Eagles

What NFL kickoff rule changes mean for Eagles

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USA Today Images

What NFL kickoff rule changes mean for Eagles

The NFL is changing the kickoff rules again in an attempt to make the most dangerous play in the game a little safer.

There will be a trial run in 2018 and the league will take a look at its findings next spring.

For now, here are the basics of the new kickoff rules:

• No more running starts for kicking team

• Eight of 11 kick returning players must be in setup zone (15 yards from the ball)

• No blocking in setup zone before the ball is touched

• No more two-man wedge blocks

• Kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball

So what does this mean for the Eagles and Dave Fipp’s unit, which has been considered one of the best in the league since he took over?

Well, we’ll start with the Eagles when they kick off because that’s where we might see the most drastic change. Last season, Jake Elliott kicked off 84 times and had 42 touchbacks. There were 16 kickers in the league (at least 35 kickoffs) who had a higher touchback percentage. And it’s no coincidence.

During last season, in October, Malcolm Jenkins actually challenged Fipp to allow players to make plays (see story). Basically, the Eagles kicked the ball short of the goal line, betting that they could bring players down before the 25-yard line.

The rule restricting that running start might make them think twice.

When the Eagles are returning kicks, maybe they’ll try to return more. Last year, the Eagles were 26th in the league in kick return average at 19.7 yards per return. And they returned just 18 kicks, the fewest amount in the NFL.

The Eagles lost their primary kick returner, Kenjon Barner, in free agency. So they’ll have a new returner, who might have some extra space to work with.

It has been argued that these rules will actually increase the number of kick returns, while also making the play safer. We’ll see.

Carson Wentz returns to 11-on-11s, and there's even better news too

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AP Images

Carson Wentz returns to 11-on-11s, and there's even better news too

The good news is that Carson Wentz is participating in full-team 11-on-11 drills Sunday.

The better news is that Doug Pederson says it’s permanent.

“Every day, he’ll get a little something,” Pederson said.

Pederson said a week ago that he anticipated Wentz resuming full-team drills on his surgically repaired knee this week, and he said before practice that the plan was still in place, even though the Eagles practiced outdoors on rain-soaked fields Sunday.

It was their first practice since their preseason game Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and it was closed to the media.

Pederson said it was a big step for Wentz to return to full-team drills. He said Wentz and Nick Foles would split reps Sunday with the first offense.

Does this mean he’s going to play against the Falcons in the opener?

It’s certainly a big step.

“It’s big,” Pederson said. “It’s big to begin to evaluate him and see where he’s at and get him back in there with the guys. 

“It’s still a slow process, but at the same time, it’s still exciting for us to get him back out there.”
 
Wentz, who tore his left ACL in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, participated in 11-on-11 drills July 26-28, but after the third day, Pederson shut him down, limiting him to only individual and 7-on-7 drills the last three weeks.

Pederson said it wasn’t a setback but that he had seen enough from Wentz.

But now, with opening day just 2 1/2 weeks away, Wentz is back doing full-team drills, and Pederson said everything he sees from Wentz is encouraging.

“His arm is live, he’s moving around well,” Pederson said.

He said Wentz will still be limited to how much full-team work he gets but will get some in every practice.

“He’s not going to get the full complement of reps,” Pederson said. “We’ll sprinkle him in in each drill.”

Pederson was asked what he learned by watching Wentz these last few weeks. 

“Quite a bit, actually,” he said. “His overall health, the strength of his knee, where he’s at physically. His arm is live, he hasn’t had all the reps … like Nick has had, like Nate (Sudfeld) has had, so he’s fresh. All the things where he wanted him to be at this stage.”

Wentz won’t play against the Browns on Thursday night, and Pederson said he doesn’t plan on playing him in the preseason finale, even if he’s fully cleared.

“Probably not,” he said. “We’re not there yet. We’re just going to take it day-by-day right now. … I haven’t thought beyond getting him out there today. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Wentz wasn’t made available to the media before or after practice Sunday. He’s scheduled to talk Monday.

Pederson said he knows Wentz was frustrated not being involved in team drills these past few weeks, but Pederson made it clear to the 25-year-old third-year pro that he wasn’t going to deviate from the plan.

“The biggest thing is communicating with him,” Pederson said. “Just saying, ‘Hey, here’s the plan, and this is the way it is and this is what we’re sticking to.’  

“If I were in his shoes, I’d probably want to be out there, too. But this is obviously for his health and benefit and his progress and the longevity of his career, so the biggest thing for me was just being honest and communicating with him up front.”

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Eagles Injury Update: Nick Foles was right about his right shoulder injury

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Eagles Injury Update: Nick Foles was right about his right shoulder injury

Just a few days after Nick Foles was wincing in pain on the field at Gillette Stadium, he’s all good. 

It was just a minor shoulder strain. Foles will practice today. 

“He’s fine,” Pederson said. “Yeah, he’s good.”

Foles suffered the injury early in the second quarter. He was taken out of the game but was very optimistic late Thursday night. He was right about his injury. Tests showed it was minor, indeed. 

That’s obviously great news for the Eagles, who kept Foles as an expensive insurance policy for Carson Wentz. The Eagles still hope Wentz will be ready for Week 1, but if he’s not, they have a Super Bowl MVP to fall back on. 

As Wentz returns to 11-on-11 action today, he and Foles will split first-team reps “50-50,” according to Pederson.  

This afternoon, Pederson also updated a few other injuries: 

• Don’t expect to see Darren Sproles or Jason Peters at all this preseason. Pederson said he doesn’t need to see them in a game. Sproles and Peters are both over 30 and coming off ACL tears. 

“Overall, they’re great,” Pederson said. “Right on track. Both of them are healthy and doing a nice job. I don’t necessarily need to see these guys. These two guys have played a ton of games.”

Pederson said they see enough from those two players during practices, which can be tougher on them than an actual game. Pederson thinks they’re ready to play. 

• Tight end Richard Rodgers, who suffered a knee injury against the Patriots, is considered to be “week to week.” That means we might not see him for a while. If Rodgers isn’t healthy by the start of the regular season, the Eagles will have a decision to make. Maybe they keep a fourth TE for a little bit. 

• Corey Clement and Nelson Agholor are considered “day to day,” Pederson said. Both have lower-body injuries and didn’t play in Thursday’s game. If they don’t practice this week, expect them to miss this coming Thursday’s game in Cleveland. 

• Jalen Mills, who didn’t play Thursday after leaving Tuesday’s practice early, will practice today. He’ll be limited to individual periods and won’t get in for 11-on-11s. 

• While Pederson said Donnel Pumphrey is “doing good,” he probably won’t practice this week. That means he probably won’t play in another preseason game. Hard to make the team on the sideline.

• Mack Hollins returned to practice today. He missed about a week, including the game. Jay Ajayi was not at practice for unknown reasons. That left the Eagles with just three healthy running backs today. 

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