Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles practiced the past four days, but the players are off today. They return to practice on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. for the first training camp practice with live-contact periods. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a press conference after practice.
This is a training camp edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox three days per week until the season begins. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Doug Pederson agreed with an assessment made by those who have been watching practice during the past few days: If you didn't know Carson Wentz was injured, you wouldn't know Carson Wentz was injured.
"I think if you didn't know he had the injury or had the brace on his leg, you'd probably assess that everything was good," Pederson said.
Although Wentz's workload was scaled back in Sunday's session, he did more through the first four practices than almost anyone could have predicted. Pederson said the Eagles have a weekly plan for Wentz's workload, and what has happened this week is consistent with what the team planned for him. Wentz has "responded well" to everything the Eagles presented.
"We've just got to make sure we've got a certain pitch count we want to keep him to each and every day," Pederson said. "As camp goes on and rolls on, we'll ramp that up. It's also based on, too, he's getting a lot of extra work with his rehab on the side, too, when he's between meetings and things like that. All of that is part of his progression. So that's why we've got to be careful that we're not pushing too early for his health."
The question everyone wants to know is whether Wentz will play Week 1. Ultimately, the medical staff must clear him for contact. That's a different threshold than how he looks on the field. But if the first four days are to be used as an early barometer, it's been a positive training camp for Wentz and the Eagles. I still don't expect Wentz to play in the preseason, but there remains nothing that convinces me he won't take the first snap on Sept. 6.
After four practices, Pederson was asked which young players have stood out. It's too soon to make sweeping evaluations, but it's interesting to see which names quickly come to the head coach's mind.
On offense, Pederson mentioned wide receivers Greg Ward and Shelton Gibson and running back Corey Clement. On defense, Pederson mentioned cornerbacks DeVante Bausby and Rasul Douglas and defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu.
Ward is trying to work his way up the depth chart at receiver. The Eagles have their top four locked down (Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins). He's made a jump from last season, when he was still converting from a college quarterback to NFL receiver. Gibson, who was on the roster last year, is the frontrunner for the No. 5 job. The Eagles also have veterans Markus Wheaton and Kamar Aiken. Ward will need to beat a more experienced player to make the roster.
Vaeao has been getting first-team snaps at defensive tackle. The Eagles have invested two years in developing him, and he has a good chance this year to make it three years on the roster – especially because the team lacks depth at defensive tackle. Shittu, who has been with the organization the past two years but has yet to play in a game, also has an opportunity at the position.
Most of the injured players are at practice watching, including Brandon Graham and Jeffery. The one player missing is defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who is on the non-football injury list because of a herniated disc. Jernigan is at the facility rehabbing and attending meetings and walkthroughs. The Eagles don't want him on the practice field in case he gets banged around on the sideline, Pederson said. But there's a mystery surrounding Jernigan's injury, with the Eagles reportedly renegotiating his contract and Pederson offering no explanation in the spring about what happened.
So can the Eagles rely on him this year? Pederson didn't dismiss the question.
"I think so," Pederson said. "He's another one that we've just got to be diligent with. Obviously with the [back] and everything, we've got to be careful."
Jernigan's status will be important to monitor in the coming weeks – especially if it lingers into midseason.