It's finally here! Your first chance to see the Eagles live and in action is this morning at Lincoln Financial Field. The Open Practice begins at 10 AM, but the gates open at 8 AM and there are plenty of activities for fans of all ages before, during and after practice. Remember, parking and admission are free. More details can be found here.
If you can't join us, head coach Doug Pederson takes the podium at 9:40 AM before practice and we will stream that live online and our mobile app. Until then, here are the 5 Things to Know for the final day of July in 2016.
1. The Play Of The Day
Before Rueben Randle left Saturday's practice early with cramps, he made this spectacular one-handed grab against safety Rodney McLeod. It took place during a time when we could not film practice, but Randle showed it to fans while watching tape later in the day.
Hopefully, the former Giant can bolster the wide receiver corps with more plays like this in 2016.
2. Dawkins Returns To The Eagles
The Eagles provided everyone some great news on Saturday as Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins was named the inaugural recipient of the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, which was created by the NFL to introduce former players to the world of personnel.
"This place means too much to me," Dawkins said. "It's not about the people who run it. It's about the place. It's about the Eagle green. People will come and go, but this place will remain the same. That's what drives me to want to do more for this organization."
Dawkins will remain based in Denver, but travel and craft reports on players for the team over the next year. He has worked with the Eagles as a consultant since 2014.
"I'm trying to grasp the whole gambit of football operations and how a team is run," Dawkins said. "I'm learning about the scouting part of it, I guess the terminology and those types of things, but sometimes it's either you have an eye or you don't, and I've been blessed to have an eye to be able to see talent. So if I can help in that respect, I'd love to do that, but also I want to learn everything about running a football team."
3. Spadaro: Eagles Bringing Everyone Home
This offseason, the team welcomed back former players such as Dawkins, Doug Pederson, Tim Hauck, Greg Lewis and Quintin Mikell in a variety of roles from coaching to scouting to player development.
Dave Spadaro explained how the organization is connecting the past to the team's present with an eye on generating a better future for a team that lost some of its identity in recent years.
"I think it matters," Eagles president Don Smolenski said. "You look out on the field and you see Dawk talking with Q (Quintin Mikell) and Tim Hauck and Greg Lewis and Duce Staley and you understand the link. Those players can relate to this current roster because they've been there and they've had success in the NFL in Philadelphia. They understand the culture of this city and this fan base.
"And then Howie (Roseman) and the football side have made it a point to sign so many players to new contracts to keep the core together and you understand when Jeffrey Lurie talks about short-term, mid-term and long-term goals."
4. Schwartz Uses A Great Olympics Metaphor
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prefaced this statement as a corny cliché, but said that his goal ahead of the start of the season is to "find a way that our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. That's good team play." There are Pro Bowl talents like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Connor Barwin and safety Malcolm Jenkins, but that doesn't matter if the rest of the players on the field can hold up their end of the bargain.
Schwartz reiterated his message by referencing the upcoming Olympics.
"I told our guys the other night ... the record for the 400 meters is like 43 seconds or something. The record for the 4x100, which is the same distance, is like 36 seconds. The idea there, is teamwork can trump individual play," Schwartz said. "And I think if we're doing our job in Training Camp, if our players are responding well in the scheme, if we have a scheme that matches the players, you'll see the sum should be greater than the individual parts. We're not there yet. Believe me, we're not there yet."
Practice was back outside at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday morning as the Eagles took the field for Day 6 of Training Camp ...
5. Depth, Snap Counts Will Be Key For Defense
Schwartz didn't stop with the Olympics for sporting metaphors on Saturday. When describing the importance of having a good rotation at positions like defensive end, Schwartz compared it to a relief pitcher in baseball who can throw 99 MPH for an inning or two but can't sustain that for six innings. You want to bring the heat, but need additional bodies to keep up the pressure.
I looked at the snap count of the Buffalo Bills' defense under Schwartz in 2014. Defensive end Mario Williams played 788 out of 1,087 snaps, or 72.5 percent, to lead his position group. At defensive tackle, Kyle Williams was on the field for 70 fewer snaps, 66.1 percent of the total for the season.
Then, I reviewed the snap count for the Eagles' defense last year. First off, the total for the team was 1,216. The Bills in 2014 averaged 67 snaps on defense per game. The Eagles' 2015 total was nearly two more games worth of snaps than the 2014 Bills.
Defensive end Fletcher Cox was on the field for a higher percentage of snaps last year than Williams was for the Bills in 2014. He played a staggering 81 percent for a total of 983 snaps. Coming off the edge as outside linebackers last year, Connor Barwin played 1,054 snaps and Brandon Graham was second at the position with 858.
The reduction of tempo on offense along with a good rotation should decrease the snap count total on defense. Will it improve the quality of the snaps?