The first day on the practice field is in the books for the 2022 Training Camp, and that concludes the first day of meeting with the media. Welcome, then, to our Quotebook, fresh from NovaCare Complex. Here are some of the highlights of what the team said Wednesday.
The veteran defensive end is coming back from a bout with COVID, but says he’s feeling good and will continue the season.
“I got pretty sick about a week and a half, two weeks ago,” Cox said. “Just taking steps to get me back to where I was. Just being smart about it, getting me fired up. I’m starting to feel a lot better than this time last week, so that’s a good sign.”
The tailwind was positive as fans and media were in full force given the team’s big offseason, something Cox has learned about Philly since the team selected him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“Expectations are always high,” Cox said. “When you play in the City of Philly, every year the expectations are the same. They want you to win. So you have to love playing in this city and for the fans that cheer us on.”
A six-time Pro Bowler, Cox said he wants to get back to that level this season. In 2021, Cox recorded 3.5 quarterback sacks and 35 total tackles while completing 66 percent (749) of the snaps.
“Just be better than I was last year,” Cox said when asked about his individual goals for the season. “Obviously, it wasn’t one of the best years of my career. Enough years for me. I could have done better in a lot of ways. I know I’m going to be better. Second year of this defense, I know what to expect. I know what’s going on. I’ll be ready to everything.”
He doesn’t say much, instead letting his big play do a lot of the talking, but wide receiver DeVonta Smith sat down with reporters to talk about what it’s like to be in training camp for the second summer. There is a difference, Smith said.
“Obviously, things are moving a little faster,” he said. “The timing is better. We worked all offseason, so the communication is better, things like that.”
The presence of veteran wide receiver A.J. Brown, something we’ll talk about at length over the summer, makes the difference when the ball snaps, of course. But Smith said having Brown around is extremely important for another reason: leadership for an otherwise fairly young wide receiver corps.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, so we need someone who’s been there before and can walk us through it,” Smith said.
A field goal by wide receiver A.J. Brown in this training camp? “Win every time,” he said, then make the catch and make the defenders pay. That’s the hope for everyone, who had their eyes on the number 11 when he lined up on the pitch on Wednesday.
Fans chanted his name and booed loudly whenever Brown touched the football. He’s been that way since the night the Eagles acquired him in a trade from Tennessee in April. The first day live in front of the fans was special, admitted Brown.
“It was very passionate. As soon as I got here, cheers,” he said. “I definitely feel the love. Since I’ve been here in Philly, the city has been showing me love. I appreciate it with all my heart. Now it’s my job to do what I do, have fun and play football.”
Brown showed some fan love earlier this week when he stopped by the Eagles Pro Shop in Cherry Hill (you just never know who you might run into there!) and bought some fans his jersey. He wanted to see if his number 11 was hanging, and sure enough it was, so he gave the fans a great hug in the form of his jersey as a gift.
“I just wanted to show love,” he said. “I’m big on showing love. That’s just me.”
No player was more excited to be on the field Wednesday than veteran linebacker Brandon Graham, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 2 of last season. He is back and is delighted that the injury is not holding him back. Graham is full – with a big smile to prove it.
“I’m so excited to be back with the guys. It’s a new recognition that I left and now I have another opportunity to come back here with the Philadelphia Eagles,” he said. “We have a good team and I want to make the most of every day we spend together. We have something special, but we have to put in the work every day. It’s not going to come to us just because of what it says on paper.”
The Eagles practiced for one hour on Wednesday, which is a short amount of time compared to past training camps, but that’s not a factor for Darius Slay. It’s not about the length of time, he said. It’s about what you do when you’re on the field.
“As long as you practice and work hard, that’s all that matters,” he said.
The Eagles also run a playbook most days during camp, and that’s where Slay says he gets a lot of benefits by locking down the defensive concept. It also helps that Slay and the cornerbacks work every day against a strong group of receivers led by Brown and Smith.
“Big, physical guy who can catch the ball and run. I’m waiting to put on the pads because you can definitely tell he’s not a ‘t-shirt guy’.” He’s a pad guy. He wants to go through contact,” Slay said of Brown. “We’re ready for them. We will compete. My job is to make him be the best receiver in the game – him and DeVonta and the entire receiving corps. I want them to be the best unit in the NFL. My job is to continue to grow and to continue to try to help them make their boys better.”