Aside from Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, Eagles players have been limited to practicing against each other over and over again since the spring. Every day, they see the same people lined up against them, the same style of play and the same tendencies - again, and again and again.
But that tune changed on Wednesday as the Baltimore Ravens arrived at the NovaCare Complex for a series of joint practices leading into Saturday night's showdown at Lincoln Financial Field.
Wednesday's practice proved to be especially valuable for the Eagles' defense, a group that has seen the same up-tempo looks all spring and summer. Unlike the Eagles, the Ravens run a more traditional offensive attack, which presented a test for defenders like linebacker DeMeco Ryans and safety Malcolm Jenkins.
"The biggest challenge for us is the two-back runs, which our offense doesn't do a lot of," Ryans said. "For us, there were a lot of Harbaugh two-back runs where we don't get to see that much. I think that was good for us to see those deep play-action passes that a lot of teams in the NFL run, but we don't get the chance to see it going against our offense.
"It's good for us as a team to get different looks from a different offense. We get to see a different quarterback and different styles of play. That really helps our defense and helps us with our communication and our calls. It's really good and we really enjoy this time when we get to go up against another team."
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"It's fun because you get fresh looks," Jenkins added. "This is the first time we've seen a two-back, traditional formation all year, so it's fun to get a different look against quality guys. You've got Joe Flacco and Steve Smith out there. They give good looks and they're a quality team that we respect, so it's a lot of good competition."
With three new starters in the group entering 2015, the Eagles' secondary relished the opportunity to test themselves here in camp against a championship-caliber quarterback like Flacco and a potential Hall of Fame wide receiver in Smith.
According to Jenkins, the defense held down the fort and accomplished what they set out to do.
"We created turnovers, we stopped the run really well and we didn't give up any big passes over our heads," Jenkins said. "That's our goal and that's what we want to be good at. We could have done a little bit better on third down, but overall I thought we did well."
Ryans and the linebackers saw first-hand how the secondary was able to hold their own against a different offensive look.
"Our secondary has done a great job transitioning with Coach (Cory Undlin) coming in," Ryans said. "He's doing an outstanding job of teaching guys how to play on the back end, and they've done an outstanding job of receiving that coaching and just going out and showing it out on the field."
Facing a different offense wasn't the only change on Wednesday for the Eagles. There was also a lack of music that traditionally pumps from the speakers and provides the score for the day's work. Practice was also run at a much more methodical pace, as opposed to the Eagles' typical pedal-to-the-metal speed.
"There was definitely a little slower tempo than what we're used to," Ryans said. "At the end of the day, it's about lining up against someone else. You get that rep at full speed and that's what really matters."
"It was a lot slower, but I think practice ended up being a little bit harder for us because of the tempo that we're used to going at," Jenkins said. "Between plays, we're going a thousand miles an hour and in special teams periods we don't have the breaks in between like we normally do, but it was good to be able to go into a huddle, make some calls and disguise some looks and talk about formations and what we're trying to do. It was more game-like for us."
While other joint practices around the league this year have featured a lot of pushing and shoving and even some brawls, there was none of that to be found in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The two teams competed at their best, jawed back and forth, but cooler heads prevailed on a hot day of practice.
"I think it's fun," Jenkins said. "It's organized chaos and everything is kind of teetering on a thin piece of ice, but it's fun to kind of toe that line against guys that you don't really know ell and see how you match up."