Brandon Graham is tired of seeing Lane Johnson.
It’s not that he doesn’t gain a lot from facing one of the best right tackles in the NFL every day. He does. But after 12 training camp practices — and eight seasons as teammates — Johnson and Graham know each other about as well as two players possibly can.
“Lane knows my tricks,” Graham said.
You know who doesn’t know Graham nearly as well? Trent Brown, the starting right tackle for the New England Patriots, who will be in town for joint practices this week before Thursday’s game.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Graham said about these two joint practices, which will be held on Monday and Tuesday of this week against Bill Belichick’s group. If nothing else, this is a fantastic chance to break the monotony of camp.
But joint practices can do a lot more than that, too.
Sometimes first-year head coaches hold off on joint practices. They feel like they have enough to accomplish on their own. But Nick Sirianni clearly doesn’t feel that way. The Eagles’ first-year head coach scheduled the Eagles for two rounds of joint practices: Hosting the Pats this week and traveling to Florham Park, N.J., next week to spend two days with the Jets next week.
“I just think the monotony of camp sometimes you get to go against other people and just work your game vs. other people,” Sirianni said. “And it's game-like, right? But it's in a controlled setting. So you can't get enough of those game-like situations, because you may have something scripted for practice, and this is just like a game goes. You'll have something scripted. You'll go through it and then something pops up and you have to adjust to it. The more we can put ourselves in that scenario as coaches and players, the better.”
With just three preseason games on the schedule these days, many coaches think, like Sirianni, that joint practices are actually more beneficial than preseason games. Because think about it. If you want to see your team in the red zone or in a two-minute drill, you can set up practice to see it. In a game, you just have to hope certain situations present themselves.
Sirianni and Belichick obviously had conversations about how to set up practice and the Eagles’ head coach said it would shock people to find out how much planning and detail goes into every practice. The conversations started with each side explaining how they practice before eventually coming up with a plan to maximize those two days for both clubs.
One thing to watch is the length of practice. The Eagles, who are hosting, have been having short practices all summer, lasting around one hour and 20 minutes or so each day. The Patriots average well over two-hour practices. So something will have to give this week.
In any case, there’s much to be gained from these sessions. Last year, the NFL prohibited joint practices, which means the last time the Eagles held them was in 2019, when the Ravens joined them at the NovaCare Complex.
Graham remembers those joint practices in 2019 well. He said the Eagles basically dominated in the first day but then the Ravens were much better the second day. He knows the excitement level for these practices will be high, especially for former Eagles Jalen Mills and Nelson Agholor, who now call New England home.
Sirianni clearly has admiration for Belichick, but he’s not alone. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco said Belichick-coached teams are smart and physical and play an old-school style of football.
“I’m sure those guys know how to practice,” Flacco said. “And going back to some of the young guys on our team, I think we’ve done a great job so far, but anytime you get to see a team up close and personal that is well-coached and therefore probably knows how to attack practices, it’ll be good for everybody to see that.”
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