Good morning. The Eagles practice at 1:30 p.m. today. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh are scheduled to speak to reporters at noon. They practice again on Tuesday before heading to Cleveland on Wednesday for Thursday's third preseason game.
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
The question that's been asked most often this summer is whether Carson Wentz will be ready for the opener. There's no way of knowing for sure yet — it's a medical question more than a football question. As Wentz explained, once he's cleared for contact, he'll be good to go.
But there should be more optimism this week than there was last week.
The news that Wentz returned to 11-on-11 drills is no different than the news from the first day of training camp. It's still a positive sign for Week 1.
If you remember, Wentz took part in 11-on-11 drills at the beginning of camp. It was impressive how far along he appeared before the Eagles backed him off after three days of practice, a curious decision that was explained as the team's desire to keep Wentz in a controlled environment. Coach Doug Pederson said he saw enough in those first few days to feel comfortable with Wentz. And though it seemed like a regression, time was on the Eagles' side.
The clock is ticking closer to opening day, and this week is an opportune time to ramp up Wentz's activity. The Eagles simulate a game week leading up to the third preseason game, when the starters play the most. After the third game, the starters will begin preparing for Week 1.
Wentz won't play on Thursday, but he'll have time with the first-team offense leading into next week's practice. At that point, there won't be football questions because he'll be doing everything in practice that he would do if he were healthy. He would only be awaiting medical clearance.
"This is all part of the process and the plan that we've established for Carson moving forward," Pederson said of Wentz's increased activity.
After this Thursday's game, the Eagles will have two weeks before the opener. Whether Pederson announces it or not, it would be helpful to know by Labor Day weekend if Wentz is cleared so the starter can get all the practice reps leading up to the Sept. 6. But practices won't change for Wentz; now that he's back doing 11-on-11, he's doing everything a quarterback can do.
"He looks like he's ready to play now," Lane Johnson said, "and they're holding back the reins."
It should also be noted that Nick Foles returned to practice. When Early Birds last came out on Friday, Foles still needed more clarity on his shoulder strain. As it turned out, Foles' optimism was warranted and he didn't a miss a day of practice.
The Eagles' first-team offense has not played well this summer. They have not scored in seven drives. Nick Foles was sacked three times last week.
Of course, they've played without key starters in both games. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Jason Peters have not played yet. Foles and Mike Wallace both missed a game. The offense looks different at full strength. It won't be at full strength this week, but it'll be the offense's last chance for any momentum before the game.
"It's not an excuse that we don't have AJ or Nelly or whoever missing," tight end Ertz said. "We have to go out there and put a good performance on the field."
Of course, there shouldn't be overreaction about how the offense looked. Go back and check out the second preseason game last year. The offense had three three-and-outs and a turnover. There was no correlation come opening day. But inside the building, the players still hear about it.
"When you're not doing well, you go back and watch the film and you get notified that you're not doing well," Lane Johnson said. "Really, we need to pick our stuff up. …It's not a panic mode, but every time we're out there, we want to do well. We don't want to go out there and put bad stuff on tape for the hell of it and then get cussed out."
How's the Summer of Sudfeld going? It was expected that Nate Sudfeld would be used often this summer, and the statistics prove it. Through Sunday night, Sudfeld has the most yards (452) and touchdowns (5) of any quarterback in the NFL this summer. His 53 attempts rank third in the league.
Count Doug Pederson among those who are impressed.
"He's really taken some big strides forward," Pederson said. "[This has been] great for him. This offseason, this training camp, he's got a ton of reps obviously with the offense and he's got a lot of playing time with this offense, and especially this last week. He's done some really good things. I thought last week he really settled into the football game against their ones on defense for about a series or so and did some nice things.
"You have to understand, and I have to realize too, that this is really his first time, so he's almost like a rookie playing. So we're still working through progressions and reads and decision making and all the things that come with young quarterbacks. But he's very mature. He understands exactly our offense and what we're trying to get done. Each week there are some nice gains in his performance."
With Richard Rodgers' knee injury expected to keep him out for a few weeks (Doug Pederson said it's "week-to-week"), I'd look out for the Eagles possibly keeping four tight ends. That means Joshua Perkins and Billy Brown could be candidates. Perkins, who left last week's game with a head injury, is a player to watch. If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, pay attention to defensive tackle Bruce Hector. He's impressed this summer, and the Eagles are thin at defensive tackle.
Keep in mind: The Eagles will have an extra roster spot because Nigel Bradham won't count against the 53-man roster in Week 1.