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This Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles will face-off against the Washington Redskins. It’s the first NFC East game of the season for the Birds, and the pressure is on. Preparation is in full swing and Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro visited the locker room to get the inside scoop on players’ prep.

1. Should we expect Jordan Reed?

Play-time for Washington’s TE Jordan Reed seems unlikely for Sunday’s game due to the injury that landed him in the concussion protocol. If he does take the field, the Eagles will have to focus on a strong defense to keep the receiver in check.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his status, the Eagles are preparing for a match-up with Reed. “In my book, he’s in the top three in the league,” safety Malcolm Jenkins told Spadaro. “He hasn’t gotten a lot of the recognition that he deserves because he struggles to stay healthy, but when you talk about the matchup problems he presents, there aren’t many players who make it so tough. He’s a special talent.”

Whether Reed plays or is on the bench, the Resdkins still have a number of strong players to challenge the Eagles’ defense: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder at wide receiver, and Matt Jones and Chris Thompson in the backfield.

2. Nigel Bradham Says Hello to the NFC East

Sunday’s game marks Linebacker Nigel Bradham’s introduction to the NFC East, and he’s not ignoring the significance. He told Spadaro, “We know what the division means. We win the division, we are in the playoffs. You know that going in. We know what kind of rivalry this is, we know how good they are as the defending champions in the division and we have a chance to get things started the right way on Sunday.”

3. C.J. Smith is Still Working Toward a Start

Cornerback C.J. Smith made the Eagles’ roster after a memorable Training Camp and preseason. But the rest was hard work. He was released the next day, and eventually signed to the Eagles’ practice squad. On Thursday, he was promoted to the 53-man roster. Although he may not be active for Sunday’s game, he continues to work hard.

“It feels good, but you’ve got to keep working. It’s not the end goal. The end goal is to make an impact for this team,” Smith told Spadaro. “I’ve been preparing like I’m going to play, even when I was on the practice squad, and that’s how you become a better player. Coaches do a good job of holding you accountable, so that’s helped me a lot.”

4. Rookie McCalister Keeps Moving on Injured Reserve

Despite tearing a calf muscle in the preseason, rookie defensive end Alex McCalister isn’t letting his injury stop him from becoming a better player. Since being put on Injured Reserve, McCalister says he has gained 13 pounds and a lot of muscle. The seventh-round draft pick from Florida is known for his long arms and get-off at the line of scrimmage, and he’s preparing for his first day back.

“I’ve been training. Lifting, working hard,” McCalister told Spadaro. “It has made such a big difference. I just need to get the calf all the way healed so that I can run and work my legs and improve there, but my body is different. I’m just going to keep pushing my body, keep getting ready and when it’s my time, take advantage.”

Who knows, come 2017, we could see an entirely different McCalister.

5. Sturgis Looks to Keep the Kicks Good

It was a rough preseason for placekicker Caleb Sturgis. His start in the 2016 season became questionable when he suffered a concussion during warm-ups before the game at Pittsburgh—he wasn’t wearing a helmet and was hit in the head by a Donnie Jones punt.

When he was better, he beat out Cody Parkey to be kicker, but missed a 46-yard field goal attempt against Cleveland in the opener.

Luckily, Sturgis recovered and is now making strides. The 2013 fifth-round pick of the Dolphins has a range, on a wind-free day, of between 55 and 60 yards. He’s made his last ten field goal attempts and completed kicks from 53, 50 and 49 yards.

“I feel like I’m in a pretty good groove, and it starts out here on the practice field. When you hit it well on the practice field, it usually carries over to the games,” he told Spadaro. “I started out a little slow, but I keep working on things, cleaning up my mechanics. I’m always working on the little things.”

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