What I'll be watching closely at Eagles training camp:
Carson Wentz may be bending over to tie his cleats on a far-away field from practice and all eyes would be concentrated on the recovering quarterback. When the Eagles open camp on Thursday it's no exaggeration to say that Wentz's every move will be chronicled by reporters as if he were the first man to ever come back from torn knee ligaments or walk the moon.
Such is the intrigue of the Eagles, their franchise quarterback, and whether he can be ready by the start of the season.
When we last saw Wentz in mid-June, after minicamp, he was seemingly ahead of pace. He hadn't missed a practice all spring and was participating in seven-on-seven drills. But Eagles coach Doug Pederson was careful to not estimate Wentz's progress, and even if he could, he stressed that his quarterback's benchmarks would be set by the team's medical staff.
"I'm not going to put myself in a box that way," Pederson said on June 14, when asked about where he expected Wentz to be when camp started. "I'm just going to see how it unfolds, quite honestly."
Wentz spent most of the interim continuing his rehabilitation at the NovaCare Complex. But the 25-year-old also took time to host his Foundation's fundraiser and camp for youths in North Dakota, marry his girlfriend, Maddie Oberg, on July 15, in Bucks County and travel to Greece for the honeymoon.
Knowing Wentz, it's doubtful he strayed from his rehab overseas. But how much more will he be able to do when the Eagles take the NovaCare Complex fields for the first of 12 practices before the preseason opener on Aug. 9?
The expectation is not much more than he did six weeks ago, according to team sources. Wentz will partake in most positional drills, he'll take snaps in various truncated drills opposite defenders, but he won't yet take repetitions during team drills.
Nick Foles will continue to take reps with the first team offense, as Nate Sudfeld works with the second team and Joe Callahan with the third stringers. Wentz, for the most part, will run through exercises on another field under the watchful gaze of a trainer when taking a break from team activities.
But how long will it take before he lines up under center and faces a pass rush? Even when and if he does, he won't likely work with the first team offense with Foles expected to start for at least the first preseason game. Wentz has said that he doesn't need to play before the season, a point he nearly proved two years ago after he fractured ribs in the preseason opener.
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He was entering a new world nearly blind, but this test is probably just as intimidating. If it's not reacquainting himself to the speed of the game, or altering his aggressive playing style, then it's the pressure placed on his left knee with his first strenuous lateral movements. And, oh yeah, Foles is less than seven months removed from a MVP Super Bowl performance, and any early hiccup could have outsiders calling for the backup to take over.
But first things first. Wentz's road back hits its next milestone on Thursday and many will be watching or waiting to hear from those in attendance. It's the best show in town.