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Spadaro: What happens now that the preseason is over?

Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni

The 2023 preseason ended on Thursday night with some definite Eagles highlights: quarterback Marcus Mariota taking advantage and leading the offense to a touchdown drive on the opening possession, another strong outing from rookie quarterback Tanner McKee -- who completed 15 of 27 passes for 143 yards against the Colts' first-team defense, a Jake Elliott kicking show with field goals of 59 and 52 yards, some good play from the Eagles' backup defense against the Indianapolis starting offense.

All in all, a solid outing without the starters in front of another big crowd at Lincoln Financial Field and, hey, that's all folks, for the preseason.

Now it's time to focus on the tasks in front of the Eagles: Paring the roster to 53 players and then establishing a practice squad of up to 16 players. This is an extremely critical period of time before the NFL deadline of Tuesday, 4 PM, for the rosters to be at 53, and it's also the start of a pivotal time during which the Eagles really get down to business and prepare for the start of the regular season on September 10 at the Patriots.

Everything changes as the Eagles use these two-plus weeks to hone in on New England. Those open-to-the-media-and-the-fans practices at Training Camp? Done. The media watches only a few minutes of every practice moving forward and the fans are no longer permitted to view, and that's just the way it is around the league. After installing the schemes throughout the spring and summer, the practices are going to have everything to do with New England and how to attack the Patriots in every phase of the game.

Oh, Head Coach Nick Sirianni is still going to have the practice periods that stress fundamentals and techniques and ball security and all of those very important things, but it's no longer about trying to make the team. This is now the transition to giving the starters most of the reps, establishing a scout team, and working off a specific game plan to attack the Patriots and win on September 10.

In a very real way, the Eagles you will see in the opener will be a significantly different team – at least in its approach to calling plays and scheming specifically for New England – than the team you saw had you attended a practice at the NovaCare Complex or at Lincoln Financial Field. There has been a tremendous amount of work put in scouting New England and probing the Patriots' strengths and perceived weaknesses as the Eagles focus solely on getting that road W to open 2023.

Think back to the openers in the Sirianni era – the road wins at Atlanta and Detroit. In both games, the Eagles unveiled a powerful, balanced offensive attack and an attacking and takeaway-oriented defense to start 2021 and 2022 the right way. Jalen Hurts was exceptional in both games and the Eagles dominated Atlanta in '21 and then came back against a spirited Detroit team and a fevered Lions crowd to win to start the terrific 2022 campaign.

This is also the time when the special teams come together because, for all the time that Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay puts in, he really can't assign specific roles until he knows who is on the 53-man roster, who is going to be available on gamedays. It's that time now.

This is largely done behind the scenes as the coaching staff puts in the long hours to get ready for the Patriots while the personnel department continues the roster-building phase of the season. It's going to seem like forever before the Eagles play again, and indeed that is the way it's planned: The Eagles are heading into the regular season mostly healthy – they lost linebacker Shaun Bradley and cornerback Zech McPhearson to season-ending Achilles tendon injuries – and ready to take the best from every team on the schedule.

With two weeks ahead of them, it's a time for the players to catch their breath just a little bit, keep conditioning and preparing for the regular season, and narrowing their focus to the New England Patriots, and the Patriots only. With only three preseason games, this extra week is a benefit to the team that most takes advantage of the time, something the Eagles have done very, very well.

Training Camp and the preseason were successes for the Eagles, who have the steely one-day-at-a-time mentality that champions carry. You may not hear much about it, but these two weeks represent the time to make great progress behind closed doors with the idea of starting the regular season off the right way in New England on September 10.

Check out the best images from Training Camp, presented by Independence Blue Cross, as the Eagles whittle the roster to 53 and prepare for the 2023 season.

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