With preseason game No. 3 on Thursday night at Cleveland and the final of four a week later, well, there's just a lot going on with the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex. The team received a jolt of energy with quarterback Carson Wentz returning to 11-on-11 drills – "The Sheriff is back in town," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "He's the one that makes everything go around here." – along with the news that quarterback Nick Foles practiced a few days after his minor shoulder injury.
Everything is good, folks. Everything remains on target.
"You're at that point in the preseason where you kind of get a little bit restless for some guys," says Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday. "You have to keep it day to day."
And now, back to practice. The Eagles have a critical two weeks forthcoming. There are roster spots to be won. There are, potentially, moves to be made. Here is a look at the team, position by position.
It would be a shocker if either Wentz – who has not yet been cleared for contact – or Foles plays in Cleveland on Thursday, although, maybe Foles get some reps after a tough outing in New England. He's healthy, he's practicing, and maybe Doug Pederson wants to see Foles with the starters for a series or three. We'll know more in a day or so. Nate Sudfeld has made terrific strides in his two games and will continue to see plenty of reps in the final two preseason games.
Said Pederson of Sudfeld: He's really taken some big strides forward. This has been great for him. This offseason, this Training Camp, he's got a ton of reps obviously with the offense and he's got a lot of playing time with this offense, and especially this last week. He's done some really good things. I thought last week he really settled into the football game against their ones on defense for about a series or so and did some nice things. You have to understand, and I have to realize too, that this is really his first time, so he's almost like a rookie playing. So we're still working through progressions and reads and decision-making and all the things that come with young quarterbacks. But he's very mature. He understands exactly our offense and what we're trying to get done. Each week there are some nice gains in his performance."
The next question is Christian Hackenberg, who is learning a package of about a dozen or so plays and who the Eagles might want to see in some preseason action before the cutdown to 53 players following the preseason finale against the Jets. Joe Callahan continues to get limited reps when they are available.
Darren Sproles isn't going to play in this preseason, but rest assured that he looks great. Corey Clement is nursing a lower-leg injury and may not play the rest of the preseason. He's had a very good spring and summer, as has Jay Ajayi, who figures to be the No. 1 running option in the regular season.
Will the Eagles keep a fourth running back? If they do, it could be Wendell Smallwood, who had been productive until the slow game in New England. Matt Jones needs a big game in Cleveland and another one against the Jets. Rookie Josh Adams didn't play in New England after a good performance against Pittsburgh.
Richard Rodgers is "week to week" with a right knee injury suffered in the New England game, and if that means the injury will carry into the regular season, then the Eagles might have to do some roster juggling. We'll see. Otherwise, they've got a great picture with Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Rodgers. Billy Brown has had another strong summer. Joshua Perkins, injured in New England, has otherwise been productive.
It's a banged-up group right now. Alshon Jeffery continues to rehab from his rotator cuff injury and hasn't practiced in the spring or summer. When will he return to action? There isn't an answer right now. Nelson Agholor is day to day. Sounds like he will be A-OK for Atlanta, barring setbacks. Mike Wallace needs more reps and some catches to get going. Shelton Gibson has been the star of the summer. DeAndre Carter is making his move against long odds. The Eagles will keep five, maybe six. This could be a position that changes a couple of times before it's all said and done.
Not much has changed. The big question will be who the Eagles keep at some backup positions. Jason Peters isn't going to play in the preseason but he's having an excellent summer. Rookies Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor continue to gain valuable experience as they try to make the 53-man roster. Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo are in the same boat. How many can the Eagles keep? Eight? Nine? Ten, if they manipulate the 53-man roster here and there?
Brandon Graham still says he's going to be ready for Atlanta, which is encouraging. The Eagles are deep and very good across the line here. Will it come down to Josh Sweat or Steven Means as the fifth end? Will Haloti Ngata start next to Fletcher Cox? When will Tim Jernigan be ready to go? Who makes it as a backup?
Maybe the lone starting job remains a competition between Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill, and nothing has been decided. Gerry has started in both preseason games. Otherwise, the Eagles are pleased with Jordan Hicks in the middle as he comes back from his Achilles tendon injury. Nigel Bradham is going to be a huge part of the defense. Joe Walker seems to have earned confidence as the backup MIKE. LaRoy Reynolds figures to make it as a backup at all three positions and a special teams core member as well.
Will it be Sidney Jones or Avonte Maddox as the nickel cornerback or will the Eagles continue rolling players like De'Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings in for reps? Jalen Mills is day to day with an injury – he's going to be fine for Atlanta – and Ronald Darby has been outstanding this summer. Rasul Douglas showed improvement in his second preseason game. The Eagles are strong through five or six players at cornerback in a cornerback-needy league.
Will the Eagles keep a fourth safety? The top three are in – Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, and Corey Graham – and none of the younger players has really distanced himself as a candidate to be the fourth safety. We'll see. Somewhere on this roster, the Eagles may have to go light with numbers. Safety could be that group, but with Jenkins doing so much, the Eagles need to make sure they have are cross-training other players for an emergency situation.
Nothing has changed. Cameron Johnston has punted well through two games and he's still the punter and holder. Jake Elliott clanged a PAT off the right upright in New England, but otherwise has been outstanding and Rick Lovato has been on the money with his long snaps. The return game shows promise and will go to a new level with Sproles on the field.