Both Zach Cunningham and Myles Jack understand the challenge they face: They joined the Eagles on Sunday, hit the field for the first time on Tuesday, and have roughly three weeks to make a favorable impression, earn roster spots, and press for playing time with the intent of impacting the linebacker room.
It's just how the business works.
And it's the way the business works for the Eagles as well. Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman made the move on Sunday as the team agreed to terms with both Jack and Cunningham, two veterans with a lot of starting experience. It's Roseman delivering on his promise to continually challenge the roster, no matter the position. The Eagles will see how the competition plays itself out over the course of August.
For Cunningham and Jack, they're grateful to be Eagles and they are digging in. Jack arrived to town with "two pairs of drawers (underwear), two pairs of sweats, two pairs of socks to my name, my Bible in my bag." Both worked out on Sunday at the NovaCare Complex and agreed to terms later in the day and stepped into practice on Tuesday after a study session on the players' day off on Monday.
This is moving so fast, right?
The first order of business is to learn the playbook – they have a working knowledge of NFL systems, so it's about the language and the adjustments – and then get out on the field, knock off the rust, and show what they can do. Both Cunningham and Jack have taken reps with the starters and with the No. 2 defense as the coaching staff continues to rotate players through and see how they handle the environment.
"I got here two days ago, trying to learn the playbook as fast as possible, get out there and play with the ones and show them what I can do, put the pads on, man," Jack said. "It's been a crazy transition. It's been fun. I have just been getting out there, showing them what I can do, showing I can hit, showing I can learn this playbook as fast as physically and mentally possible."
Jack said it right – "the best linebacker room we can have is best for the team" – and that's what the Eagles are doing here. They have great faith in what they've seen from Nakobe Dean in his second season as one of the leaders of the room, but the fact is that he's in his second season and bears so much responsibility. Nicholas Morrow is a veteran who is new to South Philadelphia. Christian Elliss showed promise last season and is building on that with a strong spring and summer, but he's still young.
As the Eagles did in 2022 by adding Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph to the defensive tackle group, the Eagles are adding veteran experience with players who have some position versatility, who can help on special teams, and who are here to show what they can bring to the team.
Understand this, as well: Both Cunningham and Jack are here to compete. If it's true that, as the Eagles say all the time, "iron sharpens iron," then the linebacker room just became a whole lot better. How it shakes out remains to be seen, but the plan is clearly to challenge every part of the roster.
"For us, it's hitting the ground running," Cunningham said, who spent much of his offseason rehabbing an elbow injury that he says is now good and ready to go. "Getting in the playbook and getting acclimated to the defense, that's pretty much how it's been. It's definitely a great opportunity and I'm looking to take advantage of it."
Both players have been waiting around for the call. Jack joked (maybe?!) that he considered taking up a trade if the football thing didn't work out for the season. Both players knew that at some point they would likely have a chance to find the right fit. Here they are, and they have the chance to provide the Eagles a boost at linebacker, a position group that Roseman targeted when the timing was right.