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NFL Preview: How Will Eagles Offense Be Different This Season?

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This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

OK, I know: The preseason is worth what it's worth, so why try to read so much into it? But how about this? The Eagles scored 131 points in four preseason games, averaging 32.75 points per contest.

That's gotta mean something, right?

From this perspective, it means this offense has the pieces in place to be something really, really special.

A lot has to come together for that to happen, of course. An offensive line that won't have right tackle for Lane Johnson has to withstand the pressure packages and stunts and games that defenses are invariably going to throw at it. Allen Barbre is very much a man on the spot on the edge of the line of scrimmage. And the wide receivers, which battled injuries all summer, have to be healthy and productive and deeper on the field than they appear to be on paper. Rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are going to be needed to contribute this season.

But the Eagles have enough players who you stamp with "count on him" labels to feel great about the possibilities. LeSean McCoy is a dominating running back in every phase of the game. Darren Sproles has made a career of spinning defensive coordinators' heads around with his quickness in the open field. The tight end combination of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz offers myriad options for head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Quarterback Nick Foles has made steady growth in his two NFL seasons and enters his third year as the most stable quarterback in the NFC East.

The system in place, even after witnessing it for one full season, puts points on the board.

So, let's all agree that the Eagles are going to score points. The question is this, though: How are they going to do it?

It's a run-first team, and if a defense ever plays with two-deep safeties and leaves seven players in the box, the Eagles are very likely to call a running play. McCoy is going to get his touches and his numbers. If teams drop back and play zone, the call will be for the Eagles to move the chains and design some catch-and-run plays to gain yardage. If the defenses blitz and try to create havoc, Foles will have some options looking at receivers in one-on-one situations.

Last year's Eagles led the NFL in explosive plays - defined as gains of 20 or more yards - and they had a total of 19 (including the playoff game) passing plays that gained 40 or more yards. That's a bunch. It may be a number that's tough to duplicate this time around.

Is that a problem? No, not at all. If the Eagles gain 10 and 15 yards instead of 30 and 40, and they chew up some clock and they move into the red zone, they are much more equipped to score touchdowns inside opponents' 20-yard lines than they did a year ago. In 2013, the Eagles ranked in the middle of the pack in the NFL in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only 52 percent of the time inside the 20-yard line.

That's a stat that must improve. The Eagles are bigger at wide receiver than they were a year ago - Jeremy Maclin has always been a strong threat in the red zone and Matthews has a large catch radius - big body, long arms - so in theory the Eagles are better equipped for touchdowns in the tight zone.

Will the Eagles become a more grind-it-out-offense this season? I'm not ready to go that far, but if Kelly/Shurmur want to run, run, run, the weapons are there. Without Jackson's straight speed to stretch a defense, the Eagles have to be wary of defenses creeping closer to the line of scrimmage. That's something we will all watch this year.

In the meantime, don't be surprised if the personality of the offense changes, if only a little. The tempo will still be high and the points should be plentiful, but there may be a handful fewer of the bombs-away plays that Jackson provided - he had 9 receptions of 40-plus yards in 2013.

There are other ways to score, and the Eagles should be well-versed in the art of touchdowns this year. Some just may be more medium range, which isn't a bad thing at all in the big picture.