Eagles Injury Update: Carson Wentz back in 11-on-11s next week

Eagles Injury Update: Carson Wentz back in 11-on-11s next week

Carson Wentz hasn’t participated in 11-on-11 drills since Saturday, July 28, the third day of training camp. 

That’s likely going to change next week. 

The coaching staff had backed off from Wentz in full-team drills because they were happy with what they saw from him during those early 11-on-11s and wanted to minimize any extra risk that having him out there in those situations would create as he recovers from ACL and LCL surgery. 

According to the plan — as secretive as the Eagles have kept it — Wentz expects to be back in 11-on-11s next week, an obvious good sign as he continues to keep his goal of being ready to play in Week 1. 

Doug Pederson said that he would ideally get to see Wentz in 11-on-11s for a week before he plays in a game. This new revelation would give Wentz three weeks in full-team drills before the opener on Sept. 6. 

Still, as Wentz said on WIP Tuesday morning, it’s “going to be close” as to whether or not he starts Week 1. 

“That’s what I felt really offseason,” Wentz said after today’s practice. “We’ve talked about it a ton. That’s been my goal. It’s no secret that it’s going to be close. We’ve seen where I’m at in camp and hopefully next week doing 11-on-11. I think, naturally, it’s going to be close. Ultimately, it won’t be my call, the coach’s call, ultimately, it’ll be up to the doctors.” 

Wentz said he’s no more or less optimistic than he was at the start of training camp about his chances to play Week 1. That’s probably a good sign, that things are progressing according to plan. 

Even though Wentz will be back in full-team drills next week, he still won’t be cleared for contact. That will be the last hurdle to get over. Wentz said his knee has responded well all training camp. 

What does he want to show Pederson during 11-on-11s next week?

“I think hopefully just show him that I look comfortable and I look confident,” he said. “And I know I will. The reps I have gotten, I feel confident in both my knee and this team and the offense and everything. Hopefully, I can just jump back into where I left off.”

In other injury news, Pederson said he wasn’t going to comment on a report that Alshon Jeffery could possibly start the season on PUP. Then he commented that the team is monitoring Jeffery and is happy with where he’s at.

“Not sure where that came from,” Pederson said of the report. 

Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey, Josh Adams, Markus Wheaton, Mack Hollins, Asantay Brown and Chandon Sullivan all missed practice. 

Pederson said Agholor and Clement are dealing with “lower body” injuries and they are resting them as they get ready for Week 1.

I asked Agholor if there’s a chance he’d miss one. After laughing, here’s what he said: 

“I’m gonna let coach answer that, but you know me. I do what I need to do.” 

All those guys listed above aren’t expected to play in Thursday night’s preseason game, but Nick Foles should make his 2018 preseason debut. Foles has been back at practice this week after some neck spasms kept him out for the preseason opener.

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If Eagles’ defense gets you into 3rd-and-long … watch out

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If Eagles’ defense gets you into 3rd-and-long … watch out

It’s an old Jim Johnson term from the Andy Reid days that has been given new life in the NovaCare Complex for the last couple of years with Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

Fastballs. 

As in pass-rushers who can relentlessly get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles have a ton of ‘em. If Schwartz is the pitcher — an admitted stretch for this metaphor — his arm isn’t tiring any time soon. That’s how deep the Eagles are in this area. 

In the first preseason game, when the Steelers got into third down against the Eagles’ top defense, the Eagles’ defensive line featured Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett. 

Opposing offenses better be on notice: Don’t get into third-down passing situations against these Eagles. 

They’ll make you pay. 

“It’s fun,” defensive line coach Chris Wilson said last week as his eyes lit up. “It’s a fun thing to have in your arsenal.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the third-down defensive line against the Steelers is that it didn’t even feature Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham, who is still out as he recovers from an ankle surgery. The versatility of players like Bennett and Graham, who can play inside, and Cox, who can play outside, makes the Eagles increasingly dangerous. 

The Steelers, sans stars like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, got themselves into a few 3rd-and-long situations against the Eagles’ first defense and they simply had no chance. 

The first play was a 3rd-and-15. The Steelers tried to offset the pass rush by throwing a screen pass, but Cox was too smart for that and diagnosed it easily. 

On this 3rd-and-18 play, the Steelers were wise to give the guard help on Cox. And they were smart to chip on Barnett. But they can’t help everywhere. Long and Bennett are making their way through the left side and Barnett was barely slowed down by that chip. A quick throw isn’t going to move the chains on 3rd-and-super-long. 

This is a 3rd-and-7 when all Malcolm Jenkins has to do is threaten to blitz before taking the running back and it creates a 1-on-1 for Cox, the one guy that is going to demand the most help inside. From there, it’s a race to the quarterback between Cox and Bennett. They don’t get there, but the DB is more than happy to let a pass get caught well short of the sticks. 

There’s no way to say this that won’t sound overly simplistic. But in order for the Eagles to let their fastballs fly on third downs, they need to get their opponents into uncomfortable third-down situations. That starts with stopping the run on first and second down. 

The Eagles were the third-best team in opponent third-down conversion percentage last year. They allowed their opponents to move the sticks just 32.2 percent of the time. That’s great. 

Here’s the pretty obvious reason: Of the 205 third downs they were on the field, 149 of them (72 percent) were 3rd-and-5 or longer. Teams ran the ball just eight of those 149 times. All the rest were opportunities for fastballs to do what fastballs do. 

“It’s hard to become a great rush team on 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-3,” Wilson said. “It’s always been our staple with Jim and Doug (Pederson) to be able to get guys in there who can hammer the run game, and it gives us the ability and earn the right to go pass rush on third-down situations.”

Winning on first and second downs is easier said than done. The Eagles did that last year though, in large part because of their stout rushing defense. The Birds gave up fewer than 80 yards per game on the ground in 2017, tops in the NFL. Of course, Tim Jernigan was a big part of that and with him on the NFI, it looks like the Eagles won’t be able to rely on him for a while. So Destiny Vaeao or Haloti Ngata will need to fill in on early downs just to get the Eagles into those prized 3rd-and-long situations. 

If they get there, watch out. 

Because the Eagles have a ton of weapons in that defensive line group. Plenty of fastballs. 

“You gotta find ways to get them all on the field,” Wilson said. “It’s a good problem to have.” 

It certainly is a good problem to have for the Eagles. It’s not a good problem for the rest of the league.

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Will Carson Wentz be ready for Week 1? ‘It’s going to be close’

Will Carson Wentz be ready for Week 1? ‘It’s going to be close’

It’s going to be close. 

That was the most telling part of Carson Wentz’s interview on WIP this morning before the final training camp practice of the summer. 

Wentz was asked by Angelo Cataldi how important it would be for him to start the season: 

I obviously would love to be out there. That’s been my goal all offseason ever since the injury. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be close. I’m still eyeing that date. At the end of the day, it’s not just my decision. There’s coaches and doctors that really have the final say. I really like where I’m at and time will tell here. 

Of course, we all probably knew it was going to be close, but here’s Wentz saying it just 3 1/2 weeks before the opener against the Falcons. 

Wentz began training camp a few weeks ago working in full-team 11-on-11 drills, but the Eagles have backed off of him some since then. He’s done just 7-on-7s for most of training camp. Head coach Doug Pederson said they saw enough from Wentz in those early sessions and didn’t want to risk further injury. Pederson claimed there was no setback. 

While Wentz hasn’t been in full-team drills, his footwork and arm strength have been on display during individual drills and in 7-on-7s. 

“My knee feels really good,” Wentz said. “Rehab and everything has been going great. Every day it feels a little better out there. I really like where I’m at so it’s just a be patient thing.”

When asked just how tough ACL rehab is, Wentz flatly said, “It’s no fun.” There was a lot of pain early in the process but going through rehab with some big-name players like Jason Peters, Chris Maragos, Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks helped. 

It’s still pretty amazing that the Eagles were able to win a Super Bowl without all those guys playing by the end of the season. 

Cataldi described the grim scene on his flight back to Philly from Los Angeles after Wentz went down at the LA Coliseum on Dec. 10. He told Wentz that everyone thought the season was over. 

And then he asked Wentz if what happened after amazed him.  

“I wouldn’t say it amazed me,” Wentz said, emphasizing the word amazed. “It was kind of expected. It’s one of those things to the outside, it seemed like the world was ending and we didn’t have a shot. That’s when people started to write us off, but we knew what we had. We knew the guys we had. We knew we had Nick, who would be more than ready to go. Obviously, he stepped in and not only finished that game the right way and got it done for us but obviously finished the year unbelievable. I wouldn’t say it surprised any of us at all. But probably to the world, it did.”

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