In a perfect world for the Philadelphia Eagles this fall, the defenses won’t know what’s coming. Or, if they do, they won’t have the resources to stop the waves of talent dashing in from the sidelines as offensive coordinator and playcaller Shane Steichen and head coach Nick Sirianni see the results of what they’re doing in these days. and weeks before the regular season: hammering on the fundamentals. Buttoning up the smallest details. Making sure no turns are made as the Eagles prepare for the first of two sets of joint practice sessions — this week in Cleveland and next week in Miami.
“I like where the team is,” Steichen said. “I like the mentality of all the guys.”
“I like the joint training, to be honest. It breaks the camp; it gives our guys a different opponent. It’s really all about competing,” Steichen added. “You get two drills – obviously they’re in a controlled environment, but you get that real competition with situations you can set up with them. It’s scripted and sometimes you have the call-it periods, but it’s just good to counter another opponent.”
The offense will continue to develop throughout the rest of August and into September. What we’ve seen from this Training Camp period, which ended Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, and what’s to come in the joint practice sessions, the two remaining preseason games, and then a particularly crucial two-week lead in the regular season opener on Detroit will expand a little bit with each new day. There are some undeniable takeaways to share from Training Camp in South Philadelphia, so let’s take a break as the team prepares for Wednesday’s travel day to Cleveland and two days of joint training with the Browns later in the week…
1. Jalen Hurts keeps getting better and we saw the manifestation of the “one percent better approach every day” with what Steichen called a “flawless” performance in Friday night’s preseason opener. Hurts was 6-for-6 and he played from the pocket, on a rollout, down the field, on a checkdown to the running back… It was great to see, and it has been like that all summer.
“It was a really good start,” Steichen said. Hurts came back on Tuesday with a strong day of football, including a perfect pass down the right sideline into wide receiver A.J. Brown for a touchdown. The ball gets out of his hands faster. His timing has improved. The accuracy has been there all summer and the deep ball game was on point. Being in the same system for the second consecutive season with the same player for the second consecutive season since high school makes a difference. We see that difference every day.
2. The Eagles are very good at wide receivers. Brown is everything it was advertised for, and maybe more. He exemplifies a man whose work ethic and incredible obsession with being perfect shows in the way he plays – the way he creates separation with his strength, the natural ball catching abilities he has, the concentration he displays. It will be really fascinating to see how Smith and DeVonta Smith work together, and how the defense mechanisms to cover them. Add to that Quez Watkins, who has one of the most underrated summers here, and the performance of the versatile and prolific Zach Pascal, along with veterans Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward, and the Eagles have a receiving corps that can attack defenses in a lot of ways.
3. Jeff Stoutland and assistant line coach Roy Istvan are in a really good position with the offensive line. I talk to many of the national media members who visit the camp and they all spend time looking at the offensive linework technique and timing and combinations. It is a repetitive and endless dance and the reward is enormous. Anyone who sees it understands just a little more why the Eagles are so good up front. More than that, they are so deep in the front. The way Cam Jurgens came in for Jason Kelce in the preseason opener was an example of A) A very talented player who did his homework and, B) A coaching staff who worked hard to get Jurgens up to speed. The Eagles have top talent, great plan, depth and a chance to master the line of scrimmage every week. That’s a huge key to a major offense.
Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman and Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey talk about practice.
Brandon Brooks and Darren Sproles reunite.
WR AJ Brown comes down with the ball over CB James Bradberry.
Pro Bowl DEs Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat share a laugh.
C Cam Jurgens works together with QB Jalen Hurts.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni wears the Jeremiah Trotter T-shirt.
T Kayode Awosika vs. DE Tarron Jackson
Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and Assistant General Manager Alec Halaby
DE Matt Leo vs. T Jarrid Williams
RB Kenneth Gainwell and Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Jemal Singleton
Passing Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach Dennard Wilson
Assistant Offensive Line Coach Roy Istvan
4. Steichen wants the Eagles to “choose your poison” when attacking defenses, and that includes, of course, a powerful and diverse running game that led the NFL last season. Hurts is part of that equation and so is a running back room who will distribute touches throughout the long grind of a 17-game season. We really haven’t seen the plan here and probably won’t until the regular season as the Eagles keep the backs fresh throughout the preseason. No point in carrying them out.
5. How much will the Eagles use two tight end sets? What is their plan to implicate Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll in the crime? There’s versatility here as the Eagles try to win the middle of the field, and we saw both players involved early in the passing in the preseason opener. They are both going to block and they are both going to be part of the passing game. The Eagles go where the favorable matchups are, so Goedert and Stoll play a part in this. Defenses can’t cover every player and the Eagles rely on Goedert’s ability to win a one-on-one matchup against just about any safety or linebacker.
6. Practicing every day against the Eagles’ fast and much improved defenses helped the Eagles’ attack during training camp. In the beginning it was reasonable to see the defense having quite a bit of success, as is usually the case at the beginning of the training camp period. This defense is fast and the talent upgrade is undeniable. Seeing Brown and Smith against cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry benefited both sides. These defensive front-seven get behind it, so the “team” part of the training camp drills was great to watch and extremely competitive. The one-on-one sessions with the offensive and defensive lines were combat. I think this is where the “iron sharpens iron” mantra applies. It certainly happened in this training camp.
The Eagles practice with the Browns on Thursday and Friday, then the second of three preseason games on Sunday. This first “phase” of the summer, the training camp at the NovaCare Complex and the preseason opener against the Jets, was nothing but a smashing success. Day by day, detail by detail, the Eagles march toward September 11, realizing that all small steps add up to great success. That is the goal every day.
“We’re only concerned with the little things here, cleaning things up,” Pascal said. “We know this is just the beginning. You have to take it step by step and focus on getting better along the way. That’s where we are as a team.”