A first preseason game provides many opportunities.
For the fans (open practice aside), it’s the chance to see their team back on the field in a game setting for the first time in six months. Naturally when you're coming off a Super Bowl title, that anticipation is heightened.
For the players, it all depends. The starters who play will make a brief cameo and get a chance to reacclimate themselves with game speed and work on execution. For the long shots to make the roster, it’s their first shot to make an impression and a name for themselves.
The grouping we tend to forget about in this setting is the coaches.
The Eagles' coaching staff had a pretty significant shake-up this past offseason. These things tend to happen when you get a ring. Out are offensive coordinator Frank Reich (Colts head coach) and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo (Vikings offensive coordinator). Mike Groh is now offensive coordinator, elevated from wide receivers coach, and Press Taylor moves up the food chain from offensive quality control coach to quarterbacks coach. Duce Staley is also taking on a bigger role as the assistant head coach, while still coaching the running backs.
While Pederson called the plays, Reich and DeFilippo played major roles in the construction of the high-octane Eagles' offense. Reich was an excellent game planner and sounding board for the head coach. DeFilippo was the quarterback whisperer and noted red-zone schemer.
Fortunately, all three that were promoted are from within, so there is a level of continuity. But change nonetheless. So this first dress rehearsal against another team has an added importance.
“Obviously you got used to those two guys the last couple of years, and you know for them to take big roles, with Press with the quarterbacks and how he’s worked with them and his involvement now on game day," Pederson said Tuesday. "Mike on the sidelines still being more of a voice in my ear like Frank was, sometimes being the voice of reason. It will be a great working environment. These are all reasons for these games, obviously, now with a couple new coaches in position to work these things out."
The role changes also impact the players.
“You’re really just getting to know each other every day," Nick Foles said. "You’ve heard me talk a lot about football is special because of the relationships, teammates and coaches alike. That’s where you see the bond. It’s not just players, you have to enjoy being around your coach and trust them and I think you got that from the mic’d up stuff from last year when we’re talking to coaches.
"I use the 'Philly Special' play as a great example. Doug and I have a lot of trust in each other, we’ve known each other for a long time, where that conversation if you don’t know each other probably didn’t go that well. But because we know each other, we’re like, 'Let’s do it.' And I use that conversation as an example because that is so important to be a winning team. It’s not just players, it’s everyone in this building getting along."
So maybe Thursday’s first tune-up versus the Steelers holds a little more significance than we thought?