Week 3 of preseason for many is one of the last chances to impress the coaching staff. Training Camp is all but over and with only two games remaining where the reps for starters begin to vanish, it’s very much the time of the underdog. For the Eagles however, there’s one more challenge that lies ahead. With a Miami showdown around the corner, the Dolphins are diving their way into the NovaCare Complex for a series of joint practices before the game…giving the Eagles another opportunity to impress on a new stage.
Coaches are beginning to see these strings of intertwined practices as more valuable than the preseason games themselves and it’s easy to see why. With the sun beating down on two teams of players as a physical practice unfolds down in the City of Brotherly Love, the aggressive Jim Schwartz Defense will finally have a chance to see their chains removed. Altercations are probable, fights are likely and flags are few-and-far between. It’s a chance for players to make a statement. For chemistry to heighten and for competition to soar. For camaraderie to take center stage as the Eagles no longer compete against one another, but against an opponent looking to get a leg up on the team they face in just a few days.
“I’m excited for them to come up.” Carson Wentz told the media after a win over Buffalo last week. “I think I mentioned it earlier in the week, with training camp you’re going against your own team for so long, practices just get to be long. You start to figure each other out a little bit so it will be good for us to get some different looks from Miami and to get them up here.”
There won’t be live tackling…but there will be hitting. Lots of it. Thudding will be a priority for both teams and for the Eagles, it’s something that has been so deeply embedded into Training Camp already, that a chance to take that mentality to a completely different opponent will be welcomed.
For players such as first-round pick Derek Barnett, this is an opportunity that will only see his development soar. After working closely with Jason Peters to develop a counter-move, Barnett has flourished during the preseason with three sacks to his name already. That isn’t lost in Doug Pederson, who is intent to see Barnett work against Miami’s starting offensive line when the teams clash next week.
“It’s important. Obviously, better tackles, better competition is a sign of where you are in your development process.” Pederson told reporters. “But you could see how quick he is off the ball. You could see how well he bends. There’s just a relentless finish. He plays to the whistle, and that’s exciting. So hopefully these next couple weeks, you know, with Miami coming up, we’ll give him a chance to roll in there with the first unit again and just continue to watch him grow.”
Rolling with the first unit may well be something that carries over into the week of joint practices as a valuable aspect of camp. That same mentality will spread throughout the team, especially in areas where competition is at an all-time high. With a cornerback competition ripe with potential, some questions at wide receiver, and some interesting predicaments in the backfield that still need answering, and an offensive line that struggled without Jason Peters against Buffalo, this week will give the Eagles a shot at working out some kinks against a team with some questions of their own.
The Eagles will act as gracious hosts to a Dolphins team who have a very different way of practicing, but make no mistake, Doug Pederson will be the coach setting the tone. Miami will roll with whatever punches Philly decide to throw and however they choose to run their practice. This in itself should make the Eagles locker room salivate at the opportunity to take what’s been the most competitive camp in recent history and show another team just how business is conducted in the City of Brotherly Love.
Expect hard hits, big plays, and a highlight reel of fights between players that could be backed by Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” It’s going to be a fun week of practice for the Eagles to round out what’s been an action-packed Training Camp…but it’s a week of practice that may arguably be more important than the game that follows.
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