EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The preseason over after a 6-0 loss to the New York Jets on Thursday night, the Eagles boarded their caravan of six buses and made their way down the New Jersey Turnpike back to the NovaCare Complex to dig in for what promises to be an eventful next few days. The preseason ended with exactly zero long-term injuries suffered, and that, in the big picture, is the best news a team can have through four weeks of exhibition football games. Ahead is a lot of work, critical decisions to be made, and a roster to reduce to 53 players.
But there’s more than that coming down the pike between now and Monday morning when the players next report to the NovaCare Complex for a light practice with the Washington Redskins squarely in the team’s sights. The timeline of how it’s all going to go down is fairly established, and here’s a glimpse of how it might unfold.
The coaching staff and personnel department will go through the tape of Thursday’s game, which will reveal the true and accurate evaluation of what went down at MetLife Stadium against the Jets. The Eagles, collectively as the coaches offer their reports and the personnel staff does the same, will rate how the defensive end picture shakes out after a spring and summer of practices and the four preseason contests. Did Daeshon Hall do enough to win the fourth defensive end position? He was certainly the most productive end the Eagles put on the field, registering four quarterback sacks and three forced fumbles. Where do players like Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller fit into the picture? Who wins the fifth wide receiver position, should the Eagles keep five? Running back? Linebacker?
It's all going to be part of Friday’s evaluation of Thursday night’s game, as well as the entire body of work from the spring and summer. That’s Friday’s morning. It’s all in the details.
Throughout the day and into Saturday, Howie Roseman and Andy Weidl and the personnel department are going to have meetings and conversations and shoot scenarios back and forth as they discuss ways to finalize the 53-man roster. At the same time, Roseman will field phone calls and he’ll make phone calls and get a pulse of what’s going on around the league. Who might be out there to acquire either via trade or the waiver wire or any other creative method to improve the roster?
While the personnel staff is combing through the roster – and, by the way, there is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Brandon Brown, the team’s director of pro scouting, who coordinates the evaluation of the other 31 NFL teams and their rosters. This has been an ongoing process, of course, but every game tape will be watched and graded in the next day. It’s laborious, and it’s incredibly critical and, really, it’s where the better personnel departments in the NFL make their hay. Strategic thinking is so important here.
Meanwhile, there could be opportunities to extend contracts and massage the salary cap and see what kind of deals can be done. Maybe there are none, but the Eagles look into everything here.
The coaching staff turns its full efforts toward Washington at this point. All along, of course, the Eagles have been peeking in and looking at Redskins tape, a team the Eagles know well. Not much is going to change in the schemes Washington employs since the final game of the 2018 regular season, but there are personnel changes and tweaks from the preseason that need to be studied. It’s all about finding favorable matchups. The Eagles want to take full advantage of them and gird themselves for where they think Washington might attack.
It’s also possible the Eagles will start releasing players on Friday, calling the players into the NovaCare Complex and thanking them for their hard work and dedication as they rely the toughest news the players have ever heard in their professional lives.
SATURDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON
In many years, this is the race to the 4 p.m. deadline to reduce the roster. Roseman is leading the way talking to teams and exploring ways to fortify the roster. The Eagles are in good shape with the roster, but they are always going to look to improve. They also want to get a feel for who might be available for the practice squad and for the ever-important “emergency” list that comes in handy during the long regular season.
Saturday is a grind, with players coming into the NovaCare Complex turning in their playbooks and cleaning out their lockers and saying goodbye to the lives they’ve led since the spring. It’s a raw, emotional day for them.
At 4 p.m., the roster is set at a maximum of 53 players. Shortly thereafter, Roseman will meet the media and explain the decisions made to get to the roster limit and then he’ll head upstairs and spend the next few hours with his staff reviewing the roster cuts from around the league. The Eagles will then determine if there are players on the waiver wire they want to claim, and by virtue of their 9-7 record and two-week trip to the postseason in 2018, the team will be way down the line before they know if their claims go through – 25th of the 32 teams, to be exact.
SUNDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON
The players are still off, and the coaching staff is hard at work putting together the offensive and defensive game plans for Washington. Waiver claims are announced to the teams at approximately 1 p.m., and then any practice-squad eligible players who clear waivers are able to be signed to the team’s practice squad. This is where the league-wide scouting comes into play. Teams can add up to 10 players to the practice squad, and while the Eagles may have an idea – and likely do – even now of who they want to put on their practice squad, they also know that any of the 31 other teams are doing exactly the same thing and evaluating this roster.
It’s all about Washington now. The 53-man roster plus the practice squad report to the NovaCare Complex. Head coach Doug Pederson has a team meeting. The Eagles have positional meeting. A 8-8-8 practice is conducted. And everything is focused on beating the Redskins. The intensity of the week builds from there.