MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Wednesday was the kind of day that was just perfect for the Philadelphia Eagles. Hot and humid in South Florida, fresh off a Sunday preseason game and before that two very physical practices at Cleveland, the Eagles could very well have been dragging their tongues to the practice field with Miami for the first of two joint days of work.
Instead, they relished the challenge.
"It's adversity. It's why we're here, to be in our worst situation to play our best football," defensive tackle Jordan Davis said. "At the end of the day, it's only going to get us better. The experience that I'm getting, it's invaluable. It's a tough week, but it's only going to get us better."
Said linebacker Nakobe Dean: "It's not easy, but you have to love it. You have to love the game, period. It's a long Training Camp and it's always a grind, but I love every second of it. The learning curve is all about the plays I make, the plays I don't make, and continuing to learn to get better and be the best version of myself."
How did it go? The eye in the sky doesn't lie, so there are sure to be some teaching moments for the coaching staff and the players. Some really good things happened, and the coaches will point out those moments and maybe recall them at some point in the season. And like any joint practices, there were times when Miami got the best of the Eagles as they lined up, 11-on-11 on two different fields.
It was great work. It was intense against a Dolphins team that is expected by many to be a playoff contender. That's what these practices are all about. That's why Head Coach Nick Sirianni values these practices so much, why he says the value here is just as high as the preseason games.
So, it was a perfect day to teach, to learn, and to benefit because, let's get real here, it's all about the season opener on September 11 and the long haul of the regular season.
"Excited. Just like Cleveland, it's a brand-new scheme, significantly different scheme from what we run and from what Cleveland runs and we know they have some weapons," Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. "It will be good to see if we can play without gameplanning them, play our calls we're going to call, and execute them at a high level and within that knowing issues or matchup issues and play accordingly."
It is critical to understand what Gannon said. There is no gameplanning here. What the coaches did, on both sides of the ball, was test the players to see how they would react to certain, at times unsuspected, looks. Reacting to specific moments in practice, as the fans and many reporters in attendance often do, is understandable, but it's not exactly the point of these joint practices. The point is to embrace the successes and learn from what needs to be improved upon.
And to, um, find the best 53 players among the 80 (now 79 after the Eagles traded defensive back Ugo Amadi) players present.
"What they do is a little more up-tempo as well, so I think we're really getting good things out of these practices," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "Obviously, there's always some good, some bad, but seeing things for the first time, you're seeing how guys can adjust on the fly and truly how we can play getting new looks. There are always things to correct, but also some really good things as well.
"Just coming out here and fighting from the first snap to the last, good effort, and guys playing to the whistle, so some good things. It was a good day."
The truth is that every one of us who has been to every practice since July will be reminded of just how much we don't know when the regular season begins, because the Eagles are going to install a full, gameplanned scheme ahead of each game. They want to attack the weaknesses of their opponents, and, as they say all the time, put their players in the best situations to succeed in every phase of the game. They also know that inevitably, opponents will add some new concepts that the Eagles haven't yet seen, and that's what makes the work the Eagles put in on Wednesday so valuable.
"No doubt all of this work pays off," Edwards said. "We had some good, some bad. That's the way it is with practice. You come back and build on the day before and keep stacking those days."
So, that's where we are. There isn't any overreaction, one way or the other, from Joint Practice No. 1 with Miami. The Eagles, home for about 44 hours after returning from Cleveland, are on the road again. They're on the grind with the opportunity to practice for two days against what should be a very good Miami team this season. The value is real and it's appreciated and through the reams of sweat from an air temperature that measured above 100 degrees, is going to pay off all season for the Eagles.