The Eagles weren't on the field over the weekend. They don't have a game in sight. Football was about as far away from the team's thoughts as it gets in a calendar year, but the impact the organization made was, in the big-world sense, as significant as any you can imagine.
For a sixth consecutive year, the organization held its Eagles Autism Challenge and the event at Lincoln Financial Field was a record-setting affair with more than 4,500 participants and $6.2 million raised to take awareness to action on Autism. It is, honestly, an incredible event as the community teams up with corporate support and the entire Eagles organization to impact, truly, the world. The energy is great, the connection between the fans and the team is real and, well, it is just the model for what it means to be committed to a cause, to walk the walk in the philanthropic world.
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Jason Kelce: 'We're starting from ground one'
As far as football goes, the Eagles have just a few more weeks to go in this offseason program, and last week center Jason Kelce and I spoke about his decision to return for 2023 and his thoughts on what is ahead for the team.
"We're starting, in my mind, from ground one," he said. "We're starting from the very bottom again and we're installing all the plays - this is what you have to do. You have to approach it like it's a completely new team in a completely new year. You keep trying to get better and you keep trying to improve. We're going to have to earn it the same way we did last year. They don't just hand it to you in this league."
Jalen Hurts: 'This was the time'
Oh, maybe you weren't paying attention but quarterback Jalen Hurts again demonstrated what a tremendous role model he is when he received his diploma after completing coursework for his master's degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma. He really is an impressive young man (he turns 25 on August 7) and he told me why he finished his program - he earned his bachelor's degree in public relations and information sciences in 2018 after only three years at the University of Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma for the 2019 season - and what made it so important for him to complete a goal.
"Finishing what I start, that's important to me and my family," he said. "I think it takes a certain dedication to do that, when you commit yourself to something truly and say you're going to finish it. This was the time for me to finish it. It's a great feeling walking across the stage, great feeling being able to see my loved ones' smile after all of their support for me."
What does Sean Desai want in his defense?
New Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai is busy installing the defense during this offseason program and he is also getting to know what his players can do, how much of a load they are capable of handling. It is no small task. Desai, a former defensive coordinator in 2021 in Chicago and a member of Seattle's coaching staff last season, is a meticulous teacher and communicator who understands he is going to have the talent to present different looks to offenses throughout the season ahead.
He wants a defense that is "palpable," and that affects quarterbacks on every play.
"Our philosophy is we've got to impact them physically and mentally," he said. "One of them is not going to be good enough. We need both, and we both on every single play, and so that's a function of the looks that we give."
Alex Tanney transitions to quarterbacks coach
The offensive coaching staff had some natural bumps in succession in the offseason after Shane Steichen moved on to Indianapolis to become the head coach there - Brian Johnson went from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator and Alex Tanney became the quarterbacks coach after serving as the assistant quarterbacks coach in 2022 after he was an offensive assistant coach in 2021. He met the media last week to discuss the new challenge.
"It's been a great transition for me. So far, it's been pretty smooth," said Tanney, who played as a backup quarterback for nine seasons in the NFL from 2012 through 2020 and was a teammate of Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota when the two were in Tennessee with the Titans. "I'm fortunate to have been in that room last year. Nick (Sirianni) always talks about mastering your role and that's something I took to heart. As a young coach, he does a good job of developing young coaches as well. I've done everything I could the past two years to help this team win."
Tanney played for eight teams in nine seasons, had 12 head coaches and 12 offensive coordinators and completed 11 of 15 passes in his career. He knew early on that he wanted to extend his football career in coaching, and his experience working with so many teams and creating so many relationships has brought him to this point.
"I just think that there is so much on your plate playing that position that it gives you a little jump start when you get into coaching," Tanney said, "because you are somewhat familiar with all that things that are going on for a certain play."
Tanney has a lot to work with in the Eagles' quarterback room - Hurts, Mariota, Ian Book, and rookie Tanner McKee.
"It's a great room - Jalen sets the tone - and we're all working together in there," he said. "Pushing each other. It's a competitive group and I'm really excited to work and develop throughout the season. The guys want to get better every day. That's what we look to do. That's the mentality we have."