Training Camp Postcard: Eagles
Posted: Friday August 3, 2007 5:20PM; Updated: Monday August 6, 2007 12:27PM
At Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., where the Eagles drew an astonishing crowd of 17,941 (I kid you not) to their steamy morning workout. That's the second largest throng in the history of Eagles camp, bettered only by the 20,000-strong crowd that showed up a few years back when Terrell Owens was slated to make an appearance in the team's autograph tent. You probably won't be surprised to learn that occurred in T.O.'s first camp with the Eagles, not the train wreck that was the second go-round.
The fans were loud and boisterous on Friday, with near constant E-A-G-L-E-S chants, and some rather Philly-like treatment for the one lone fan who dared to wear a Cowboys jersey (I'll be hearing "Dallas sucks!'' in my sleep tonight). Some of the fan frenzy has to be a byproduct of the Eagles' very brief stay in camp this year. They're only at Lehigh for another nine days. They actually break camp before they ever play a preseason game, leaving Bethlehem on Aug. 12, the day before they travel to Baltimore for their Monday-night exhibition opener against the Ravens.
1. Memo to anxious Eagles fans everywhere: He's fine. Really. Everything's going to be OK. Donovan McNabb may not be all the way back just yet, but if you didn't know the Eagles quarterback had blown out his right knee a little more than eight months ago, you wouldn't be able to tell from his early work in training camp.
"If that's being 75 percent for him, I'd love to see him get to 100 percent,'' Eagles running back Brian Westbrook said Friday after McNabb turned in another strong practice performance. "Minus the [knee] brace, you'd be hard-pressed to tell anything had happened to him.''
McNabb has been very accurate in camp thus far, and I saw him put pass after pass on the hands of his receivers Friday morning. He hit the newly acquired Kevin Curtis in stride on a bomb down the left sideline midway through live team drills, and he's moving around with aplomb, avoiding the pass rush and occasionally taking off if there's no open receiver in sight.
I'm convinced he could start a regular season game next week and fare pretty darn well for himself, but in reality he has more than a month before Philly's Sept. 9 opener at Green Bay to continue making progress. He'll make that without breaking a sweat, even though the Eagles may hold him out of the first two preseason games for precautionary reasons.
I asked him Friday if he wanted me to spread the word that he's good to go, so folks can stop asking him about the state of the knee?
"I've tried to do that in so many words,'' McNabb said. "But this is Philadelphia. It's something to talk about. The biggest question in camp this year is 'How's Donovan?' But really, I'm good. There are steps in this process, but getting back on the field and playing again, it's just like riding a bike.''
2. I think one of the trickiest things for the Eagles to figure out early this season will be how to duplicate the prominence Westbrook had in their offense during last year's late-season run to the playoffs. Westbrook himself is interested to know if a run-pass balance will be the byword with Philly's offense this season, after he was successful carrying so much of the load while the Eagles were winning six consecutive games without McNabb last season.
"I think a lot of people around the league were surprised, but I've been asking for that, to carry the load, for a while now,'' Westbrook told me between practices. "We've been a quarterback dominated team and we've won that way. But I would hope [last year] would influence us to run the ball a lot more than in the past. Andy [Reid] loves the passing game. Sometimes he gets bored with the running game.''