Good morning. The regular season is here. It's Labor Day, and the Eagles will be at work preparing for their Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons. They practice at 1 p.m. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh are scheduled to speak to reporters at 11:40 a.m.
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— Zach Berman
Doug Pederson's news conference captured a lot of attention on Sunday. Pederson would not divulge the starting quarterback and was seemingly miffed at reporters for what he explained as putting words in his mouth, although he wouldn't specify what those words were. Of course, one day earlier, NFL Network reported that Nick Foles is expected to start over Carson Wentz in the season opener.
Here's what I took out of Pederson's news conference: Wentz is not yet cleared for contact. That's the news. Everything else was theater.
The fact that Wentz is not cleared for contact was a revealing morsel of information and seemed to confirm the news that Foles will start, even if Pederson wanted to keep it close to his vest. Yes, as Pederson suggested, there's still time before the season opener. Pederson had said throughout the summer that the starting quarterback would need the week leading up to the game as the starter, and Pederson said himself last week that he was going to decide last Friday. As has been said throughout the summer, too, the Super Bowl MVP who beat Atlanta in the playoffs is a pretty good Plan B. There's still three more days of speculation, so we'll see how long Pederson plays this game. The Eagles must release their final injury report on Tuesday and they announce inactive 90 minutes before kickoffs on Thursday. I'm curious to hear Carson Wentz's thoughts – he was driven to take that first snap.
The Eagles cut their roster to 53 players on Saturday (and made a slight roster adjustment on Sunday). My biggest takeaway from the roster was that the Eagles needed to look out for Week 1. With wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Richard Rodgers unlikely to play, the Eagles needed to feel comfortable with the depth they had at those positions because they need to fill out their 46-man gameday roster. (Joshua Perkins, the No. 4 tight end, made the team. Expect him to be active Thursday.) As it turned out, the Eagles were able to release Josh Adams and still sign him back to the practice squad. I like his potential and was surprised the Eagles exposed him to waivers, but it works out well for them that they can keep him in the building. The Eagles cut veteran defensive end Steven Means, which qualified as a surprise, too. Means had a good summer and was a valuable practice player, although the Eagles have defensive end depth after drafting Josh Sweat.
And remember: There will be roster changes next week, too. Nigel Bradham and Deiondre' Hall can join the 53-man roster after one-week suspensions, so they'll take two roster spots. There could be one Week 1 injuries. And if there's progress from Jeffery or Rodgers, the Eagles could make even more adjustments.
Speaking of Jeffery, it was good news for the Eagles that he passed his physical on Friday and was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list. That doesn't mean he'll play Thursday, but it means he won't be on the shelf for at least six weeks. Jeffery missed the entire offseason, so he'll require some practice time to return to game shape and be ready to play.
The Eagles need Jeffery. Although he didn't have prototypical No. 1 receiver numbers last season, his presence in the lineup helps the other receivers. A top three of Nelson Agholor/Mike Wallace/Mack Hollins (or Shelton Gibson) is a drop off from Jeffery/Agholor/Wallace. It helps Agholor in the slot having a presence like Jeffery on the outside. The Eagles are going to miss Jeffery until he's back, and it could have an effect on Thursday's game.
Jay Ajayi will be the No. 1 running back. The Eagles use multiple running backs, but I don't see as much of a committee as there was last season. Ajayi will get the most touches and will be as close to a featured running back as they're willing to go. Darren Sproles and Corey Clement will also be involved. Sproles will get considerable third-down work and Clement will likely mix in on all three downs. Clement showed he can handle the third-down load during the postseason, so the Eagles need to find a way to get him involved in the passing game. Having both Ajayi and Clement could allow Doug Pederson to be creative with Sproles, using the versatile running back is different packages and moving him around the formation. It won't be a heavy load, to answer your question. My guess is he has 5-8 touches per game.