The NFL preseason kicks off tonight with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio between the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers. Four nights from now, the Eagles open their exhibition slate at Lincoln Financial Field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7 PM. If you're not going to be in attendance, you can watch the game on Comcast SportsNet or Cozi TV in the Philadelphia area. Our live coverage begins on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and the app at 6:30 PM with the Kickoff Show presented by Axalta.
Speaking of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, here's an interesting tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The pads are back on for what will be a nearly three-hour practice on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz meets the media at around 11 AM, which we will bring to you live. Here's a great piece from Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer featuring Schwartz's teaching style and how he's earning the players' respect. Until Schwartz's press conference, here are the 5 Things to Know for Sunday, August 7 ...
1. A Reunion With Schwartz?
Jim Schwartz has already brought former players like linebacker Nigel Bradham, and cornerbacks Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin to the Eagles in free agency. Could another be on the way?
Schefter reported on Saturday night that the Eagles are in "heavy negotiations" with free agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
The 31-year-old Tulloch spent the past five seasons with the Lions and amassed 485 tackles during that span, including a team-high 107 a year ago.
In theory, Tulloch could provide quality depth and serve as a mentor to starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks.
2. Chris Wilson: Fletcher Cox Can Be Even More Dominant
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson may be in his first NFL season, but he's no stranger to All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Wilson coached the franchise defensive player while at Mississippi State.
"You knew he had a lot of ability and he was a humble guy, really quiet, but a great listener, which is why I said this kid's got a chance to be a really good leader because your best leaders are usually your best listeners," Wilson said. "I just watched him come to work every day."
Cox thrived over the past three seasons in a system not designed to take full advantage of his skill set. Cox played in the upfield, aggressive 4-3 defense as a rookie in 2012. He's spending his time mastering the playbook with Wilson guiding him again like old times.
"There is no place Fletcher Cox can’t improve, and I'm not being general; he would tell you the same thing - from his stance, to his hands, to his eyes," Wilson said. "It's not just one thing to be great. You have to make the small things routine and that's what we're trying to focus on right now."
3. Donnie Jones Leaving His Mark
Punters are people, too, but they're just not in demand for interviews.
Donnie Jones told Dave Spadaro that he isn't asked to do many interviews, which is strange only because Jones is carving out a legacy in Philadelphia that at the end could leave him at the top of all punters in franchise history.
"Entering his fourth season in Philadelphia, Jones has the statistical portfolio to suggest that he's the best punter in the history of the Eagles. He's first in franchise history in gross and net punting average, and very early in the 2016 NFL season he'll vault into first in another key category, punts inside the 20-yard line (Jones, with 96, has Jeff Feagles' total of 102 in sight)."
Jones said that he has special teams coordinator Dave Fipp to thank for his late-career resurgence.
"I'm kicking it as well as I have ever kicked it," Jones said. "It goes back to preparation in the offseason, something I took in a different direction before last season. Dave Fipp has had a huge influence on me since I came here and he had a conversation with me after the 2014 season and he said, basically, 'The older you get, the more time you have to put in to continue to be great.' I took that to heart and explored ways to get better. I made great use of my time, stayed in great shape and started kicking earlier in the offseason."
4. Ryan Mathews Won't Change His Style
Ryan Mathews is a proven back who has handled the role of being a featured part of the offense in the past.
After being one of the most efficient backs in the NFL last season, ranking second among his position group in yards per carry, Mathews will have top billing in 2016.
The Eagles have had to wait to see what Mathews can do in Training Camp after he suffered an ankle injury while training. Mathews made his camp debut on Friday and has already caught the attention of his offensive coordinator.
"He looked quick. He was seeing things. I know it was a toned-down practice with no pads, but we're playing fast. He just looks good," Frank Reich said. "He's an explosive physical runner."
At 6-0, 220 pounds, Mathews wants to utilize that size and athleticism no matter what the cost.
"I’m not one to shy away from contact, but that's just my play," Mathews said. "I like to be physical and everything, and try to impose my will and I think that's one thing they like about me is my physicality."
5. A New Personnel Package In 2016?
Three plays. That's how many times the Eagles had three tight ends on the field in 2015, according to NFL GSIS.
With Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, that number should climb in 2016 as the Eagles want to take advantage of the matchup problems those players present.
"Tight end is a strength of this roster; this offensive unit," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "If you look at Doug's system and what they did in Kansas City with their tight ends and how we'll utilize them here, it'll be very consistent with that, and we've got the players to do it. We can mix it up. They're all real good, smart route runners – every one of them. So, we expect really good production from that unit.
"We feel like Zach has a great feel in route running. He just knows how to create leverage. He knows how to use his body. He has a big catch radius. Trey is like a wide receiver out there, and you get him out there and he's got the speed, he's got natural instinctive moves for a tight end. The one that surprises me though has been Brent. I came in here thinking, 'Hey, Brent is our blocking tight end.' But the guy knows how to run routes. He's a really smart route runner, and I have a lot of confidence in him, and I know the quarterbacks do as well. So, that's a really good thing for us."