BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – No more words. After four days of facing an all-out media assault – upwards of 2,000 credentials have been issued for the week of Super Bowl – Eagles players and coaches are now finished talking.
The home stretch of preparation for Super Bowl LII is here.
"I've always said that how you prepare Monday through Friday goes a long way toward determining how you play on Sunday," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Making sure that you detail your work, that's the important thing. It's been a long few days. It feels like we've been here for a week already. You have to pace yourself and make sure that on Sunday you are at your best."
So after a week of interviews and hoopla, where are the Eagles in terms of their preparation? Let's take a look at some of the stories to think about between now and kickoff …
- There has been a lot of talk about the Patriots using the no-huddle approach as part of their offensive approach. In what way is that potentially taxing for the Eagles' defense? "They do such a good job of mixing personnel groups, so making sure that you've got the right personnel on the field is very important," linebackers coach Ken Flajole said. "They don't give you a lot of time to get organized. The other thing that they do well is how they place their receivers. They do a good job of putting their backs outside and inside, they move the wide receivers around, so they do a good job of always making sure that you're on your game as far as making sure that you've got your right guy on their right guy. And they make you do it in very fast and hurried ways."
- The idea that the run/pass option (RPO) has redefined the Eagles' offense with Nick Foles at quarterback isn't really true, according to Pro Football Focus. In notes distributed by the NFL, the percentage of yards gained in the running game and the passing game hasn't changed all that much with Foles. With Carson Wentz at quarterback, the Eagles had 31 percent of their rush attempts off RPO plays, with 33 percent of the rushing yards coming off RPO plays. With Foles at the helm, 29 percent of rush attempts have come off RPO plays, with 32 percent of rush yards off RPO plays. Where the Eagles really differ from most teams is in the play-action game. Wentz had the fifth-highest rate among 30 quarterbacks with a 26.7 percent rate using play-action, rather than a straight drop back. Foles has a percentage of 32.6 using play-action in the passing game, the highest rate among NFL quarterbacks.
- Is the illness bug something to be concerned with? Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan again missed practice on Thursday because of sickness, the only Eagle to not have a full practice. Jernigan's Friday workload is important to keep an eye on. New England had a full roster of players taking part in practice. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has cleared concussion protocol and is on track to play on Sunday, as expected.
- Speaking of Gronkowski, the Eagles have their hands full with his size, strength, speed, and athletic ability. "He's a beast," safety Corey Graham said. "I've seen teams try to do a lot of things against him without having much success. We know we have our hands full, but we'll have a good plan."
- As much as the Eagles' defense must prepare for Gronk, the Patriots know that tight end Zach Ertz is a favorite target of Foles, and that Ertz's production has come in different ways from when Wentz was the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, Ertz has been targeted on "out" routes 56 percent of the time with Foles throwing him the football as opposed to 22 percent with Wentz. When Wentz played, Ertz ran slant routes on 21 percent of his targets (6 percent with Foles) and 19 percent on crossing routes (9 percent with Foles). Interesting stuff.
- How do the Eagles win? A viewpoint from former Eagles defensive tackle Mike Golic, now the star of "Golic and Wingo" on ESPN: "To beat New England you have to adjust to their adjustments," he said. "They're going to adjust on you, so how do you adjust back. This is the eighth Super Bowl with (head coach Bill) Belichick and (quarterback Tom) Brady, and in the first seven, they didn't score a touchdown in the first quarter. So they feel you out and then they make their adjustments so how do you adjust back to that. I think Philadelphia has enough talent where if New England adjusts and says, 'We're going to take this away,' the Eagles say, 'OK, we have enough talent to do other things and we're going to do them.'"