Good morning. The Eagles practice at 9:45 a.m. Doug Pederson has a post-practice news conference. The players have the day off on Saturday. The first public practice will be Sunday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field.
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 during training camp.
The Eagles are now more than one week into training camp. Their first preseason game is next week. The countdown to the opener has dipped below five weeks. So what stood out to coach Doug Pederson?
“One thing I do like is I like the attitude of the football team,” Pederson said. “I like the way they came in into camp. They have attacked every single day. I don’t feel like this team is just lingering in any way. They are embracing the training camp. They know what they’ve done and they’ve accomplished, but at the same time I think they are hungry for more, and that’s exciting.”
There’s been more that’s happened than the attitude of the team, though. Here are five quick takeaways:
- The Eagles are going to be careful with Carson Wentz in practice. They’ve scaled back Wentz’s 11-on-11 work after the first three sessions. Pederson said it’s part of the plan, although it came after Saturday’s practice when there were players around Wentz’s feet. He hasn’t taken 11-on-11 snaps since. Wentz said the Eagles want to keep him in a “controlled environment,” which makes sense. He’s not yet cleared for contact, so the team will make sure he’s not at risk of being hit – whether it’s by someone on the ground or a player at near-full speed accidentally bumping into him. But I still believe that he’ll be ready come Week 1.
- This is going to be a versatile offense. It’s been noted that the Eagles didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher or 1,000-yard receiver last season. I don’t know what the statistics will read at the end of the year, but the Eagles will be deeper at the skill positions than one year ago, offering the possibility for different lineup combinations. At running back, the Eagles will have a full season of Jay Ajayi, a healthy Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement with a year of development. Alshon Jeffery is not on the field yet, but he’ll join Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace as the top three wide receivers. Zach Ertz is back at tight end, and second-round pick Dallas Goedert gives the Eagles a different type of threat than Trey Burton in two-tight end sets. They’ll have multiple combinations to use, and they’ll be more versatile than one year ago.
- This is the best secondary the Eagles have had in years. In recent summers, I’ve written about cornerback concerns on the Eagles. There are no such concerns this summer. With Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas, the Eagles have a top four that is better than any time since I’ve started covering them on a daily basis in 2012. Add in the players behind them – Avonte Maddox, DeVante Bausby, etc. – and it’s remarkable to see how the Eagles have changed the position in 24 months. None of these cornerbacks were on the team when Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz came to Philadelphia. Only Mills played for the Eagles in 2016.
- The Eagles have avoided significant injuries … so far: Injuries are inevitable in the NFL, but teams hope that they can get to the regular season in one piece. Although the Eagles have players recovering from surgeries and had a major injury during the offseason program (Paul Worrilow), they avoided a significant injury during the first week of camp. Shelton Gibson is in the concussion protocol and Matt Jones missed on practice with a lower-body injury. Josh Sweat and Richard Rodgers left Thursday’s season. However, there haven’t been any of the season-ending variety.
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From the mailbag
Do you still think they sign a veteran safety or is Tre Sullivan close to locking in the #3 safety gig?
— Ryan Fielder (@FielderOnDaRoof) July 31, 2018
I’ve thought since the draft that they would add a veteran safety. I didn’t think there would be much urgency and that the Eagles would spend the first two weeks of training camp assessing what they have. I’ve been impressed with Tre Sullivan, who is playing with confidence and has put his best foot forward in trying to win that third safety job. Ultimately, I think the Eagles sign a veteran. Jim Schwartz likes veteran players. My guess is it’s Corey Graham, who knows the defense and who Schwartz trusts. There are still good safeties on the market, although Tennessee might sign one after Jonathan Cyprien’s injury. So this is a position I’m watching closely. Even beyond the three-safety formation, though, the Eagles need insurance for an injury to Malcolm Jenkins or Rodney McLeod. That’s why I think they’ll add someone with more experience.
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