On Thursday, the Eagles host the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field (6:30 p.m. kickoff) and the coaches have their last chance to evaluate players on the roster "bubble." There are, as they say in the business, a lot of battles and competition throughout the roster.
The other part of the equation is preparing for the Browns on September 9 when the regular season begins. The return trip to Cleveland promises to be far different from the game on Friday night. Openers in the NFL are tricky business. Anything goes, and, often, it's the most unpredictable week in the season.
There are many, many parts of this team that need to be fine tuned, brushed up, improved. From the perspective of head coach Andy Reid, the truth is that every phase of his team can be made better.
Sunday night's Eagles Flight Night was a ton of fun for everyone. I've never seen the players on any Eagles team relax and enjoy themselves as much as they did from the time of the opening introductions to the interaction with the fans to the interviews and the dancing and the shout outs to the Eagles fans everywhere.
With all of the fun and the families and the fireworks, though, there was some business to discuss. Quarterback Michael Vick was on the field running the 10/10/10 practice and he looked smooth and easy in the half-speed practices and then, after it was all over, Vick said he had no doubt he would be ready to go for Cleveland.
What happens after that game, after that first snap, nobody knows. The reporters questioning Vick wanted to know how he plans to stay healthy and all of those things that are impossible to know ahead of time, so we'll focus on the here and now.
And the truth is that the Eagles offense has two weeks to get on the same page. Timing is essential in this scheme. Vick has thrown all of seven passes in the preseason. The offensive line has been only OK with pieces moving at left tackle and with some inconsistent play throughout the other four spots.
What can the Eagles accomplish in two weeks, nay, 13 days, before the first kickoff of 2012 that means anything coming in Cleveland?
"We have to keep playing together, working hard together and having good practices," said Vick. "We have a lot of faith in each other, a lot of trust. We'll be ready to go in Cleveland."
The starters aren't going to play against the Jets as the reserves get in the reps and make their final efforts to win a job on the 53-man roster or the eight-man practice squad. These practices are critical for the Eagles, who are going to use every available minute to work in some timing and get the tempo and the rhythm in sync.
It all starts with Vick, of course, who is going to go out and play the game he has played so well over the years. He needs to have just some kind of restraint, just a little, and live for the next play, and he vows to work on that. But Vick is always going to be an aggressive player, a big-time playmaker, and you can't take that instinct away from the greatest players.
"I don't think I'm injury prone," said Vick, and we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope that he gets healthy and stays that way all season.
The expectation here is that defenses are going to go after Vick, try to blitz him a lot, attack the interior of the offensive line and box Vick in and narrow his vision and his ability to move out of the pocket and create. So the Eagles are going to have to win the so-important chess match of schemes, of moves and counter moves. It's going to be fascinating to watch, isn't it? The Eagles have all of these weapons and if Vick can get the ball out to LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson, yeah, wow, this team is going to score a bunch of points.
If Vick is stuffed into a paper bag by the defense, well, it's hard to play good offense that way.
So there are some very important things going on here. The roster, at 79 now, has to be trimmed to 75 by 4 p.m. The game prep for the Jets is important for those who are going to play, and, let's face it, this is going to be the last time that many of these young players ever step foot on an NFL field in uniform. Reid and general manager Howie Roseman are eying trades and moves and working the roster. The starters are taking their practice reps and working on their precision.
It's that time of the year, isn't it? The best is here, now, with a season around the corner and a team shaping up, and with the clock ticking to September 9 and everything that matters.