Sunday night was special for the Eagles and for the fans who came out for the public practice at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the first chance for the fans, nearly 30,000 of them, to see the 2022 version for the first time. For the team, which put on a fun and competitive show (more on that below), it was another step in the evaluation process as well as a rehearsal of sorts ahead of Friday's preseason opener against the visiting Jets.
Everything in this Training Camp and in the summer is done in a step-by-step manner. It sounds repetitive and maybe to you on the outside it sounds boring, but think about it this way: What sense does it make to jump ahead to September and the regular season? Haven't we all been together long enough to know that you take each day as it comes and you make the most of that day and you keep stacking those good days and then all of a sudden, the games count in the standings?
As much as we want to look into the future ...
It just isn't the way the league works. That's why casting "instant analysis" for a Training Camp practice is just clickbait because so much changes from Training Camp to the preseason to the regular season. To have success in the NFL, players must show consistency in their production and performance, durability, and the ability to work within the team concept.
The Eagles begin their preseason schedule on Friday night when the Jets come to town, so the whole evaluation deal is going to ramp up and could potentially change dramatically starting then. Until that time, here are some of the Things That I Think I Know About the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles to this point ...
1. The investments at the line of scrimmage have paid off
All of these draft picks. All of the long-term contracts. The Eagles have long said that the game starts from the inside out and so they have worked hard through the years to make the offensive and defensive lines as strong as they can be. The one-on-one battles at Training Camp have been fun to watch when the lines battle, and the depth of talent is obvious to see. The goal here is to head into the regular season deep at each line position, so let's see what the preseason brings and let's see how healthy the lines are when September arrives. With so much veteran talent returning and the position coaches remaining the same, the coordination and the communication seem right on point.
2. This offense has a chance to be what the Eagles hope: Versatile and potent
In part, because the offensive line is so good – and we know this from past seasons and the history of line coach Jeff Stoutland – the Eagles ideally want to dictate to defenses with a well-balanced offense that can win in a variety of ways. Philadelphia returned its entire offense from last year and added wide receiver A.J. Brown in free agency and interior offensive lineman Cam Jurgens in the NFL Draft. That's exciting stuff.
3. Jalen Hurts is taking the right steps forward
In Year 2 of this offense, Hurts is more decisive and faster in getting the ball out as he has a master's class in the offensive scheme. The truth is that we're not going to see the offense unleashed until the regular season begins, so the stuff we've seen through two weeks of Training Camp is the baseline of the scheme, but Hurts is a better quarterback than he was a year ago. I think that is pretty clear for everyone who has been out at the NovaCare Complex every day. When the game plans begin, we will obviously have a better read, but there is no doubt that Hurts is playing with confidence and carrying himself with a swagger as the team's leader.
4. The defense has a lot of speed and is not afraid to unleash it
The Eagles are fast everywhere on defense, partially attributable to being in Jonathan Gannon's scheme for a second summer. The Eagles are on point defensively as they've been fed the X's and O's to digest mentally before really going out and attacking. Of course, the preseason games are another chance to see the nuances of parts of the defense and then the regular season is an entirely different deal.
5. As far as CB tandems, Darius Slay and James Bradberry fit
These two veterans play off of each other and that was pretty apparent from the first day of camp. They bonded instantly, they push each other competitively, they work well from a personality standpoint. Slay matches up against any wide receiver and gives the Eagles that kind of flexibility. Bradberry does the same and he's also got the bigger build to match the physicality of the big wideouts the Eagles will see this season. Those two, plus Avonte Maddox as the nickel, make for a proven trio to work with in coverage.
6. Connecting as a team is a huge priority and it is going extremely well
It happens every day at the NovaCare Complex and it happened again on Sunday night and with trips to Cleveland and Miami and joint practices and multiple nights against both the Browns and the Dolphins, it will grow even deeper through August. This is a team that gets along, that it all in with Head Coach Nick Sirianni and that goes out of its way on an individual and collective basis to connect with the fans.
7. The rookie class looks ready to compete
I don't know how much playing time they will earn or what individual roles they will have, but the rookie class has not been overwhelmed by the moment and, trust me, it's easy to see when that happens for a first-time NFL player. This is a mature group that is showing its stuff in Training Camp. Can't wait to see the rookies in the preseason games and the joint practices.
8. Preseason games are when the Eagles will learn a lot about their special teams
Coordinator Michael Clay knows he has a terrific kicking game and he's got no concerns there. It's the coverage and return phases that take time to come together and since there is no way to simulate "live action" in Training Camp, the preseason games become extremely important. The Eagles want a more productive return game and they're going to look hard at the candidates who are returning punts and kickoffs in those games. Don't ever say a preseason game means nothing. There are without question roster spots on the line here.
9. A.J. Brown has made a fast transition to the Eagles and Philadelphia
A.J. Brown just looks so natural, so comfortable, so happy to be an Eagle. On the field, he has been everything the Eagles thought he would be. He just stands out when he is on the field. Off the field, he's all smiles and has been very much enjoying the time with the fans and everything about being an Eagle. It's natural to wonder how new players fit into environments, but Brown has not had a bit of a problem. He's been a joy to watch, for sure.
10. What we see now isn't necessarily what we're going to see in September
I'm talking about from a scheme standpoint and from a viewpoint of how a player will be used. The Eagles have a plan Sirianni is going to lay it all out as he needs to do so. This is a process, so get ready for the next step – the preseason begins on Friday night. Players who have been fed the mental part of the game since the spring need to show they have it down stone cold and go out and play fast and instinctively against the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins. Make it hard on Howie Roseman and the personnel department to cut down the roster. That's the goal here. But the Eagles aren't going to show their offense or their defense. They aren't going to tip their hand.
The preseason is here to find the best 53 players for the roster as well as identify players for the practice squad and the emergency list. It's not for giving away secrets.
The Eagles practiced in front of nearly 30,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night. Check out the best photos from the action on the field, as well as some of the interactions between the players and those who cheered them on.