When the Eagles showed up for work at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday morning, they were expecting to have a walkthrough to kick off their week of preparation for Monday Night Football.
Instead, head coach Nick Sirianni decided to make his players put on full pads and have a real practice.
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“Everything is fluid in attempts of getting better,” Sirianni explained on Thursday afternoon. “I feel like here this is a chance for us to get better in the sense of we need to go out there and work on our fundamentals.
“We're late in the year. Sometimes late in the year you don't have this opportunity because you’ve got to balance them being rested, got to balance them playing fresh, while also being ready physically and mentally.”
The fact that Sirianni talked about working the fundamentals in an extra practice is notable, especially after the Eagles are coming off back-to-back blowout losses to the 49ers and Cowboys. There were plenty of fundamental mistakes in those two losses and fundamentals are very important to Sirianni.
Normally this late in the season, the Eagles switch to walkthroughs to begin the practice week on Monday (This week the entire schedule is pushed back a day because of Monday Night Football). The NFL season is long and by December, guys are pretty worn out. Sirianni has had great results with typical Wednesday walkthroughs in December and it’s a method that predates him in Philly too. But sometimes there’s value in putting the pads back on.
When the Eagles began their playoff run to Super Bowl LII back in 2017, the players’ leadership council actually went to Doug Pederson and asked him to let them put pads back on. Pederson obliged.
This time, it appeared to be Sirianni’s decision but players didn’t seem to mind, at least not publicly.
“You’d be insane to think you can do the same thing over and over and expect those results to come on Sunday,” longtime Eagle Brandon Graham said. “I think it’s just shaking the world up a little bit and letting people know, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to make a little changes.’ It ain’t nothing different. The timing is the same as what a walkthrough would have been but I am happy to get moving around, get some of this soreness out from the game. And then get ready to go out there and execute on Monday.
“Whatever we gotta do but we definitely can’t expect to do the same things and get different results. I’m happy that he did change it up a little bit.”
Graham, the longest-tenured Eagles player, said the players he spoke with weren’t bothered by losing a walkthrough in favor of an extra practice.
Graham said one of his messages to his teammates was asking them what they were willing to sacrifice to reach their goals. If giving up a walkthrough can help the Eagles improve, then why not do it?
“Coaches want to shake up the room a little bit, shake it up and let people know we’re going to have to change something,” Graham said. “I’m OK with that. Because I know at the end of the day when confetti is coming down, it’ll be these moments right here that you remember that you had to make a change in order to make this run. I’m all in and I know we’re all in. We have to exhaust every method.”
As Dallas Goedert explained it, a late-season practice might not really be as helpful for long-time vets but it can be really beneficial for some of the younger contributors on the team.
“Players like that need practice, they need the full-speed reps where they can kind of see it, whereas vets don’t need it as much,” Goedert said. “I think it’s just one of those ones where we looked in the mirror and said some of the young guys probably need a few more reps, we need to make sure they continually are growing at this time of the year. I think it’s a good thing that we decided to do. I’m expecting the team to go out there and have a really good day, a lot of energy and take advantage of this opportunity today.”
Kevin Byard hasn’t been with the Eagles very long but even he was on board with the Thursday switch-up. The Eagles’ starting safety saw the benefit in popping the pads a bit in the middle of the week.
Of course, part of the reason Sirianni made this decision on Thursday was because of the extra week between the Eagles’ games in Week 14 and 15. They can thank the NFL for flexing the Seahawks game to Monday Night Football.
Sirianni said the team needed to go with a practice to start this week but things are fluid for the rest of the season. He’ll do whatever he thinks is best when they get there.
This week, that meant adding a practice to their schedule. Maybe it’ll at least be a message to a team that has lost two in a row.
A little change in this year is something that we might need,” Goedert said.