They are back in the routine – the "grind," they call it in NFL circles. After taking a deep breath over the mini-bye weekend, Head Coach Nick Sirianni and the Eagles returned to the NovaCare Complex on Monday and set their sights on the Las Vegas Raiders, the first of two consecutive road games. Offensive tackle Lane Johnson is back in the fold, with his role not yet determined, and so, well, where are we right now with this team? I had a chance to talk to Sirianni on Monday and this is what we discussed …
1. The day-and-a-half the team spent self-scouting was revealing in that it confirmed some thoughts the team had through six games, allowed them to examine their tendencies and gave Sirianni and his staff a minute to look around the league to see what's working. In other words, it was a productive period of time for the Eagles. "When you get those extra couple of days, you get that extra time to prepare and to see things a little more clearly about yes, what you want to attack with the team you've got coming up, but what are your tendencies, what are the things you are doing well, what are you doing poorly and really just to dive into that," Sirianni said. "It helps you see things more clearly, like, 'Yeah, we should be doing this more' or 'We should do this less.'"
2. On the state of the offense moving forward, Sirianni knows the inconsistency has been burdensome. "We want to cut out the bad stretches," he said and then cited the idea of being "cleaner," in every phase of the offense. "Are we playing with good fundamentals? Do we know what to do and do we know how we're doing that? That's what we're focusing on," he said. "You're a work in progress at all times." Let's make this clear: Sirianni is not pleased with the way his offense has performed. He talked about "we really want to start fast," and put stress on the opponent's offense. He said the coaching staff is continuing to "tweak the scheme," so we will see what that means moving forward.
3. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has made progress. "I'm seeing him grow as a player," Sirianni said. "We know he's such a dynamic player with his feet and being able to get out of pressures. Slowly but surely you want to see him become a better player within the pocket. I definitely see him improving in that area."
4. Sirianni's message to his players on Monday was "don't ride the wave of a long season." He wants his team to "stay steady and truly focus on 'How am I going to leave here today a better player?'" For the players and the coaching staff, keeping an even keel and remaining focused is imperative.
5. As for Johnson, Sirianni said, "It's great to have Lane back in the building. We'll see how the week goes. It's just good to see his face and have him back in here. We know how big a part of this football team he is. We want to be here for the players through the good and the bad. Letting him know that we're here for him, we're here to support him. There are great people in this building to support him. Everyone cares for him and loves him. When you go through tough times, you just want everybody to know that you're there for them. That's part of what I mean when I talk about connecting."
6. Overall, what's the story with this team? "We've played good in spurts on offense, on defense, and on special teams," Sirianni said. "The strides you want to make is being consistent in all those phases. There is proof with some of the football that we've played is that there's some good out there. We just have to put it all together no matter who we're playing or where we're playing, for 60 minutes. That is what we want to achieve moving forward."