The NFL season begins tonight as the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. Find out how you can be a part of the action. The Eagles inch closer to their opener against Jacksonville as head coach Chip Kelly addresses the media for the final time at 11:45 AM leading up to our wrap-up show Eagles 360 at 5 PM this evening. Until then, here are the 5 Things To Know Today for Thursday, September 4 ...
1. Tonight: Countdown To Kickoff Party!
In anticipation of the 2014 NFL season, the Eagles and Miller Lite will be hosting the Annual Countdown to Kickoff at XFINITY Live! beginning at 5 PM.
There will be guest appearances by Eagles players, the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders and SWOOP. Taking Back Sunday will be performing on stage while SportsRadio 94WIP will be broadcasting live on-site and prizes will be given away.
Additionally, the Eagles Cheerleaders will unveil their popular swimsuit calendar to the public for the first time. To celebrate the unveiling, the cheerleaders will model their eco-friendly swimsuits during a fashion show and also sign autographs.
2. Will Sunday Be Flag Day?
The Eagles, much like the rest of the teams around the league, are going to be interested to see how the referees call the games in the regular season after a preseason filled with yellow laundry. One of the points of emphasis for the NFL this season is cracking down on illegal contact by defensive backs outside of the 5-yard window where contact is permitted. The Eagles had eight illegal contact penalties called (five accepted) in the preseason compared to just two in all of 2013. In total, the Eagles had 51 penalties accepted during the preseason which was nearly half of last year's regular season total of 114 in a quarter of the time.
"Early on, I'm banking on it's not going to change much," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "I think the message they wanted to send has been sent and I don't imagine them backing off too much. I think it is what they said it is, and the officials, again, I think you'll probably see a fair number than you had early on because I do think the officials have gotten better at it and we have gotten better. Now you're also seeing your ones for the entire game, and I think those guys – sometimes people grab and hold when athletically sometimes they feel mismatched."
In an interview with The MMQB, the NFL's vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed Davis' belief.
"I think the calls are going to be made the same way, the game is going to be officiated the same way during the regular season," Blandino said. "I don't think we're going to have an extraordinary amount of fouls because teams are starting to adjust. As we're more consistent in how we officiate, they'll be more consistent in how they play and coach."
3. A Difference In Chip?
As Chip Kelly enters his second season with the Eagles, I asked players on Wednesday whether they notice a difference in their head coach. Linebacker Connor Barwin offered this nugget.
"I think he's the same. There's a little bit of difference in how the team's run," said Barwin, who was signed as a free agent in 2013. "Last year, he kind of ran the team, showed us how he wanted it run, was the leader. Now, there are leaders in this locker room who know what he wants. He's kind of handed some of that off to us, how all of the locker room stuff goes and different type of stuff."
4. Taking Advantage Of Inexperience
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said that his team was going to invest heavily in adding young wide receivers to the mix this offseason. His team used a pair of second-round picks on pass catchers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Lee is a starter while Robinson is expected to have a role Sunday while being plagued by a hamstring injury during the preseason. A rookie free agent, Allen Hurns, also made the Jaguars' roster after a stellar exhibition slate.
Bradley explained that one of the biggest reasons that the team is going with Chad Henne at quarterback to open the season is his experience, which makes sense with the young talent at receiver. However, Henne won't be able to help the receivers as they will battle four experienced, savvy veterans in Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin and Nolan Carroll II.
"This is going to be fun. We're going to be as physical as we possibly can," Williams said, acknowledging there are things that can be done to exploit young receivers. "We're going to be relentless. We're definitely going to test those guys. We're going to see what they're made of. I think we've got a great group of guys here and they're going to play their butts off."
5. Prepare For The Unexpected
The preseason was filled with base offenses and vanilla defenses as teams were looking to evaluate personnel. There was limited gameplanning. No team wants to show its hand. That can lend to some surprises in Week 1 of the regular season, as All-Pro guard Evan Mathis can attest to. Mathis is entering his 10th NFL season.
"You just have to remember that it's like everything else you've been doing your whole life. This is the same thing. You've been preparing for this. There's no reason to overthink it," Mathis said. "You go one play at a time. Don't get too high or too low. If you can focus on one individual play at a time, when that play's over, move on to the next one no matter what happened, that's how you're going to be best off."