The Eagles are out of Lehigh, giving us a chance to look back at what we've seen and what clues training camp has given us about how the regular season might play out.
Of course, any camp recap comes with the disclaimer that we can’t draw firm conclusions based solely on practices and a single preseason game. But the two-a-days have at least given us new information about what to expect, where to be optimistic and where Eagles fans should worry heading up to the Sept. 12 opener.
We have written about many of these issues (and others) throughout camp. Hopefully this helps crystallize thing. We'll do the offense is today, defense Thursday.
The offense was supposed to be a strength of this team, but it struggled through a very rough patch about halfway through camp, and has not yet looked sharp in the red zone. It’s easy to see all the young weapons: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, and wonder if they’ll burn out the scoreboard. But the youth also likely means inconsistency, a problem that showed itself in Lehigh. A lot of that comes down to the offensive line, which remains an issue after three weeks of camp.
Reasons for hope: Kevin Kolb is comfortable in the spotlight and seems at ease in that role and in his own skin. He moved the team smartly in its first preseason game against Jacksonville and spread the ball to his many receivers. In camp he showed accuracy, and also the arm strength to get the ball deep. He had no trouble hitting a streaking DeSean Jackson. He might not be in Donovan McNabb territory in terms of power, but he is certainly strong enough. (NOTE: updated this part to clarify that it wasn't just Kolb's poise that was a positive).
Michael Vick, meanwhile, looked explosive running the ball and can still throw it 40-plus yards with a flick of the wrist. Unlike last year, he enters this season with a full training camp in the Eagles offense.
Reasons for concern: Kolb went through a bad spell of throwing camp interceptions, and in his one quarter of preseason action so far threw at least two passes into coverage. Vick’s passing has been up and down and he turned the ball over twice in a quarter and a half against Jacksonville.
Reasons for hope: LeSean McCoy looked aggressive hitting holes and torched linebackers and safeties in receiving drills. Leonard Weaver, as expected, remains a true professional who can catch the ball and provide power.
Reasons for concern: Depth. Camp exposed some big questions about the backs behind McCoy, who is entering his first season as the team’s unquestioned number one runner. Mike Bell has battled injuries all camp. It’s not clear if he can be counted on. Eldra Buckley runs hard, but is hardly a game-breaker. Charles Scott showed little in Lehigh.
Reasons for hope: We knew DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant were great coming in, and nothing that happened in camp changed that perception. Now add in Riley Cooper and there is even more cause for optimism. The fifth round pick lit up Lehigh, catching deep passes and showing more speed than expected. He could be another factor if there are enough passes to go around, especially if the team can use his height near the end zone.
Reasons for concern: You’d have to really reach for a quibble here. If anything, maybe it’s Jackson’s contract. Still, the fact that he has kept quiet about it throughout the time at Lehigh makes it look like he’s willing to handle the issue without causing any waves.
Reasons for hope: In Clay Harbor the Eagles appear to have added an athletic, hard working pass catcher with good hands to go along with Brent Celek. Harbor was one of the stars of the rookie class and impressed enough to work with the first team offense in two tight end sets.
Reasons for concern: Celek had a relatively quiet camp for a player considered a rising star. Harbor still needs to work on his blocking and Cornelius Ingram did not impress. His explosiveness has not returned.
Reasons for hope: Jamaal Jackson appears to be ahead of schedule, having practiced less than eight months after tearing his ACL last December. Todd Herremans, too, got back into action in the final days of camp and even got involved in some of the full-contact drills. Mike McGlynn was at least competent in his one start at center.
Reasons for concern: We still don’t know when Jackson will really be back, and the fact that the team kept Herremans out so long shows there is reason to watch his left foot closely. Nick Cole, Andy Reid’s first choice center in place of Jackson, had a brutal camp and sat out much of it with a knee injury. Stacy Andrews had mixed results and Winston Justice regularly whiffed in blocking drills against Brandon Graham. Maybe Graham is that good, but it also might be a developing problem.