The Baltimore Ravens traveled north up Interstate 95 to visit the Philadelphia Eagles for joint practices this week. They left the friendly confines of the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills for Philadelphia's NovaCare complex.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh used to be a special teams coach for the Eagles so he was back in familiar territory.
"We appreciate the Eagles' hospitality. They're a first rate organization. We got a lot of good work done and we're happy we came," Harbaugh said.
There is a different level of intensity that arises when teams get to lineup against someone that has another color jersey on. Obviously you want to keep everyone safe but the hits tend to be harder during live practice sessions and the level of trash talking increases. To the credit of both teams, no real fights broke out and they got solid days of work in.
"The tempo ramps up a little bit. That's good for us. This is a really talented football team, the Eagles. They have some really good football players here," Harbaugh explained.
Harbaugh is right, there are a lot of really good players on the Eagles.
Philadelphia's defensive front, especially tackle Fletcher Cox presented a daily test for the Ravens' offensive line. The deep Eagles secondary was also a great test for the Ravens who welcomed first-round pick Marquise Brown to the practice field.
Harbaugh felt it was valuable to see different route combinations and players including the quarterbacks and receivers on Philadelphia's offense. Speedy wideout DeSean Jackson was one of the players the Ravens benefited from by being able to practice against because of his rare playmaking ability. It forces the safeties to stay disciplined and maintain deep coverage because one slip could lead to a big gain.
Veteran safety Earl Thomas is known around the league as a fierce competitor. He noticed an increased in competition and intensity this week.
"What I've drawn from these is the competitive juices that you get from going against a new team. Of course Carson Wentz is not a pushover so it's good to go against him and that offense. The tight ends are pretty good, the receivers are good so it's a great challenge for us," Thomas said.
Baltimore's defense will have to maintain that intensity going against dangerous receivers within the AFC North such as Odell Beckham Jr., the newest addition to the Cleveland Browns if they want to repeat as division champions.