January 2020 was the last time the Eagles' locker room was open to the media. That changed this week. As Philadelphia prepares for Detroit, we went inside the locker room to see how the players are primed for Week 1.
Defensive end Brandon Graham is Detroit born and raised. Not only will Sunday be a homecoming, but he will also be taking the field for the first time since suffering an Achilles injury in Week 2 of the 2021 season.
Graham shared he "has goosebumps" just thinking about stepping onto the field again, and there will certainly be a Detroit fan club in tow: "I'm excited to be in front of my hometown to go against those Lions."
As the longest-tenured player on the team, Graham is ready for Year 13.
Cornerback Avonte Maddox, also a Detroit native, will return home for the second straight season. Last year, Maddox most notably punched the ball from the hands of Lions running back D'Andre Swift that cornerback Darius Slay returned for a touchdown.
Although he had a strong performance against the Lions in 2021, Maddox said, "Last year is last year. It's a new year."
He also shared that he will invite his high school football team to the game, Martin Luther King High School. The team was in attendance last year as well.
Detroit selected Slay in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Slay went on to play seven seasons in the Motor City – 103 games, 94 starts, 19 interceptions, and one touchdown.
This week, Slay referred to Detroit as his "second home," and expressed his gratitude for the city and the Lions organization: "I appreciate that place. It changed my life."
Both Slay and Graham will enter Detroit as Eagles team captains – a career first for Slay.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland spoke passionately at the podium this week, oozing energy and enthusiasm for the players in his room. He said guard Landon Dickerson is "light years" ahead of where he was last year and offered that Dickerson is the most improved player.
Dickerson for his part shared that he spent significant time meeting with Stoutland to assess his strengths and weaknesses: "I still feel like I got a lot of work to do, a lot of things to clean up, fix, and evaluate going into this first week."
As he enters year two with a full Training Camp under his belt, the young guard appreciates the reps he's gotten this summer: "The more you do something, the more natural it comes, the better you get," Dickerson said. "I'm grateful for every opportunity."
When guard Isaac Seumalo takes the field in Detroit on Sunday, he will be playing on the right side alongside tackle Lane Johnson. Seumalo spent significant time at left guard through the years, but as he returns from a season-ending injury suffered in 2021, Seumalo is poised for a new chapter.
"I'm still in the moment," Seumalo reflected. "Even if I was coming off a healthy year, it's all the same to me. I'm going to treat it like any other game, play with no restraints, and just do what I do."
As the Eagles led the NFL in rushing offense last season, I asked Seumalo if there's anything that will surprise people about the 2022 Eagles offense. His response: "I guess you'll find out Sunday."
NEW FACES DON EAGLES GREEN
James Bradberry: The Eagles signed the veteran cornerback to a one-year deal in the offseason. Playing in Carolina and most recently for NFC East foe, New York Giants, Bradberry said he's feeling good and anxious to get out there with his new teammates.
Haason Reddick: A linebacker on paper, Reddick is a do-it-all defender. A major offseason signing the Eagles executed, Reddick has received nothing but high praise from coaches and teammates through Training Camp. How ready is Reddick to wear the wings on his helmet this Sunday? "I'm excited," Reddick said. "Every day we get closer, I'm more excited, more pumped, and have more energy – I can't wait to get out there."
Most notably, Reddick shared: "I think this is the best defense I've ever been a part of as far as the NFL goes." He provided a moment of reflection, commenting on the focus, intensity, and energy felt from the defense this week.
Since 2020, Reddick has recorded the fifth-most sacks in the NFL (23.5). When preparing for Lions quarterback Jared Goff, Reddick says it will be important to force Goff to hold onto the football and affect him in the pocket.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Six Eagles players welcomed Week 1 with a visit to the Leveling the Playing Field warehouse. LPF collects donated sports equipment to redistribute to youth players in under-resourced communities.
In less than one year in Philadelphia, LPF has collected $800,000 worth of equipment and sent $315,000 worth back into the community.
Tight End Jack Stoll said the player commitment speaks to what they're building inside the locker room: "I think we got a great culture. I can even feel from last year – we've gotten tighter as a group, we've been connecting a lot, and doing a lot of stuff like this."
The Eagles Radiothon was live this week on SportsRadio WIP. All proceeds benefited the Eagles Autism Foundation to support autism research and care programs. Fans could bid on experiences such as an axe-throwing competition with the offensive line, a crawfish boil with Jalen Hurts, singing karaoke with Jordan Mailata, signed memorabilia, a VIP gameday treatment, and so much more.
To date, the Radiothon has raised $480,000 and counting.
Bidding is open through September 20. Visit eaglesradiothon.com to browse the list of items including T-shirts designed by Brandon Graham and Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie's Eagles Green-themed Tesla.