As all attention turns toward Sunday and the regular-season opener against Washington, the 53-man active roster and nine-man practice squad gathered for the first time on Monday morning at the NovaCare Complex as head coach Doug Pederson held his 9 a.m. team meeting. Needless to say, the intensity has ramped up substantially with the season straight ahead. And there's a lot to talk about with the Eagles prepping for their NFC East rival. Let's dig in now …
1. We'll learn more when Pederson meets the media throughout the week and the Eagles list an official injury report on Wednesday, but there are some players whose availability is a question mark. Pederson has said that defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is on track to play, and the Eagles have ramped up offensive guard Brandon Brooks's activity in practice and cornerback Ronald Darby has targeted September 8 all along to return from his knee injury. What about linebacker Nigel Bradham? Where does he stand in his recovery and his status for Sunday? Pederson will offer the answers.
2. Who is the team's third tight end on gamedays? The Eagles have two tights on the active roster, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and they have two on the practice squad, Alex Ellis and Joshua Perkins. So, yeah, a move could be made late in the week to promote one of the tight ends. Or the Eagles could prepare an offensive lineman to be an emergency third tight end in "heavy" blocking packages. Understand this: The Eagles won't be caught short. They're thinking of every scenario.
3. Keeping an eye on the Redskins, of course, and their injury situation. They aren't likely to have standout offensive tackle Trent Williams for this game as Williams has been away from the team the entire spring and summer in his dispute with the team. That's a big loss for Washington. Williams is outstanding and he's a tough matchup for Derek Barnett (he's a tough matchup for everybody, let's be honest). Also, tight end Jordan Reed suffered a concussion in the preseason and, while Washington head coach Jay Gruden has expressed confidence that Reed will be available for this game, you never know with a player who has suffered so many concussions in his career. Reed is a great tight end and a central piece in Washington's passing game.
4. Don't underestimate Washington's defense, which features excellent strength along the interior at the line of scrimmage with Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne and a productive "effort" guy in Matt Ioannidis, and the twice-a-year challenge in Ryan Kerrigan – the matchup of Kerrigan and Lane Johnson is always a highlight of this game – off the edge. The secondary received a big boost with the signing of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who is playing with a Giants-sized chip on his shoulder this season. The Eagles' offense has to be on point here. Washington is going to go after quarterback Carson Wentz and try to disrupt him in the pocket.
5. In case you missed it, Washington claimed running back Wendell Smallwood off of waivers and then added defensive tackle Treyvon Hester after he cleared waivers. Interesting. What kind of information can those two players really provide to Washington, a team that has studied the Eagles' schemes for years and that ended last season playing Philadelphia? Besides, the Eagles will change up their non-verbal and verbal checks for this game, as they do every week. By the way, good luck to both Smallwood and Hester, both of whom helped the Eagles win in their time here.
6. A short story about Kyle Lauletta, added to the practice squad by the Eagles. He was a Giants fourth-round draft pick in 2018 and, prior to that draft, he visited the Eagles for a workout. After the workout, Pederson called me to his office to say hello to Lauletta, whose father, Joe, was a classmate of mine in high school (West Chester Henderson, Class of 1983). It was a fun hello, an example of how small the world is and, yeah, I felt a tough old at the time. Anyway, Lauletta comes from a family of quarterbacks and has a real chance to develop here in a quality quarterback room and with a terrific teaching coach in Press Taylor. Lauletta played in one late-season game with the Giants last year and was 0-for-5 passing, but the Eagles are going to bring him along the right way in a seasoned quarterback room. Should be an interesting guy to monitor, although all of his progress this year will come behind the scenes.
7. The early weather forecast for Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field is a dream: Temperatures in the mid to high 70s, party sunny, low winds. Perfect. Of course, Hurricane Dorian, which has devastated the Bahamas and is threatening the southern coast of the United States, could change that outlook. It's something to watch.
8. Are you shocked that Howie Roseman didn't pull off a trade? "A lot of phone calls. A lot of phone calls through the course of the week trying to find if there's any fits, if there are right fits," Roseman said. "But I think for us, we like the players that we have. We built this team and we collected talent through the offseason …" Here's the upshot: The Eagles challenged the roster the entire offseason. In the last week, they determined the best 53 while also making sure that they had the right roles for each player.
For example, the fifth wide receiver – in this case Mack Hollins – had to have the ability to help on special teams. Same with, for example, the fourth safety (the Eagles say that Johnathan Cyprien has embraced that role). The young defensive ends must develop. Some younger offensive linemen (Nate Herbig comes to mind, along with Halapoulivaati Vaitai) have to be versatile. On and on it goes. Same thinking with the practice squad. The Eagles see, perhaps, one or two of those players being ready to help this season if called upon. Many of the others are developmental players for the future. Bottom line: "We're excited," Roseman said. "We have a good football team."