Turns out, a whole lot more than a "self-scouting" period went on during the bye week, that Head Coach Nick Sirianni and his staff also wisely used the time to prepare for this very, very short week and put together some copious plans about Thursday's opponent, the Houston Texans.
You always want to know what a coach learns the first time he experiences something, so everything that Sirianni went through in 2021 would be evaluated and, if needed, improved for 2022. Score one for looking ahead for Sirianni as he gets his players ready for a road trip to Houston and a nationally televised game on Thursday night.
"We had a unique situation this year where we had our bye week not too long ago. We were able to get a lot of that work done during the bye week," Sirianni said on Monday at his weekly day-after press conference. "We're doing things a little bit differently this year as far as how we're going about our process this week. It was a group effort by everybody because we had a little bit extra time, so everybody was able to do their parts of the research for this week."
That said, Sirianni is keeping the on-field work smart and limited: The players are having walkthrough practices this week, and they're focusing on rest and recovery – it started immediately after the win over Pittsburgh as players hopped on stationary bicycles and had massage options and recovery shakes and anything they needed at the ready in the Lincoln Financial Field locker room – with the travel day on Wednesday and the game on Thursday.
It is a taxing situation for everyone, no doubt. Having the right mindset is important, and Sirianni says the Eagles feel "an advantage" with the way they prepare.
"I think the way we go about our process, it is an advantage for us," he said. "The way we walkthrough. The way we meet. We talk about these things all the time, of how important it is that not only is your intensity at practice need to be extremely high and detailed, it needs to be that way in the walkthrough, too. Full speed to the snap in the walkthrough so that your mind is working as if you're playing the entire game and your body is just not."
The meeting time is extremely important as the coaches provide to the players every answer to the various looks they could see when the game begins. Players want answers and coaches are there to give the answers, so Sirianni places so much of the responsibility on his staff. Nothing changes in terms of intensity or focus; it's just that the time is truncated and the time together is much shorter.
What to expect, then, at Houston, a team that is 1-5-1, in a significant transition period, starting a bunch of rookies and coming off a tough 17-10 loss to Tennessee. In that game, Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
"We can't get into anything about what kind of season Houston is having. It's all about us," running back Miles Sanders said on Sunday following the win over the Steelers. "Everything is about us and taking this one game at a time and, really, one day at a time. We know that we have to recover and take care of our bodies in this short week. It starts right away. Then we go out and we play our game and that's how it goes.
"We know they're going to give us their best shot. We can expect that the rest of the season and we have to prepare for it."
The Eagles are likely, said Sirianni, to be without rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis. He suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and, while there is no timetable as the Eagles gather more information on the injury and the recovery, Thursday will be a tough go. The Eagles have been playing with a five-man defensive tackle rotation and they have Marvin Wilson, experienced in the scheme, available on the practice squad should the Eagles decide to call him up for game night.
What you see at the NovaCare Complex is a team preparing with purpose, knowing the challenges of the short week, the long trip, and the national glare awaiting Thursday. That's all welcome for a team that has been schooled daily on the importance of discipline, fine-tuning its details, and preparing to be better every day.
"I'm excited to play," wide receiver A.J. Brown said after his big game on Sunday. "We'll do things the right way and then go out and have fun and play football on Thursday night. That's just how you do it. That's what we're going to do."