To say the Eagles' locker room has energy with preparations for Sunday’s regular-season opener against Washington kicking into high gear is an understatement: Wednesday was a buzz of activity as the players moved quickly from the practice field at the NovaCare Complex into their late-afternoon meals and meetings.
With that in mind, let’s take a trip around the locker room and see what’s happening ...
Darren Sproles: Milestone would mean a lot
The remarkable Darren Sproles is just 133 all-purpose yards away from passing Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown to move into fifth place in league history in that category. He admits that reaching the top five would be noteworthy.
“Actually, it means a lot to me,” Sproles said, “because when I first came into the league they told me that I wasn’t going to make it past one year, know what I’m saying? Because of my size. For me to get number five, it would be something special.”
Sproles understands his role on the team as a return man in the punt game and a change-of-pace ballcarrier and receiver. On an offense that has so many weapons, Sproles isn’t the featured player. That hasn’t stopped him from preparing as he has always done: With tremendous attention to detail and vigor.
“You’ve always got to keep the body right,” he said. “The thing is, when you get older you have to do more. We’ve got a good group. We’ll do whatever they ask us to do. I’m just ready to go. I’m probably going to have to calm myself down in the pre-game a little bit, but I’ll be ready to go.”
Sproles enters his 15th season and said this one “feels like my first.” He was undecided about playing in 2019 after 2018 ended, but once he made the decision to come back, he’s been “all in.”
And for the Eagles, having Darren Sproles “all in” is a very good thing.
Brandon Brooks: Unsure of what Sunday will bring
The fact that guard Brandon Brooks is practicing at such a high level after suffering a torn Achilles tendon injury in January is impressive, to say the least. He practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday after being cleared for full-team workouts last week. Brooks is not yet sure what is going to happen on Sunday.
If Brooks doesn’t play right guard, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start between center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson.
“I feel good and I was excited to be out there with the guys,” Brooks said. “It’s good to be back. As for Sunday, I’m going to leave it up in the air. We’ll find out then.”
Brooks said “it would hurt,” if he doesn’t play against Washington because his goal all along was to be ready for Week 1, but he knows that the important way to approach things is to be smart about the long-term plans.
The Eagles are equipped if Brooks can’t play and they’re ready if he’s back in the starting lineup, so it’s a win-win either way. His approach to “do everything twice a day” has paid off with a rapid recovery.
As for Sunday? That’s still a question.
Nigel Bradham: Aching to hit somebody
Linebacker Nigel Bradham worked long and hard to return from a toe injury suffered in the postseason loss at New Orleans and now, well, now he’s smiling. Bradham is back on the field and says he’s going to play Sunday against a physical Washington offense.
“Full participant, man. It feels good and I’ve been conditioning the whole time, all through rehab, training and building my strength getting ready for this week,” said Bradham, who turned 30 on Wednesday. “That was my main goal.”
Bradham could see time on Sunday as the middle linebacker and he could slide over to the strong side as well. A linebacker group that hasn’t had its full room on the field together at all in Training Camp and preseason would get a big boost with Bradham’s return.
That’s the plan, to have Bradham out there with Zach Brown and perhaps L.J. Fort as the starting threesome when the defense is in base personnel. Bradham said it “was different” to spend an entire offseason rehabbing the injury and aiming toward a Week 1 return to the football field.
He hasn’t tackled anybody since the playoff game in New Orleans but Bradham doesn’t think that will be an issue.
“I’ve done a lot of tackling in my career,” he said. “It isn’t like you forget how to do it. I hit some lineman today, got used to some contact again. I’m where I want to be.”
Miles Sanders: Rookie is ready to roll
Second-round draft pick Miles Sanders has that calm, cool appearance that suggests he’s unflappable. No question, as he met the media on Wednesday, Sanders thinks he’s in position to make a smooth transition from preseason to his regular-season NFL debut on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “This is what I’ve been working my butt off for. This is what it’s all about. I know it’s going to be a faster game and I’m going to be prepared for that.”
Of all the players in the Eagles' rookie class, Sanders is maybe the most likely to make an immediate impact. He impressed in the preseason and took starting reps in his final game (minus one kickoff return rep against Baltimore), at Jacksonville. Sanders impressed with his all-around skills and his work ethic.
Sanders is, by all accounts, a mature young man who has all the skills needed to thrive in this offense.
“It’s been a lot of work and I’ve enjoyed it. This is my dream, to play in the NFL. Now that I’m here, I’m going to be the best I can be. I’m not going to take any shortcuts. I’m here to help the team win,” Sanders said. “Sunday, I know I'm going to be excited and everybody is going to be hyped.
“Honestly, once the game starts it’s going to be football. You have to keep your focus and understand that and not let anything outside get into your head.”
Fletcher Cox: Expecting Washington to be Washington
A signature of the Washington Redskins is having a relentless commitment to the running game, to line up and play smash-mouth football and to try to impose their will on an opposing defense.
That’s just fine with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who expects the Redskins to be the Redskins. The key for the Eagles, says Cox, is to be the Eagles.
“We have to come out and start fast as a defensive unit, as a defensive line,” he said. “They always try to come out and run the football and we’re pretty good at stopping the run. When we’re doing that, we’re a good defense. We want to put teams in second-and-long and third-and-long situations.
“At the end of the day, man, we have to make it about us and not about them. We have to come out and play as a group, as a team. When we do that, this team is really good.”
Cox says the defensive line is the “engine” of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he’s right on about that. Cox teams with tackle Malik Jackson this season, a duo that should be dynamic. If the Eagles win up front, they’re a very difficult team to beat.