Brandon Graham has grown weary of lining up across from Lane Johnson.
The Eagles veteran defensive end has spent much of the last two weeks working the same pass-rush moves against his teammate, hearing the same trash talk, and the familiarity has started to get to him.
“I’m tired of seeing Lane, because Lane knows my tricks,” Graham said. “Sometimes I get him with some of the same tricks, sometimes I don’t because he knows when I get tired, I do certain things. ... Lane likes to talk [trash] while you’re in the play”
Luckily for Graham, a break from the monotony is fast approaching. The Eagles will hold their first joint practice of the summer Monday, hosting the New England Patriots in preparation for the teams’ Thursday night preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Teams didn’t hold joint practices last season because of coronavirus protocols, so this will be the first time the Eagles have hosted a team since the Baltimore Ravens came to town for a few days in 2019. Most of the league has collectively adopted joint practices as a norm during training camp for a handful of reasons, including an opportunity to get controlled, specific reps on tape.
For the teams’ starters, it’s a way to get quality reps against an opposing defense with a lessened risk of injury compared to preseason games. For players battling for a roster spot, there are more competitive reps to offer clarity on upcoming cutdowns.
“It’s in a controlled setting,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “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.”
Joint practices will become even more important this year since the league shifted from four to three preseason games to accommodate the new 17-game regular-season schedule.
It will be interesting to see how the Eagles’ practice format might change now that Sirianni is sharing the field with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Sirianni’s practices have been short and relatively fast-paced, with the team sometimes using multiple fields to minimize having players standing around.
Sirianni was asked before Saturday’s practice what it was like negotiating a practice schedule with the all-time great coach.
“I think people would be shocked about how much detail goes into planning each and every practice,” he said before Saturday’s practice. “And you talk about each and every practice, but then you have to set the stage right at the beginning, like, ‘Hey, here’s how we practice.’ So, you start from the beginning and you just have to talk about every detail. And so, it was just like normal talking to other guys, and we’re still having ongoing conversations to get ready for practice on Tuesday.”
The Patriots arrival to the NovaCare Complex will also bring the return of two members of the Eagles’ 2017 championship team: cornerback Jalen Mills and wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Mills signed a four-year contract with the Patriots in free agency after five seasons with the Eagles. Agholor left the Birds last year to play for the Las Vegas Raiders on a one-year deal before joining the Patriots in the offseason.
“It’s going to be exciting to see them boys and talk stuff to them boys,” Graham said. “They know they’re on the other team now, and we’re going to have a little fun with them, but, of course, it’s all love.”