The Eagles' control of the line of scrimmage in Thursday's 14-9 win over the Panthers was impressive not just because of its stark contrast to their first preseason game, but also because of their opponent.
The Eagles' first-half offense averaged 7.4 yards per play against Carolina's top-10 defense, and the Panthers' pass rushing duo of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy -- which combined for 22.5 sacks last season -- failed to pressure either Eagles quarterback.
Now just imagine this high-octane offense with Jason Peters at left tackle.
After missing all of last season with two Achilles tears, Peters was out for the Eagles' first two preseason games with a hamstring tweak suffered on July 31. On Saturday, he returned to the field in front of roughly 20,000 fans in the second-to-last open practice at the Linc.
"Yeah I'm suiting up this week," Peters told the Eagles' official site. "I'm going to go out there and get myself some good work against Jacksonville and get ready for Washington.
"I felt great. I could have played last week, but I'm just trying to make sure. I don't want to re-injure it then go into the season with it tweaked up. So I'm 100 percent ready to go."
Peters looked strong in O-line drills and moved well in 11-on-11s, even if it was just in shorts.
Michael Vick, who by CSNPhilly.com's unofficial tally took 74 percent of the first-team reps Saturday, lit up when asked about his returning lineman.
"I mean, he's a dynamite player," Vick said. "[With Peters] the left side is almost all taken care of. Guys have been doing a great job holding it down over there, but JP's a different animal."
A different animal indeed. Peters made five straight Pro Bowls from 2007-11 and was a first-team All Pro in 2011.
That year, the Eagles averaged 5.4 yards per carry when running off left tackle behind Peters. LeSean McCoy rushed for a career-high 1,309 yards, averaging 0.6 yards per carry more than he did during a nightmarish 2012.
If Peters can avoid further injury and Lane Johnson continues to develop, the Eagles' offensive line has a chance to be special. And even if Peters does go down again -- he's started 16 games just once in his nine-year career -- the Eagles feel they're well-stocked outside in pass and run protection. Backup left tackle Allen Barbre played well in place of Peters against New England and Carolina (see story).
"I think Allen has done a really nice job and I think when Dennis [Kelly] went down that was a big question for all of us -- 'Do we have another tackle?' I think Allen, to us, has really solidified his situation from a depth standpoint," head coach Chip Kelly said. "We knew he could play guard, but now to have a guy that's a guard/tackle guy ... sometimes you have seven guys active on game day. You're going to have to have somebody that's got some versatility and I think that's what we learned from him."
But the plan is to get Peters healthy and to use his 6-foot-4, 340-pound frame to shield Vick from attackers on his throwing side, and to create the tiny bit of space McCoy needs before deciding which move he'll use to make the first man miss.
"Even though you guys may not have seen it, we still made a good share of mistakes today," Vick said of the offense. "We're taking these next two days of training camp seriously and trying to get better in some things we need to put into the offense. But it's all about getting Jason back, getting him going and keeping things in order."