Day 1 on the practice field is in the books for Training Camp, 2022, and with that, the first day of meeting the media is finished as well. Welcome, then, to our Quotebook Notebook, fresh from the NovaCare Complex. Here are some of the highlights of what the team said on Wednesday.
DT Fletcher Cox
The veteran defensive tackle is coming back from a bout with COVID, but says he is feeling good and ramping up for the season.
"I got pretty sick about a week and a half ago, two weeks," Cox said. "Just taking the steps to getting me back to where I was. Just being smart about it, working me in. I'm starting to feel a lot better than I did this time last week, so that's a good sign."
The wind on the outside has been positive as the fans and media have been full-go given the team's big offseason, and that is something Cox has learned about Philadelphia since the team selected him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"It's always big expectations," Cox said. "When you play in the City of Philly, every year the expectations are the same. They want you to win. That's why you've got to love playing in this city and for the fans that cheer us on."
A six-time Pro Bowl player, Cox said he wants to get back to that level this season. In 2021, Cox recorded 3.5 quarterback sacks and 35 total tackles playing 66 percent (749) of the defensive snaps.
"Just be better than I was last year," Cox said when asked about his individual goals for the season. "Obviously, it wasn't one of the best years of my career. Down year for me. I could have better in a lot of ways. I know I'll be better. Second year of this defense, I know what to expect. I know what's going on. I'll be ready for whatever."
WR DeVonta Smith
He doesn't say a whole lot, instead letting his big game do much of his talking, but wide receiver DeVonta Smith met reporters and talked about what it's like to be in Training Camp for a second summer. There is a difference, Smith said.
"Obviously, things are a little faster," he said. "Timing is better. We've been working all offseason, so communication is better, things like that."
The presence of veteran wide receiver A.J. Brown, something we will talk about at length throughout the summer, makes a difference when the ball is snapped, of course. But Smith said that having Brown around is vastly important for another reason: Leadership for an otherwise pretty darn young corps of wide receivers.
"We have a lot of young guys, so we need someone who has been there before and who can walk us through it," Smith said.
WR A.J. Brown
The goal for wide receiver A.J. Brown in this Training Camp? "Win every route," he said and then make the catch and make defenders pay. That's the hope for everybody, who had their eyes glued to No. 11 when he lined up on the field on Wednesday.
Fans chanted his name and roared loudly whenever Brown touched the football. It has been that way for him since the night the Eagles acquired him via trade from Tennessee in April. Day 1 live in front of the fans was special, Brown admitted.
"It was very passionate. As soon as I came out here, some cheers," he said. "I definitely feel the love. Ever since I've been here in Philly, the city has been showing me love. I appreciate it wholeheartedly. Now it's my job to go do what I do, have fun and play some football."
Brown showed some love to fans earlier in the week when he stopped by the Eagles Pro Shop in Cherry Hill (you just never know who you might run into there!) and bought some fans his jersey. He wanted to see if his No. 11 was hanging and it certainly was, so he gave the fans a great big hug in the form of his jersey as a gift.
"I just wanted to show love," he said. "I'm big on showing love. That's just who I am."
DE Brandon Graham
No player was more excited to be on the field on Wednesday than veteran defensive end Brandon Graham, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Week 2 of last season. He is back and he is thrilled to be uninhibited by the injury. Graham is full-go – with a big smile to prove it.
"I'm so excited just being back with the guys. A new appreciation of being gone and now having another opportunity to be back here with the Philadelphia Eagles," he said. "We've got a good team and I want to take full advantage of every day we get to spend together. We've got something special, but we've got to put that work in every day. It's not going to come to us just because of what it says on paper."
CB Big Play Slay
The Eagles practiced for one hour on Wednesday, a short period of time relative to Training Camps of the past, but that's not a factor for Darius Slay. It isn't about the length of time, he said. It's about what you're doing when you are on the field.
"As long as you're practicing and working hard, that's all that matters," he said.
The Eagles also hold a walkthrough on most days during camp and that is where Slay says he gains many benefits by locking in on the concepts of the defense. It also helps that Slay and the cornerbacks work every day against a strong group of receivers led by Brown and Smith.
"Big, physical guy who can catch the ball and run. I'm waiting to put the pads on because you can see for sure that he's not a 'T-shirt guy.' He's a pads guy. He wants to run through contact," Slay said about Brown. "We're ready for them. We will compete. My job is to get him to be the best receiver in the game – him and DeVonta and the whole receiving corps. I want them to be the best unit in the NFL. My job is to keep growing and keep trying to help get them boys better."