By the time Friday afternoon rolls around, the work is largely complete. All that remains is treatment for players who need it -- and everyone does, whether it is a massage, a cold tub, a chiropractic visit or whatever -- a walk-through practice on Saturday, last-day meetings and then rest and the ritual of preparing for the game. So Friday, after practice, is a good indication of what is happening in the locker room, and the job on this day was to walk about and talk to a handful of players and gauge the mood of the locker room.
Understand that for a period of time during the 45 minutes the media spent in the locker room, quarterback Donovan McNabb walked up on the pack of reporters and joked -- loudly -- about the interviews, about the Chicago Cubs, about anything that came to mind, and he was generally a nuisance and a laugh riot.
Otherwise, it was business as usual as the Eagles get ready for the Washington Redskins. My tour around the locker room ...
AVANT: READY FOR MAN-TO-MAN COVERAGE
Washington's cornerbacks play a lot of man-to-man coverage, more than the Eagles' four previous opponents. This is belly-to-belly, man-vs-man time, something slot receiver Jason Avant sees more often than not.
Even when defenses are in a zone, the slot receiver usually has a cornerback in his face.
"When people play man, it's a more exciting game for me, it's a more challenging game and it brings out your competitiveness," said Avant. "You see a man in front of you and you know that if you can beat him, you have a chance to make a big play."
A big key for Avant, and for Reggie Brown and DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis is the release off the line of scrimmage. Jackson, for one, hasn't seen a whole lot of press coverage, so this could be interesting if the Redskins try to come up to the line of scrimmage to jam him. Cornerbacks have played soft on him because of Jackson's speed.
"It's all about the release and it's all about the top of the route and it shows true route runners when you are going against man-to-man coverage," said Avant. "Washington is playing more man than they did last year. They have good players in the secondary, Pro Bowl-caliber players back there. They bumped Dallas last week and did a good job. They bumped T.O. last week, so I'm pretty sure they're going to bump us."
SHELDON BROWN: DEFENSE CAPABLE OF GREATNESS
Santana Moss is the catalyst for Washington. He has 27 catches and three touchdowns and the veteran wide receiver is a big-play maker for the offense. Sheldon Brown knows Moss very well, and he knows how dangerous he is, and how the Redskins want to get him the ball.
"I think they're feeding him the ball more, as opposed to the way they did things in the past," said Brown. "They try to get him the ball quick in space and then let him create something. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He is definitely a guy you need to be ready to play well against."
Washington's running game gets a lot of notice, but the reason the Redskins have rebounded from that loss on opening night is the way quarterback Jason Campbell and the passing game have improved. Campbell has 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and he is averaging a strong 7.08 yards per pass attempt.
"He just needed another year to develop. He has always been a good player," said Brown. "He's seeing things and he is executing the game plan like they want him to."
Brown has a veteran perspecitve of this defense, one that has been almost perfect at home and one that has been up-and-down away from Lincoln Financial Field. Which defense is the real Eagles defense?
Brown thinks the Eagles could be special on defense.
"I love this defense," he said. "You turn on the tape and see people flying around. Why do you think teams are running double moves against us? Because they can't get their guys open, so they need to keep the route going. They are looking for that one big hit because they don't think they can put together 8- or 10-play drives. They think we're going to get a turnover before they score. I love this group. We're going to get better and better.
"For me, this is a must-win game. We're at home. We have a division game. We don't want anybody coming into our house and taking a game from us."
TRENT COLE: A BATTLE AWAITS
Trent Cole is accustomed to seeing two and three blockers in his way. Generally he has a tackle, a guard and a chipping running back lined up to slow down that relentless motor. Cole has two sacks in four games and he continues to whip the blockers who impede his progress.
On Sunday, the challenge is veteran Chris Samuels. It promimses to be physical and intense.
"He's a skilled tackle who is very athletic and can move. He will be one of my biggest challenges. I like going against him because he is a great player and me and him battle it out," said Cole. "We leave it all out there. It's a great time."
Cole knows the Redskins run left quite a bit and cut back against overpursuing linebackers, and he knows that quarterback Jason Campbell wants to get the ball out before Cole comes in from the blind side. Washington has been incredibly efficient offensively, having gone four games without committing a single turnover.
"Clinton Portis is a great running back and he also gives a lot when he is blocking. He is an all-around back and we know we have to pay a lot of attention to him," said Cole. "This is a big one for us. It's in the division. The Redskins have won three straight. We need to win this game, so let's see what we're made of. Last week was a smack in the face. A bummer type of game. We didn't expect to lose that game in Chicago. We should not have lost the game. We're better than that, so we have to go out and prove it."
SHAWN ANDREWS: BETTER, BUT NO TIMETABLE
He hasn't played in a few weeks and won't play on Sunday, but offensive guard Shawn Andrews had a group of reporters around him on Friday wanting to know how he is feeling and when he might be able to return to othe field.
Andrews offered few answers. He saw a specialist on Wednesday and expressed optimism at that time. He said he is still optimistic, but about what? About when?
When can Andrews, the Pro Bowl right guard, play again? And what, exactly, is wrong with his back?
"I can't talk specifically about the injury, but I'm feeling a little bit better every day," said Andrews. "When it happened (in Dallas), I thought I would go into the locker room and get treatment and play in the second half, but it didn't happen that way. The optimism is still there. I'm trusting in Rick (Burkholder, head athletic trainer) and his staff and they are doing a great job, but now it's up to my mind and my body to overcome this hurdle."
Which means, what? When?
"My goal was to go out Wednesday, but I had to see the specialist and then I woke up and felt optimistic about things," said Andrews. "I just have to step up my intensity of my rehab and that's what I did. Now I'm just holding on to see what happens."
QUINTIN MIKELL: TE COOLEY IS REDSKINS' TARGET
In a division with great tight ends, Washington's Chris Cooley ranks right near the top, according to strong safety Quintin Mikell. Cooley isn't the fastest guy, isn't the strongest guy and doesn't wow you in film study.
But the man makes plays. Cooley has 17 catches this season and averages 10.5 yards per reception.
"He's really deceptive. When you look at him when he runs his routes, he's kind of sneaky," said Mikell. "He doesn't come off with a ton of explosive speed, but he knows where he is going and how to use his speed in certain areas, so he is a tricky guy to cover.
"They move him around a lot. It's smart. They are able to get him into some good matchups and then they find a way to get him the ball. I've seen him a lot over the years and I think he is going to be a big part of their game plan on Sunday. They're going to move him around and try to get him the ball. We know he is piece of what they do."
Tight ends have had success this year against the Eagles, so the defense has to find a way to limit Cooley. He is one of the Redskins' Big Three -- Portis, Moss and Cooley.
"They have been very smart on offense," said Mikell. "We have to find a way to get them out of their rhythm."