PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles are halfway through their preseason schedule. More to the point, they are all the way through what passes for training camp in 2015.
Beginning with Monday’s practice, there will be no fans or media allowed to watch the Eagles at work. The preparation for the regular season will become more earnest.
So it seems like a good moment to stop, take a step or two back and get a feel for where the Eagles stand. Things can change with a single misstep, of course, but there’s no way to account for the unknown.
As Chip Kelly said when asked about his plans for Sam Bradford in the preseason game in Green Bay Saturday night, “I don't know. He could get sick and have Legionnaire's disease and not play next Saturday. I don’t know. He could play. I don't know.”
So there you have it. Barring an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, here’s what we know about the 2015 Eagles so far:
Bradford looks good, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride. It was great for Bradford and the Eagles that the quarterback got through Saturday night’s game against Baltimore healthy and ready to roll.
But everyone got a harsh reminder that Bradford’s health can’t be taken for granted. When Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs plowed into Bradford’s legs at knee level, hearts throughout Lincoln Financial Field skipped a beat. What if -- there’s no need to finish the question. Bradford said it wasn’t the last time something like that will happen, and he’s right.
It is going to be a constant anxiety all season, and possibly for the rest of Bradford’s career. It will diminish over time if he remains healthy, but it’s just something that will lurk in the background as long as Bradford is with the Eagles.
The offense looks potent, but that’s neither new or totally convincing. The Eagles' offense was fifth in the NFL last season in yardage, third in points scored. Through two preseason weekends, the Eagles have scored 76 points and gained 888 yards.
So for all the changes Kelly made in the offseason -- new quarterback, new running backs, new wide receivers -- the offense appears remarkably consistent. What we learned last year is that upper-echelon teams were able to limit that offense. The quarterback play wasn’t good enough against defenses like Arizona’s, Seattle’s and San Francisco’s.
The Ravens have a very good defense and the Eagles scored 40 points against it. That is certainly better than scoring 10 points. But it is the preseason. Teams aren’t game planning for the Eagles’ hurry-up offense. While that unorthodox offense gives the Eagles an edge in the regular season, that edge is much wider under preseason conditions.
So be encouraged by the Eagles’ ability to move the ball and light up the scoreboard, but don’t get carried away just yet.
The offensive line looks very good. It turns out that paying over $10 million a year for guards is not a formula for success. Kelly let Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans go, plugged in the more modestly paid Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner, and the line looks just fine.
The Eagles averaged 6.3 yards per carry against the Ravens Saturday night. That average was skewed by Tim Tebow’s 26-yard run and a 28-yard run by Kevin Monangai, but that’s usually the case with exceptional rushing averages.
The line was always going to be an essential part of what Kelly was trying to do with his new offensive skill players. DeMarco Murray and Bradford were only going to be as effective as the line gave them a chance to be. So far, so good.
The defense has a chance to be special. Last year, the Eagles' secondary was a bona fide disaster. Only the Atlanta Falcons allowed more passing yards, and no one allowed more big plays through the air. Meanwhile, though, the Eagles were tied for second with 49 sacks, and they were tied for fourth in yards per rush.
Translation: Their front seven was very good. Their secondary was very bad.
Kelly improved the front seven by adding Kiko Alonso to the linebacking corps. And he drastically remade the secondary. With the release of third-year safety Earl Wolff, Malcolm Jenkins became the longest-tenured member of the Eagles’ secondary. Jenkins has been with the team for 17 months.
Younger doesn’t necessarily mean better, but the changes do allow for growth and potential. Halfway through the preseason, the secondary has produced four interceptions and allowed exactly zero passes over 20 yards.