Good morning from London, where the Eagles are playing an afternoon game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Back home, though, it's a rare 9:30 a.m. kickoff, allowing Eagles fans to start their parties early in the morning. (Then again, there are early risers in the tailgate lots for 1 p.m. games.) The Eagles travel back to Philadelphia after the game and are off next week.
— Zach Berman
The Eagles arrived in London on Friday morning and practiced Friday afternoon. They had a community event with London schoolchildren after practice. The players were tired, but they expected it. Practice was at the Hazelwood Centre on outskirts of London, which is the London Irish training ground, so it's normally a rugby field. But the Eagles turned it into a makeshift football field, and there was certainly enough space for their practice, which was a typical Friday session.
"I think everyone's out here sleepwalking, to be honest," Malcolm Jenkins said after practice. "The little bit of energy we had, I'll credit to the DJ. …They were making a big point earlier of not falling asleep at any point in time. I think it was more so they didn't want anyone to be late to meetings."
The team will have their typical Saturday-morning routine, with 2-3 hours of work and a walkthrough. But after practice, the players will have free time if they want to see London.
Coach Doug Pederson's message to this team focused on key for the game, but also emphasized the importance and value of the trip.
"You're always going to have keys and things to victory that you want to present your football team, but at the same time, I think this trip, just understanding the logistics of it, how your bodies and minds are going to feel today and how to prepare for it," Pederson said. "It's one of those things where we knew this time was coming. It was on the schedule, and we were excited for it and embraced it, and looking forward to Sunday."
Eagles fans are all over London, as Les Bowen wrote earlier this week. The team saw – and heard – them when they went through customs on Friday morning, too.
"It's funny because this morning in the airport there were a lot of Eagles fans in the airport, chanting our chant," Pederson said. "It's exciting that they're here and supporting the guys and supporting the team. I know Jacksonville obviously travels a big group. They have a lot of fans over here. But the biggest thing, too, is just the fans in general here, they're NFL fans, and you're going to see all kinds of jerseys from other teams, but they just love the sport and they love being around the guys. It's what our league has become. It's been global and international, and it's been exciting to come over."
Eagles fans travel more than most fans, though – especially coming off the Super Bowl. Flights have been more difficult to find for Eagles destinations this season than any other seasons in recent memories. I flew to London on a connecting flight to Montreal, and both legs of the trip were full of Eagles fans. They've been fixtures at different London destinations in recent days, and my guess is there will be a noticeable Eagles contingent in the crowd at Wembley Stadium even though it's a Jaguars home game.
"We're expecting a lot of energy, a lot of passion," quarterback Carson Wentz said.
Before the Eagles flew to London, they made a roster move. They put Derek Barnett on injured reserve and promoted cornerback Chandon Sullivan from the practice squad. That was a nice day-of-trip reward for Sullivan, who impressed the Eagles during training camp and the preseason and has continued doing so on the practice squad. (Sullivan is an undrafted rookie from Georgia State.)
"This kid has just done everything right," Pederson said. "He's put himself in a position to help us, and we're excited about the opportunity for him, and it's a great opportunity to step in and play. We'll see how much time he gets, but it's a big opportunity for him."
Sullivan could be active on Sunday. The Eagles have four players who are out – Darren Sproles, Nate Gerry, Sidney Jones, and Corey Graham. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is questionable, which is the big gameday decision. Even if Ngata plays, the Eagles will have only three healthy scratches. At least two will likely be offensive linemen, and Nate Sudfeld could be inactive as the third quarterback if the Eagles want an extra defensive back.
I think they have a slight advantage because the returning players are used to this. They've worked it out so they know how to handle the logistics of the trip. The Eagles have spent months behind the scenes preparing for the trip and talking to the players about what to expect. They've tried to simulate a South Philadelphia environment in London, so the players don't feel disoriented. But the body adjustments are tough to prepare for, and the Jaguars know how to do it. They've won their last three games over here. With that said, it's still a football game and Jaguars Doug Marrone said the trip isn't "rocket science."