It was a normal Monday morning for Head Coach Doug Pederson, ensconced in his NovaCare Complex office watching tape and looking through some notes and preparing the day's practice and, in the bigger picture, for the Washington Football Team on Sunday, and then everything changed. A loud knock at the door. "Come in," Pederson said, invitingly.
In walked No. 71, Jason Peters. He turned to his left to face Pederson, behind his desk.
"I asked him, 'What's going on? What's up?'" Pederson said.
Peters had a message for the head coach.
"I want to play left tackle," is the general gist of what Peters had to say.
"I was excited about that. I assured him that everything was going to be OK, that we would get him the proper reps over there and get him ready to go," Pederson said. "I was excited. He was excited. I said, 'Let's put everything behind us and move forward and focus on Washington.'"
In this age of physical distancing, there was no man embrace, no hug of any kind. A fist bump was sufficient for a resolution of a matter that, quite frankly, was probably No. 1 on the concern list for the Eagles heading into Sunday's opener.
It is a concern no longer.
The Eagles have Jason Peters at left tackle and there are few who play the position better than the future Pro Football Hall of Famer. He's in his 17th season, yes, and the wear and tear of all of those game reps keeps everyone knocking on wood and crossing fingers that Peters stays healthy. As the Eagles continue the crash course of speeding the learning curve for the young linemen on the roster who have to grow up faster than expected given the injuries to right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard, it's critical that Peters stays on the field. He'd been playing right guard since the Eagles brought him back prior to Training Camp, and that's still a position to fill with Matt Pryor, who started the playoff game against Seattle; Nate Herbig, on the roster in 2019; and rookie Jack Driscoll as the leading contenders.
"We'll get things right up front," Howie Roseman told me on Saturday after the initial establishment of the 53-man roster. "We have work to do, but we will get it right."
If you haven't tuned in a whole lot to the State of the Eagles for 2020, welcome back. Hope you had a great summer, as great as it can be. Let's catch up just a bit here, shall we? There will be no fans in the stands on Sunday when the Eagles play at Washington, now known as the Washington Football Team. That "R" word is no longer. Ron Rivera is the head coach of the Football Team, so the Eagles are preparing by watching Rivera's defenses from his days in Carolina, as well as peeking at Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio's body of work from his long NFL career. Washington's offense is overseen by Scott Turner, who served as Carolina's interim offensive coordinator for half of 2019, so at least there is some idea of what might come on Sunday.
Injuries have been a major theme of the Eagles' summer. The offensive line suffered the two before-mentioned losses. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor, the talented No. 1 draft pick, is recovering from an upper-body injury. Running back Miles Sanders hasn't practiced in weeks with a lower-body injury. Right tackle Lane Johnson has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (upper body) and end Derek Barnett (lower body) haven't practiced in camp.
Given all of that – and let's understand that every team is going through the same injury concerns – it's business as close-to-normal as possible around the NovaCare Complex. The regular season has arrived, and the Eagles have a veteran team and a returning coaching staff and there is every reason to hope for a fast start to the year. If the Eagles can win against an extremely talented Washington front seven, now aligned in a four-man front, they're going to have some chances for big plays with a receiving corps that includes a healthy DeSean Jackson and dominating tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The backfield includes Sanders, for whom big things are in store in his second season, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, and Jason Huntley.
The big changes on defense are in the secondary with the additions of Pro Bowl cornerback Darius "Big Play" Slay and nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Jalen Mills, a cornerback for four seasons here, is now a safety alongside Rodney McLeod.
The 53-man roster, for the most part, is set. A 15-man (up to 16 players are permitted) practice squad includes 41-year-old quarterback Josh McCown, who will remain at his home in Texas while virtually attending meetings and preparing just in case the Eagles have a COVID-19 outbreak among the three quarterbacks on the active roster.
And away we go.
"It's an extremely exciting time to finally get to this point," Pederson said. "We have a lot of veterans who know what to expect and who can help the young guys prepare the right way. Everything matters. We have to be on point all week and prepare the right way and then on Sunday, go out and have fun and find a way to win a football game."
It helps that the left tackle position, one of great conversation for months, is resolved. A knock on the door changed the whole picture for the Eagles, who now move on to other matters as they prepare for Washington and everything that comes with the opener.