It's going to be a scorcher Sunday in Tampa.
The temperature at kickoff for the Eagles-Bucs game is expected to be 91 degrees, the humidity a sauna-like 72 percent. According to the people who calculate these things, it's going to feel like 104 degrees.
When the Eagles haven't been prepping for the Bucs this week, they've been slamming down fluids to make sure they're adequately hydrated to hold up for 60 minutes of football.
"We continue to educate our players and talk to them every day about the importance of hydration,'' coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "It can't start today or Saturday. It has to start earlier in the week.
"Our Wednesday practice, it was extremely humid. So it gave us a good taste of what it's going to be like down there Sunday.
"We can't let it affect us. The hydration part of it, even nutrition and rest, we have to make sure they're ready to play in games like this, especially early in the season.''
Said All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox: "[The hot weather] is not going to be an excuse. The coaches have trained us for situations like this. We're not going to let it be a distraction.''
One of the keys to this game is going to be the defense's ability to get pressure on Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a 417-yard, four-touchdown performance in his team's 48-40 Week 1 win over the Saints.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's line rotation wore down the Falcons' offensive line last week in the Eagles' 18-12 win over the Falcons on a warm, humid night at the Linc.
With just one of his eight linemen playing more than 66 percent of the defensive snaps, they sacked Matt Ryan four times, continuously knocked him off his throwing spot and held him to his lowest completion rate (48.8 percent) in seven years.
The lone exception was Cox, the Eagles' defensive captain, who played all but five defensive snaps.
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"I didn't mean to play 65 [of 70] snaps, but it kind of happened that way,'' said Cox, who was beginning-to-end dominant against the Falcons despite the heavy workload. He had a huge second-and-1 sack on the Falcons' final possession that helped preserve the win for the Eagles.
"Coach tries to keep me fresh,'' he said. "That's the way we roll. The whole idea is to keep us fresh for the fourth quarter. For times like that.
"It's a group thing. It's a system we know works. Everybody tries to figure out how we rotate and the things we do. The most important thing is the players hold each other accountable.''
Schwartz said earlier in the week that one of the reasons Cox played so many snaps against the Falcons was because he was trying to bring along undrafted rookie defensive tackle Bruce Hector slowly.
"We wanted to sort of limit him a little bit,'' Schwartz said. "Let him get his feet wet [in the first game], so to speak, before we give him a bigger role.''
Hector played just seven defensive snaps against the Falcons. The Tampa native and University of South Florida product figures to play a little more Sunday, because another 65-snap game for Cox on an intensely hot and humid day probably isn't advisable with 14 more regular-season games to play, and the playoffs after that.
Said Hector: "I'm just doing my thing. Working hard and trying to get better every day and continue to earn their trust.''
Having played both his high school and college ball in Tampa, Hector is very familiar with playing in hot, humid Florida weather. He said even at South Florida, they rotated players up front.
"It helped us stay relatively fresh,'' he said. "Same here. Coach Chris [Wilson, the Eagles' defensive line coach] always talks about keeping everybody fresh. [Rotating players] helps out.''
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All four of the Eagles' defensive ends again are expected to play roughly the same number of snaps. Against the Falcons, Brandon Graham played 46 snaps, Michael Bennett 45, Derek Barnett 40 and Chris Long 39.
Despite playing the fewest snaps, the 33-year-old Long finished with one sack, four hurries, and a forced fumble.
"As a defensive lineman, knowing you might play [only] about half the snaps and the o-linemen are going to be out there the whole game [helps you],'' Long said.
Cox, whose 2018 goal, besides winning another Super Bowl, is to be the league's Defensive Player of the Year, might be in the best shape of his life. He is taking his new role of captain seriously.
"It means a lot to me to have that 'C' on my jersey,'' he said. "It's the first time since high school.''
Cox is prepared to play as many snaps as Schwartz needs him to play Sunday.
"My trainer back home [in Mississippi], Deon Hodges, he makes it uncomfortable for me,'' Cox said. "One of his goals in the offseason, one of my goals, was to get me in the best shape of my life. I left him [before training camp] in good shape and have continued to build on it here.''
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