Malcolm Jenkins considers the question: “Have I ever taken an opponent lightly in the NFL?”
“Ever?” he asks.
“Yes, ever. In your career. And learned a lesson from it.”
Jenkins thinks some more.
“Hmmmm …. No. No. I guess what I’ll say is, yes. Yes, I learned that early,” Jenkins said. “But on the flip side of that, I do know when I’m better than an opponent and I know if I don’t show up that way and if I don’t prepare and do what I’m supposed to do, then anybody in this league can beat you.
“There are matchups you should win. There are games you should win but that doesn’t mean anything. You have to show up with your 'A' game. The reason you think you should win is because your ‘A’ game is better than their ‘A’ game and if you don’t bring that game, you can get beat by anybody in this league. I’ve been part of teams when we’ve lost when we weren’t ‘supposed’ to lose. This is a game of professionals. Anybody has the talent to win in the NFL.
“And it happens every year in the NFL. Teams that are supposed to win, lose. But as long as you’re not cutting corners in your preparation and as long as you show up as the best version of yourself, then that’s all you can control. You go out and play your best game, no matter who the opponent is.”
That leads us to this week. And this Sunday. And since it feels like the Eagles haven’t played in forever, it’s been kind of a slow news week. The Eagles host a New York Jets team on Sunday that is winless in three games, that doesn’t yet know its starting quarterback, and that has some injuries to key players to consider. In other words, the Jets visit Philadelphia on Sunday still not sure of what they are, who they are. The Jets are building a football team around last year’s first-round draft pick, quarterback Sam Darnold, who has been out the last couple of games with mononucleosis and who has been limited in practice all week.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are coming off a thriller in Green Bay that was, in the words of safety Rodney McLeod, a “get-us-back-on-track win” and are a team with championship aspirations.
So, what gives on Sunday?
“They don’t look like an 0-3 team to me when you watch their defense and the way they come off the ball and make plays,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “That’s all I’m looking at.”
Said wide receiver Alshon Jeffery: “Everyone’s in the NFL. They’re professionals. They’re in the NFL. It’s all about what you can control. You lock in and focus on the details.”
Sunday’s game is a critical one for the Eagles to kick off an October that includes three tough road games – at Minnesota, Dallas, and Buffalo – to follow Sunday’s contest. If you’ve been an Eagles fan for more than a few years, you know the dangers of taking anything for granted. It just doesn’t work that way in the league. Upsets happen every week.
The Eagles don’t want to be a victim of that on Sunday.
“We all have to understand that we are in the NFL,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said, “and every team is good. We’re all pros. For us to think that way, it would be totally different for this team. This team thinks about every week that we’re playing a good football team. Let’s be real. We’re only 2-2. Our schedule says what we are, but we have to come out on Sunday and attack it like we do every week.”
Cox is correct. Head coach Doug Pederson’s daily message to this team is to go “1-0 this week.” No matter the opponent, that’s the message. Don’t look ahead. Don’t think about anything other than this task, this week.
Beat the Jets.
“When I look at the film, I don’t see any team’s record,” guard Brandon Brooks said. “I see players. I see schemes. New York’s defense is tough, particularly up front. They’re going to throw a lot at us. I have to do my job and that’s my focus this week. It’s the same as it is every week.”
Take the Jets lightly? That’s for the media and, if you’ve not learned your lessons from the past, the fans. The Eagles are ready. The Eagles are focused. Sunday means one thing, and one thing only: It’s time to win another football game, no matter the team, no matter the record. Just win.