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Spadaro: The stage is set for the regular season

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Eagles wrapped up the 2022 preseason with a 48-10 loss to Miami on Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium and attention turned afterward to A) Getting a good night's sleep (actually, morning as the team was scheduled to land at 3 AM on Sunday) and B) Reducing the roster to 53 players by Tuesday's 4 PM deadline. It's a nervous time for some of the players who returned to Philadelphia, and that's understandable.

In the big picture, which is the focus here – because, frankly, there wasn't a whole lot to report on during a night when the Dolphins played their starters for the first quarter against the Eagles' second- and, at times, third-team players – is on a Training Camp/preseason during which Philadelphia achieved so many of the things it hoped to accomplish when it all started in late July.

1. The team returned home to Philadelphia as healthy as a team can be at this point in the late summer. There are no injuries that the Eagles anticipate will leak into the regular season, so with two weeks to go before the regular season opens in Detroit, it's great to know that the Eagles are in fine shape. And that is no small thing. Dallas will be without starting left tackle Tyron Smith for most of the season and valuable receiver Michael Gallup won't be around for at least a few weeks. Washington is without star defensive end Chase Young for at least the first four weeks of the season. New York has lost some depth at wide receiver. Heading into the next two weeks of practice, when the focus is on the Detroit Lions, as a healthy team means a lot.

2. An offense that came back in 2022 largely intact improved in many ways. Quarterback Jalen Hurts made significant strides in his recognition, his accuracy, his timing, and his overall play. Head Coach Nick Sirianni emphasized that during the week of joint practices against Miami. Wide receiver A.J. Brown made plays every day in practice and is going to be a force in this offense. The play of the backup offensive line, highlighted by second-round draft pick center Cam Jurgens, gives the Eagles enviable depth for the grind of a 17-game regular season. Tight end Dallas Goedert is bigger, faster, and stronger. He was a beast all summer. The running game led the NFL a season ago and is primed for more in 2022.

3. On the defensive side of the ball, hey, the additions made in the offseason are going to pay immediate dividends. Haason Reddick is a relentless, physical presence on the edge who is one of the most productive pass rushers in the league. He hopes to change the tempo in that defensive front seven. James Bradberry is a big body, a physical cornerback who should team very nicely with Darius Slay on the outside, with Avonte Maddox inside. The Eagles value two defensive statistics – allowing big plays and taking the football away. They were outstanding limiting the X-plays last season. They need more takeaways, so having a pass-rushing impact player like Reddick helps rattle quarterbacks and adding a cornerback who was in the Pro Bowl only a few seasons ago helps in coverage.

4. Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Week 2 last season and he has looked like the explosive player who made the Pro Bowl in 2020. Having Graham on the field is a huge plus – he plays with so much energy and he's physical and just someone who leads the way for Philadelphia.

5. It's clear that having the coaching staff back for a second season has made this a seamless move into 2022. The schemes in all three phases should be more evolved and finely tuned. It's exciting to think what Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen have in mind for an offense that has so many weapons, and Jonathan Gannon has more pieces to use to make the most of his defensive plays. Michael Clay's kicking game is on point with Jake Elliott coming off a Pro Bowl season.

6. The value of making the playoffs last year gives the Eagles an understanding of what it takes to make it to the postseason. They won big games at the end of the 2021 regular season to reach the playoffs and that helps pave the road for this season. This is the second time around for Hurts, who last season became the youngest quarterback in the history of the franchise to start a playoff game. That is a positive.

So, that's the big-picture view and it's a good one. It's the one that mattered as the Eagles cleaned things up and departed Miami and returned home after being away for 11 of 12 days with joint practices in Cleveland and Miami. The regular season is two weeks away and the Eagles are in great shape with flowing optimism knowing they've accomplished so much in these last five-plus weeks.

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