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Spadaro: How will the Eagles handle the moment?

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

They have all spent most of these last two weeks preparing for Sunday and the regular-season opener in Detroit. Now we're in the final hours, and while the fans are antsy and brimming with emotion – hype, would be a more appropriate description – players who have been here before understand how to approach the moment.

"I'm approaching this like I do every other year," cornerback James Bradberry said as he prepares to make his Eagles debut. "There is still a lot of work to be done to get ready for Sunday. You don't get ahead of yourself. Stick to the game plan with the way you prepare and make the most of the time that you have left.

"Every year is kind of new and when I was early in my career, maybe there were more nerves than there are now. It's exciting because you love football and you want to start the season. So, there's that. You learn to control those emotions. Get your jitters out when the game starts and make plays after that. It's football and we've all been playing it for a long time, so we know how to handle this time."

Bradberry is part of a moving-parts secondary that will be tested on Sunday against a Lions team that demonstrated great improvement through the course of 2021. Bradberry is playing his first game as an Eagle. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson has been here for less than two weeks. Marcus Epps is a full-season starter for the first time.

There is a lot to work to do here, and the players embrace that challenge.

"We're all working together and it's been great," Gardner-Johnson said. "This culture here, it's just something special. Everyone has been so helpful with me. Whatever my role is on Sunday, I'll be ready. Don't focus on anything other than being ready when your number is called. It's not really putting in the late hours, the 'after' hours, because even if you've been with a team for four years, you're working 'after hours,' if that makes sense. That's just how you prepare to play games if you want to be great.

"I've enjoyed being here in this environment. It's a different vibe and it has been a lot of fun learning how to be an Eagle. It's a great organization, great coaching staff, great teammates and front office. When Sunday comes, it's going to be football and that's something I love to do."

As we all get ready for Sunday and enjoy the moment, here are some notes to consider. What they mean for 2022, we're going to find out ...

• Wide receiver A.J. Brown has 10 receptions of 50-plus yards since 2019, the most in the NFL, with an NFL-most seven of those being touchdown catches. Brown's 16.2-yard-per-reception average is impressive. He wowed observers in the summer, so what's next? We haven't seen Brown in this offense, so we don't know how he is going to be used, but clearly Brown brings it all to the table. Short passes that he turns into big plays? That's something he has done very well in his career. These 50-yard-plus plays? Obviously, a strength. Can't wait to see him on Sunday and can't wait to see how the Eagles use their standout wide receiver corps in the passing game.

• The Eagles own an NFL-best 9-2 record in openers since 2011, including last season's win in Atlanta.

• Center Jason Kelce makes his 123rd consecutive start on Sunday, the second-longest consecutive-games streak in the NFL behind only Atlanta's Jake Matthews (who has started 127 straight games). Kelce's streak is the fourth-longest in Eagles history.

• Key statistics for Head Coach Nick Sirianni are explosive plays and giveaways and last year's offense did very well in both areas, leading the NFL with 163 explosive plays (16-plus-yard passing play, 10-plus-yard running play) and only 16 giveaways.

• The offense led the league in rushing last season and ranked fourth in third-down conversion rate, 45.7 percent, which is something to monitor throughout this year. The ability to run and to keep the third-down distance management was a huge plus for quarterback Jalen Hurts and company.

"It has been a great environment all week and we'll be ready to play once we have the ball kicked off," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "You can feel it, definitely. But you also have to manage your emotions and not play the game before it gets here. We still have a little bit of time to button things up and then we're off to Detroit and then it's that night-before-the-game feeling. We've been there before. We will be sharp and focused for 1 o'clock. Anything other than that is just a waste of energy and focus."

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