we know what to expect from the offense. The pieces have been together long enough to have a sense of the personality of the offense. Quarterback Michael Vick gets the snap, the formation is spread, the options are many. and Vick quickly goes through his progressions.
What is there to improve with the offense? The Eagles moved up and down the field in 2011, but they didn't finish the deal enough. Their touchdown percentage in goal-to-go situations was 65.8, and that's not good enough. A team that led in games for 55 percent of the time on the clock finished just 8-8. Why? Well, the Eagles lost leads in fourth quarters, and while the public's finger was largely pointed at the defense, the Eagles know it takes two to tango away a lead. Fact is, the offense didn't sustain leads, either.
Think about this staggering number: The Eagles had 15 more opportunities than did opponents in goal-to-goal situations and failed to put games away.
"We have to be more consistent in every phase," says Mornhinweg, one of the game's best offensive strategists. "When you have an opportunity to put the ball in the end zone, you have to do it."
The emphasis for the offense, then, is to score touchdowns, to cobble together drives and score six, and to give defenses a healthy mix of long-ball electricity and move-the-sticks power football. The pieces are all in place, aren't they? The explosive skill-position players complement the athletic, yet tough, group of offensive line players assembled by coach Howard Mudd.
Vick, naturally, gains most of the scrutiny. His slide at practice on Friday drew wild applause from the fans and teammates who recognize the importance of having No. 7 on the field as much as possible. No slight to Mike Kafka, but everyone knows how much better the Eagles are with Vick at the helm.
Maybe for the first time in his career, Vick has to add something to his game, and just a smidgen of it: Restraint. Instead of breaking the pocket and challenging defensive backs who stand between him and the end zone, Vick knows he needs to hit the deck. He's got to avoid a hit here and there, run out of bounds rather than race up the sidelines for some extra yards.
In short, Vick must, even just a little, let his mates do more of the heavy lifting.
"I know what we have here on offense, the great players around me and everyone is going to get touches and make big plays," said Vick. "My job is to get the ball into their hands. I know that. The way our offense is structured, we've got a lot of options on every play. I have to make my reads and make good decisions and let those guys do their thing."
Excellence in the red zone is going to hold the key to the team's ultimate offensive success. The personnel hasn't changed enough to think the Eagles now have a "go-to" player inside the 20-yard line, but LeSean McCoy's 20 touchdowns in 2011 make him a pretty strong candidate that every team in the league would love to have. The Eagles must alter the design of the red-zone offense and the players must improve their execution of the scheme.
At the end of the day, we have a good handle on the offense. There is so much to like about Mornhinweg's group. He has players and coaches and the system that has proven for so many years that it works.
Good just isn't enough for the Eagles, though. The offense must be great. That's all the fans demand. Greatness. Precision. More touchdowns.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Punter Mat McBriar can practice on Sunday and has worked out on his own kicking. He looked good on the side on Saturday morning.
- No real update on when defensive tackle Mike Patterson will get on the field, but he is putting in his time conditioning and preparing for the 2012 season. Meanwhile, Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri are taking first-team reps. Fletcher Cox, whom I'm hearing great things about, is working with Antonio Dixon on the second team.
- No real surprises on the depth chart yet. Joselio Hanson is running as the first-team nickel cornerback. Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are starting at safety. Stanley Havili is the fullback. A host of players are working in the return game -- the Eagles don't do live kick returns, so the preseason will largely determine how the depth chart looks there.
- Tight end Brent Celek is able to take part in the walk-through practices but not in the afternoons. He will still miss another few days, but is going to be fine.