THEY HAVE MOVED past tomorrow night's game already. At least some of them have. Amid a world that is unwavering in its devotion to the immediate task at hand, a team's final exhibition game is the NFL equivalent of a Sadie Hawkins dance, a night in which protocol gives way to practicality.
The Eagles have 75 players on their active roster. At 4:01 Saturday afternoon, they will have 53. Of that total, at least half already have begun to work on the game plan for the Sept. 7 opener against Jacksonville here, which means they will roam the sideline tomorrow night with the intensity of casual fans who were gifted their tickets.
For the rest, though, tomorrow is intensity personified, one last chance to secure a spot on the roster, to convince the coaches of their aptitude or versatility, to add some film that can be used to find work elsewhere.
"That's key," linebacker Emmanuel Acho said after practice yesterday. "You've got to get quality film. Your tape is your resumé. Your tape is who you are. It could be a numbers game why you don't catch on in Philly. But if you have good tape out there, maybe somebody else will find you."
Acho knows. Despite a great end to his preseason here a year ago, he was a surprise cut when the team pared down to 53. But Acho stayed active, followed the coach's advice, and, when injury created opportunity, he was re-signed by the team in late October.
He played in six games. And yet here he is again, on the bubble. Twenty-two players who dress for the game against the Jets will be out of a job Sunday, their dreams in limbo while they hope what they did while here is enough to get them somewhere else, or back as part of the Eagles' 10-member practice squad.
"Honestly, I would be lying if I said it was ever out of my mind," said Kevin Graf, an undrafted rookie tackle out of USC. "You just have to keep it as much out of your mind as you can. Because, honestly, all you can't control anything else but what you can do."
"If you look at it like that, it will weigh down on you so you can't sleep at night," said Quron Pratt, the undrafted wide receiver from Rutgers and Palmyra (N.J.) High. "I can only do what's in my control. My effort and my attitude. Take each day and see what I can do with it."
Last year at this time, Eagles coach Chip Kelly rued this part of his new job. At Oregon, he kept as many as 90 players, allowing for a longer look-see and a much healthier version of athletic Darwinism. A year into the pro job "hasn't changed" his outlook about the next few days, he said, or made it any easier.
"When every man here who is part of the 90-man roster their lifelong dream is to be an NFL football player and then to be the one to tell them it's not going to happen here is difficult," Kelly said. " . . . It's not a fun part of the job. But we make sure that every player meets with me, every player meets with their position coach, every player meets with the coordinator on their side of the ball. We try to be as human as we can about it."
A year ago, Ifeanyi Momah was one of those guys he met with. At 6-7, Momah was an intriguing flier, an undrafted wide receiver from Boston College with all kinds of rust from sitting out most of two consecutive seasons before declaring to become a pro. Momah looked lost amid the speed and intricacy of Kelly's offense, and when he decided to re-sign here over the winter after being cut last summer, it seemed a curious call.
He did so, he said again yesterday, because of how he was treated by the Eagles' coaching staff last summer.
"It was humbling," he said. "They told me I needed more work, I needed more time. I completely understood that. I took that stuff to heart and made sure I came back and was completely prepared. And when I did, they backed it up."
Momah's intriguing size, particularly on special teams, may gain him a spot. At the least, he seems destined for a spot on the practice squad, although that could enable another team to reap what the Eagles' coaching staff has sowed.
But that's part of the NFL game. A part, Kelly said yesterday, that he's actually happy about.
"As we told these guys from Day 1, Goal 1 for us is that you make this football team," said the coach. "But then Goal 2 for us is that you make another football team with the exposure you get here. Hopefully, we prepared you for that. Hopefully, those guys get a chance to catch on . . . That's what it's about."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon