The trend has been developing for over a decade now across the league to the devaluation of actual preseason games in favor of the joint team practices which precede them.
In other words, more analytic info can be processed more efficiently from practicing against another team than from the games. The games aren’t necessarily the “dress rehearsals” for the team anymore, in fact, some starters may never see the field in preseason. There are analytics to support this development, and the new Eagles coaching staff is on board with it.
The presumptive analytic reasoning is based upon how long the actual NFL season lasts these days. Back in the days of 12 or 14 game regular seasons, the preseason games mattered more as tuneups for starters and hot prospects. Now of course you’d certainly be accused of pressing your luck with injury to your best players if you actually expected them to log three or four extra full-contact appearances on top of a 17-game schedule and a possible playoff tour of duty.
So enter the joint team practice— you get to control the “game” situations, make your evaluations against competition yet still put a lid on exposure to mayhem. It makes analytic sense.
For instance, Jalen Hurts will lead the Eagles 1st-team offense against the Jets this week— but not necessarily in the actual preseason game.
Hurts is scheduled to travel with the team on Monday ahead of two joint practices with the New York Jets before Friday night’s preseason finale at MetLife Stadium. Head coach Nick Sirianni said that the amount of work that Hurts and the other starters get in the joint practices will go into the evaluation of how much they will play on Friday. Sirianni was pleased with the schedule and the organization of the joint practices with the Patriots this past week. He spoke with Jets head coach Robert Saleh this week to iron out some details and hopes to have similar results in the days ahead.
Sirianni explained how the joint practices and the preseason finale will provide more info for the collaboration process between the coaching staff and the front office, but that there’s more to the evaluation puzzle than just the on-field work.
“Meeting, how guys are working in meetings and thinking in meetings and walkthroughs, it’s all just a tool,” Sirianni said. “Some are weighted differently than others, sure, the practices and the preseason games and the joint practices are weighted a little heavier than a walkthrough – a lot heavier than that – but it’s just another tool, and it’s a good tool to have.”
One key difference this season is that there will be a bye week before the first regular-season game on September 12 in Atlanta. As Sirianni looks at the team’s current state, he knows that every day is going to be critical, but the end goal is to have the team ready for Week 1.
“You’re not playing tomorrow, right, or playing today. You’re always going to be like, ‘Hey, we got more work to do, we got more work to do, we got more work to do,’ and I think anybody that’s in a growth mindset is going to think that way,” Sirianni said.
“We got three more weeks to go until we get there and we’re anticipating ourselves getting better every single day.”
One area that Sirianni will look for improvement in the next week is third-down conversions. During Sirianni’s time as the Colts’ offensive coordinator from 2018-20, Indianapolis ranked sixth in the NFL in that category, but the Eagles have struggled in the first two preseason contests. Sirianni knows that he’s not gameplanning, but wants to see better execution of the base plays.
As the Eagles prepare for their trip up the New Jersey Turnpike, here’s a look at the injury report:
LB Shaun Bradley – Groin
T Le’Raven Clark – Ramp-up period
DT Fletcher Cox – Groin
T Andre Dillard – Knee
CB Craig James – Foot
LB JaCoby Stevens – Hamstring
• Day to Day
LB Genard Avery – Groin
DE Derek Barnett – Shoulder
DT Javon Hargrave – Ankle
RB Jason Huntley – Ribs
LB Ryan Kerrigan – Thumb
LB Joe Ostman – Concussion
S K’Von Wallace – Groin
• Week to Week
LB Davion Taylor – Calf
• Month to Month
TE Tyree Jackson – Back
The Eagles waived the following four players on Monday afternoon: wide receivers Jhamon Ausbon and Hakeem Butler, center Harry Crider, and cornerback Lavert Hill.
The Eagles have one more roster move to make in order to get to the 80-player limit (81 for the Eagles with the international exemption for defensive end Matt Leo) by Tuesday at 4 PM.
Ausbon was a rookie free agent out of Texas A&M. Butler originally joined the Eagles as a tight end project, playing in two games last season. Crider earned a spot on the Training Camp roster as a rookie free agent out of Indiana. Hill was signed by the Eagles in the offseason after spending time as a rookie on the Chiefs’ practice squad in 2020.