As indicators go, NFL preseason results are typically about as reliable as a Poor Richard's Almanac weather forecast.
That's why there should be almost no cause for alarm following the Eagles' unattractive 29-3 exhibition loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. Almost is an important word here, because there were some disconcerting things, which will be mentioned later.
First, though, listen to cornerback Sheldon Brown's evaluation of the Eagles' lopsided loss.
"Every preseason that I've been involved in, it seems like it has been this way, and the season has never been determined by how we did in the preseason," Brown said. "Why that situation presents itself in that way, I don't know. But we'll practice and get better."
The Eagles, under Andy Reid, have never been a particularly good preseason team, although Monday night's performance probably topped the list of bad and ugly exhibition games during the head coach's tenure.
Reid has had just one winning preseason as the Eagles' head coach - 2-1 in 2001 - and his overall preseason record is 12-21. When the Eagles opened with 13 wins in their first 14 games on the way to the Super Bowl in 2004, they went 1-3 in the preseason, including an unsightly 24-6 loss to the New England Patriots in the opener.
Though less than pleased with his team's performance at M&T Bank Stadium, Reid offered an explanation about what happened. He said the Eagles didn't really game-plan for the Ravens, who opted to blitz throughout the evening.
"That's what they do," Reid said. "We knew it was coming. We were going to do what we needed to do to finish up [training camp], and we don't spend a lot of time on that as far as their different looks. They did what they do, and they were having success with it, so they weren't going to back off. We didn't handle it as well as we could."
Brown said he was "a little shocked" that the Ravens' defense attacked the way it did.
"They blitzed every other play," he said. "I don't remember them blitzing as much when we came down here last year. But I guess they wanted to set a tempo of attack, attack, attack. That's their deal, and we have to pick it up."
While Baltimore blitzed and registered five sacks, the Eagles played what Brown described as defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's "vanilla" defense.
The Ravens and quarterback Steve McNair converted three third-and-long situations during their 93-yard opening touchdown drive, and that's something that can't happen when the season begins.
"Yeah, but we could have went and got them, too," Brown said. "We could have blitzed and done some things like that, but Jim didn't want to show a lot of stuff today. If people are worried about that, let them worry. We're going to be all right, though. I think some guys we're going to depend on to make plays . . . I don't think they played tonight. We'll be fine."
The defense was missing cornerback Lito Sheppard and safety Brian Dawkins, both of whom are expected to be ready when the season begins. The Eagles' offense didn't have tight end L.J. Smith, Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews, or quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is expected to make his preseason debut Friday night against the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field.
But there were some things that should be of concern. Topping the list is the missed 43-yard field goal by David Akers in the first quarter. The snap by Jon Dorenbos was low, and Akers' timing appeared to be off, sending the kick wide right. Akers, who doesn't know who will be holding for him when the season starts, is less than comfortable kicking the ball right now, and he needs to become more at ease in the next month.
The Eagles also struggled to run the football - quarterback A.J. Feeley was the leading rusher with 8 yards - and didn't do a great job of stopping the run. The Ravens averaged 5.1 yards per rush.
Those two areas must improve as the preseason continues.
Unlike Brown, defensive end Jevon Kearse did have some concern about what happened Monday night in Baltimore.
"We need to go watch the film and work on something," Kearse said. "That wasn't Eagles football. I don't know who that was out there, but we're going to try to forget about that one. This is the preseason, but we need to take a little more pride in these games. Other teams are going to see that and think they can do the same things, and we're going to dig ourselves into a hole that we're not going to be able to get out of. We need to get it corrected and do something different Friday."
A better showing against the Panthers wouldn't be a bad idea, even though there's no major reason to be alarmed right now.