The Philadelphia Eagles can make up a pretty fearsome team when everyone is healthy. Yet this makes Eagles fans like myself even more upset that this happens so rarely. We certainly haven't seen Philadelphia all together much in this preseason, since Michael Vick has only ran 12 plays in two games due to two injuries. Of course, starters are rarely supposed to play for long in the preseason anyway, but this is pushing it.
We already don't know what to expect from the Eagles this season, since they are one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL. And with the entire offense only at full strength for a few minutes in the exhibition schedule, there is no way to know what we're in for when the games that count begin.
First Philadelphia has to hope that Vick and the offense can survive a full 60 minutes against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9. At this point, keeping the quarterback on the field for a full game will count as a victory - regardless of how well he actually performs. However, with the stakes as high as they are for the Eagles this season, performance still counts.
Can Vick still be fearsome, cut down on his mistakes and run up points if he is healthy? Will DeSean Jackson have the bounce back year the Eagles are counting on after finally giving him his contract? Is LeSean McCoy ready to join the club of elite running backs - assuming they trust him to take more of the load off Vick? And will any new offensive threats emerge to make Philadelphia more dangerous?
The answers to these questions will help determine if the Eagles are for real, or still just another 8-8 team. But the answers won't come as easily if the offense can't play together - the full offense and not just a mix of stars and backups. Philadelphia might not have answered all this if Vick played longer in the preseason, yet at least us fans would have had a better idea or been a bit less uncertain.
Uncertainty is the key word to define the Eagles so far, both with and without Vick. Sept. 9 will be the first time that every key player will be in action for a long time - assuming nothing goes wrong. But even if everything runs smoothly against the Browns, games after that against the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions will be more telling.
If Vick rests completely until the season opener, there will be questions surrounding him about rust. But technically, the entire Eagles offense is rusty, as we really haven't seen them play together at full strength since the end of last year. As such, the beginning of this year is a bigger question mark than ever in Philadelphia, and not just because of Vick himself.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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