It's a unique week for the Eagles, who will hold a walk-thru session this morning before leaving for New England for three days of joint practices with the Patriots followed by a preseason showdown. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis meets the media at 10:45 this morning, and you can see his remarks live online or on our app. We kick off our 5 Things To Know Today recognizing the franchise's past before looking ahead to the week-long test against New England ...
1. Pete Retzlaff: We Had To Finish The Job
On Sunday, over 28,000 Eagles fans took a trip back in time as the team hosted its final Open Practice at Franklin Field, which served as the team's home from 1958-70 and was also the site of the 1960 NFL Championship win over the Green Bay Packers. Eagles Hall of Fame tight end Pete Retzlaff was one of 34 alumni in attendance on Sunday and had fond memories of that title game. "You knew it was the end of the road, and you didn't want to leave the end of the road until you accomplished what you set out to do and that was win the championship," Retzlaff said.
Only two years earlier, the Eagles won two games and looked nothing like a title contender. How did the team turn around so quickly?
"The personality of the team. We were all good friends. We were all not just teammates. We were good friends. All of us, every one of them," Retzlaff said. "The camaraderie of that ballclub helped make it what it was and as a result you not only felt like we were really close, it helped us be together as well as play together."
2. Maclin Ready For Vacation To Revis Island
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin had one monumental catch for 15 yards in Friday's preseason opener. It wasn't a game-winning reception, but it marked his first catch in a game situation of any kind since December 30, 2012 after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Maclin's catch showed that his knee was more than up to the task after his legs sprawled out on the ground in an awkward fashion.
"You need those types of plays because it re-insures the knee is fine," Maclin said. "It's probably stronger than what it was before. I'm happy and I'm looking forward to what's in store for me."
In addition to his one grab, Maclin was able to create space for himself on multiple occasions. Will he be able to do the same this week against the Patriots when he'll see plenty of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
"I'm going against one of the best corners in the game in Revis," said Maclin. "It'll be a good test to see where I'm at as far as playing football. I think I'm up to the task."
On Sunday, the Eagles returned to Franklin Field, one of their former homes, for the final Open Practice of 2014 ...
3. Ertz: Difference In My Game Is Night And Day
Tight end Zach Ertz was praised by head coach Chip Kelly after leading the team with four catches for 60 yards against the Bears. Ertz's longest reception came on a seam route down the field for 34 yards. Ertz's combination of size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and athleticism (second among tight ends at Combine in bench press, third in three-cone drill) make that route in particular difficult to defend.
"I think when you get big bodies moving like some of us can run, it's tough for a defense especially when you have play-action pass," Ertz said. "Linebackers have to sprint down and there's these voids left in the zone behind them. I can run with the best of them and I think that's an advantage as well.
"I feel way more comfortable now, stronger, faster than at this point last year and at the end of last season, so I think it's going to be a fun year."
Last year, the joint practices with New England marked Ertz's first opportunity to line up against a different team in the NFL. The former second-round pick welcomes the litmus test this time around.
"From that first game to this first game, it's night and day. I'm so much more comfortable out there," he said. "There are things I need to improve on and get better at, but it was a good first game."
4. Curry Adding Spice To Pass Rush
Defensive end Vinny Curry sacked Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer on the first play of the second quarter Friday night. Curry's burst off the line of scrimmage was evident throughout the game as he provided a fastball for the Eagles' defense.
That was also the case in 2013 when Curry was the team's most efficient pass rusher. Curry finished tied for third on the team with four sacks despite playing only 26 percent of the team's snaps. This offseason, Curry maintained the same weight of 280 pounds, but overhauled his diet and focused more on speed training.
"I just worked on speed. I wanted to be able to carry it, shift it around, be able to really chase ballcarriers down and it looked like all the hard work this offseason's been paying off," Curry said.
The Neptune, N.J. native grew up a die-hard Eagles fan and enjoyed performing at Sunday's Alumni Day in front of some of the very same players he cheered for as a kid.
"They paved the way showing what being an Eagle is all about, laying it out there on the line every chance they get," Curry said. "It was great. It was great to be a part of it. It was a good thing for the fans."
5. Jaylen Watkins' Short Memory A Good Thing
Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins learned a lot of valuable lessons during his first preseason outing. The most important of all was to not let past performance affect future results.
In the third quarter, Watkins missed his jam on wide receiver Chris Williams at the line of scrimmage and was beat for a 73-yard touchdown. He rebounded in the fourth quarter with an amazing interception of a pass thrown by quarterback David Fales where Watkins' showcased lightning-quick hands snapping the ball out of the air the way a frog licks in his delicious prey.
"I was thinking way too much," Watkins said. "Once I was able to settle down, I had the interception. If I can treat practice like a game, I'm going to be fine."
Watkins followed up his interception with another one Sunday off of quarterback Mark Sanchez during the Open Practice. He credited his experience as a quarterback and wide receiver in high school as well as the teaching from defensive backs coach John Lovett and assistant Todd Lyght.
"Going back to what the coaches taught me - technique, relaxing and just enjoying the game overall and enjoying the experience of my first NFL game, treating it like the football I've been playing for the past 18 years," Watkins said.