As much as Doug Pederson strained to keep the focus on the New York Jets and the final preseason game, the Eagles have increasingly shifted their attention to the Falcons and the season opener.
And the Eagles coach, who was testy throughout Sunday's news conference, is seemingly in regular-season mode.
On Sunday, the starters practiced almost as if for Week 1, according to several Eagles. Offensive plays were installed with Atlanta in mind, the defense prepared against a scout team with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones stand-ins, and quarterback Carson Wentz — whose readiness for Sept. 6 remains unclear — took more team-drill snaps than he has all offseason.
"Carson's getting a lot more reps than he was," tackle Lane Johnson said Monday. "He's getting plenty of work [because] we're starting to see more and more how [the coaches] want us to look."
If there was a difference in the first practice following the third preseason game – at least in comparison to Pederson's previous two seasons – it was in the duration of the session. Sunday's workout "was probably one of the hardest practices we had as far as reps," Johnson said.
A combination of having three fewer days to prepare for the opener, the uncertainty surrounding Wentz's return, and Pederson's displeasure over the way his first unit offense performed in the preseason likely influenced the intensified practice.
"I think it's because of how the offense has been playing," Johnson said. "We're not up to our standards, so things aren't right. Got to go back to work and make it as tough as we can, so when the game comes around, it's easier than practice."
The Eagles' first-unit offense failed to score a single point in 14 drives over three games. But it was without Wentz and four other starters for most of the preseason. Jim Schwartz's defense, meanwhile, had 9 of 11 projected starters and was sharper, allowing only 13 points in 13 drives.
"I think preseason can be fool's gold from thinking that you're a little better than you are," Schwartz said. "I think that probably happens maybe a little more than thinking that you are worse than you are."
There is one more preseason game, but Pederson said that he won't play his starters. While most of Sunday's and Monday's reps went to the first units in preparation for the Falcons, Tuesday's session and Wednesday's walkthrough will be devoted to the backups in advance of the Jets game.
Bottom-of-the-roster spots have yet to be decided.
But the Eagles don't have the three off days after Thursday's preseason finale that they normally have with a Sunday opener. And there will be a crossover between cuts, as the front office trims the roster from 90 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday and the coaches plan for Atlanta.
The Eagles have known they would open the season on a Thursday since the Super Bowl and have taken the necessary precautions, but that doesn't make it any easier.
"We added a lot of Atlanta periods in OTAs, and in mini-camp there was some stuff," Schwartz said. "A lot of our adjustments that we made and things that we've been practicing in training camp have been with an eye toward this game. Because once we break that last preseason game, the next day is a 'Monday' in the regular season, and even though it's a Friday on the calendar, it's a 'Monday' in the regular season, and that clock starts.
"All those things start creeping up," he said, "and you don't have that two-day [break] to sort of rest and take your time and get ready and get an extra day of practice the next week."
And with two quarterbacks in need of reps this week – Wentz to reimmerse himself in the offense and Foles to keep himself sharp in case Wentz isn't ready — Pederson must serve both of them.
The coach didn't have an update on Wentz on Sunday, other than to say that he had yet to be cleared for contact. Pressed for details on how often the quarterback's knee was being evaluated and the deadline for doctors to give the final decision on the opener, Pederson became frustrated.
"When they clear him, he'll be cleared," Pederson said.
He did say that Wentz was being monitored daily. But the team will likely need to know who will start at quarterback by Saturday, as the game plan for Atlanta is finalized. The players said they haven't been given an indication either way.
"I'm not sure if he's playing Week 1. I sure hope so," Johnson said. "But the way the reps are [being distributed] its looking like it's possible."
The Eagles, as usual, practiced in just shells and shorts on Monday. Pederson was atypically hands-on during individual drills and worked with receivers and tight ends as they ran routes.
In June, he said that training camp would be as hard as in previous years, but he canceled the three pre-camp days set aside for rookies, quarterbacks, and selected veterans, and he dialed back on hitting and tacking periods when practices began.
But this week started off with a bang.
"I guess we're still technically in training camp," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's definitely not a week off. We've been practicing pretty hard with the starters to … help a little bit with conditioning, or make this a heavy workload week."
The heat and humidity hasn't helped either.
"It's been hot," tight end Zach Ertz said, "but Doug can't control the weather."