The Eagles will play their second preseason game Thursday night in Jacksonville, and head coach Doug Pederson sounded like he wouldn’t be playing many of his starters, including quarterback Carson Wentz, when he met with reporters following Tuesday’s final practice of training camp.
“He's done some great things out here, obviously,” said Pederson. “I try to make the way the practices are set up in training camp as hard as they can be in camp and not just for him, but for everybody and we've seen a lot of good things. He's progressing and getting better every single day.
“The timing and rhythm with his receivers is getting better and it's still kind of up to me to play anybody the rest of the way, but getting a lot of great work in in these practices.”
The coach later added, though, that “you can't put players in bubble wrap, either. This is the NFL. It's football. There's going to be contact and we just have to be smart with all our guys.”
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If Wentz doesn’t at least get a series, Pederson said it wouldn’t have anything to do with not having Lane Johnson at right tackle or Brandon Brooks at right guard. In their place are Halapoulivaati Vaitai and, at tackle, Jordan Mailata.
“No, it doesn't,” said the coach. “Again, I thought Mailata coming out last week did some nice things. Obviously, we have the flexibility of Big V can bounce out there and we have spots at guard. That's not necessarily the case.”
It is unlikely Wentz will play, and if he doesn’t in Jacksonville, he won’t against the Ravens the following week, either, because the Eagles and Ravens will practice together next Monday and Tuesday.
“It will be another step in every players’ progression, quite frankly, a lot of our starters as they prepare for the season-opener, but it's just another part of camp that we're going to go through,” said Pederson about next week’s joint practices. “We're excited with Baltimore coming up here next week, we are looking forward to that and should have some really good practices.”
What of the other starters?
There were 17 starters that didn’t play in the preseason opener, and that number may come down a bit in Jacksonville, but not much.
It is unlikely that tight end Zach Ertz, center Jason Kelce, and left tackle Jason Peters will play, among others.
As for the defense, well, that might be a different story.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins went on the radio on Tuesday and said that there is a big difference between game reps and practice reps, and he would like to see some snaps during the preseason.
He may get his wish.
Defensive end Brandon Graham said earlier in the week: “I think Doug is going to get us some reps. I don’t know if it’s this week or next week, but I now he wants us to get out there and get some of those game like reps.”
So we shall see.
Right guard Brandon Brooks (pictured above with Lane Johnson) is scheduled to see his doctor on Wednesday. He is looking to get cleared to return to 11-on-11 work, and if he gets that clearance, Brooks would be on track to start in Week One despite tearing his Achilles seven months ago
“Everything is feeling good,” said Brooks. “I haven’t had any setbacks. We’re moving in the right direction. I’ve been doing this for a long time at a high level, so the biggest thing is trying to get out there, but at the same time, being smart. You don’t want to have any setbacks once you get cleared to start doing some team stuff. So just be smart with it and go from there.”
Pederson was asked about the scuffle during Monday’s practice between rookie left tackle Andre Dillard and defensive end Derek Barnett.
“I just think it was a combination of guys working extremely hard and making each other better,” said the coach. “That's one of the things that happens during camp as you guys know. You get these warm days and guys are wanting to get better.
“It was just aggressive and it's really good to see. I mean, it's good to see that eagerness on both sides, but at the end of the day, they shake hands, they make up and we don't carry it off the field. So we just leave it on the field and leave it at that.”
Asked why it appeared that Dillard got so emotional after practice, Pederson said: “Listen, young players, I mean, there's pressure to play. You think about Carson (Wentz) in his first year and there’s pressure to play. He's doing an outstanding job. It's a tough sport. Without getting into a ton of detail, I just think that he's so passionate about what he does and how he plays, and he wants to be perfect.
“He wants to be right. He doesn't want to make mistakes. I just reassured him after practice, he's been doing an excellent job and playing really well. So there's really nothing to worry about.”
Since day one of camp on July 26, the Eagles added cornerbacks Alex Brown (who was later waived), Ajene Harris, Orlando Scandrick, and Sojourn Shelton, defensive ends Kasim Edebali and Eli Harold, safety Johnathan Cyprien, defensive tackle Aziz Shittu (added on Tuesday when the team waived/injured safety Blake Countess), linebacker Asantay Brown, and tight end Alex Ellis.
They parted ways with defensive tackle Anthony Rush, linebacker Joey Alfieri, and safety Godwin Igwebuike. Defensive end Joe Ostman and offensive lineman Casey Tucker were placed on season-ending Injured Reserve, a place that receiver Shelton Gibson (ankle) is likely to end up if he clears waivers. Also, offensive tackle Ryan Bates was traded to the Bills.
Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld was at practice without a sling, though the cast covering the broken bone near his wrist remained.