1. Homecoming King
Nelson Agholor returns home to Tampa on Sunday where he'll play on the road against the team he rooted for as a kid for the first time. Agholor played at Raymond James Stadium last when he was "11 or 12" years old in his little league championship. Now, he'll return as a Super Bowl Champion and the top wide receiver in the game for the Eagles.
Agholor said he plans to meet up with his family at the game as well as friends and coaches who have influenced his life. He also wants to show the youth football players in the area, including some that have gone to his football camps in Tampa, that they can make it to the NFL as well. Here's more on Agholor's homecoming:
“Tampa is a grind,” Agholor said. “That’s my community. A lot of great people there that poured into me, my high school football coach (Dominick Ciao), he definitely helped me become the man I am today and some of the things he taught me are the characteristics I use to make sure I’m on my feet all day as a pro.”
2. Injury Update
Wide Receiver Shelton Gibson (knee) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) did not participate in practice on Thursday. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and quarterback Carson Wentz (knee) were limited.
For the Buccaneers, wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder/concussion) returned to practice Thursday in a limited role and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch (knee), and tackle Donovan Smith (knee) were also limited. Cornerback Brent Grimes (groin) missed practice Thursday, as did defensive tackle Vita Vea who has not practiced since early in Training Camp. Chris McPherson has more on the plethora of injuries affecting Sunday's battle.
3. Drink Up
The tough part about playing in Florida during the early weeks of the season is the heat and humidity. Sunday is going to be hot with temperatures in the 90s, humudity expected to be around 70 percent, and the sun blazing. The Eagles are going to have to work hard to beat the Bucs, but they'll also have to train hard to beat the heat. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more on what strategies Eagles players and coaches are employing to stay hydrated on Sunday.
“We’re getting good prep here. It was freaking humid out there,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said on Wednesday after practice on a hot, humid, and sticky day in Philadelphia. Thursday, though the temperatures cooled. “It’s a matter of just locking in. Temperature, heat, if you’re not mentally there, if you’re not mentally strong and pushing through it, it can fatigue you. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to stay locked in on our communication, stay locked in on the little details. We’ll be all right."
4. Eagle Eye In The Sky
Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was a machine last Sunday in New Orleans, completing 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He was a gunslinger, completing eight passes of more than 20 yards down the field with three of them resulting in touchdowns.
The Eagles will have to diminish, if not eliminate, the "FitzMagic" that the Saints were blindsided with in Week 1. Fran Duffy has a breakdown of Fitzpatrick's play and what the Eagles can do to stop the damage:
Fitzpatrick can make throws from a variety of arm angles, can be very tough in the pocket, and was extremely accurate with great ball placement to all levels of the field on Sunday. The most important part of that was that he was extremely comfortable in the backfield. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was able to keep New Orleans away from the quarterback. When he did break the pocket, he never lost vision downfield and just looked confident in his supporting cast. It will be up to the Eagles' defensive line to ensure that does not happen again this Sunday.
5. Stoutland Finds A Home In Philly
Jeff Stoutland is well-known in the Philadelphia area as the tough, excitable, Super Bowl-winning coach of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. He led the use of run-pass option plays at the end of last season that was critical in the run to the championship.
But the Eagles almost didn't have Stoutland at all. During his time coaching at the University of Miami in 2010, Stoutland was forced to endure triple bypass surgery and was at his weakest point. Stoutland and his family's journey from that hospital room in Miami, back onto the football field, and finally to making a home in Philadelphia is a remarkable one, and it's one that The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia chronicles beautifully:
The family has never been in one place for longer than seven years. The 2018 season will be Stoutland’s sixth with the Eagles. In the last seven years, he’s been the offensive line coach for two national championship teams at Alabama and one Super Bowl champion. Stoutland’s recent résumé is as good as any offensive line coach in the country. And while they all know things can change quickly in the coaching world, there’s reasonable optimism that the family will break the seven-year mark in Philadelphia. That’s the hope, anyway.
6. Foles And Fitz
Sunday's game will feature two journeymen quarterbacks in Nick Foles and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Foles has obviously accomplished a great deal more than the Buccaneers' backup with last year's season alone, but Foles has a lot of respect for Fitzpatrick, a 13-year veteran with his seventh team. Foles knows as well as anyone that producing with a new team is not easy and doing it multiple times over a long NFL career is impressive:
“I think that that’s a testament to a guy that goes and grinds it out,” Foles said. “It’s not easy to go to another team and build relationships with new guys and then go play and play at a high level and Fitz has done an amazing job at doing that throughout his career. And I think young players, players in high school, players in college, even players in the NFL can look up to a guy like that."