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Training Camp Is About To Get Very Real

  • With "live" periods ahead, the tempo, intensity, and knowledge about the players increase dramatically. Training Camp, 2018, takes a turn starting Tuesday.

There is a whole lot more than The Timetable for Carson Wentz happening at Eagles Training Camp, 2018. The Eagles have gotten out of the gates nicely, and now comes the meat of camp: The Eagles will have "live" periods during Tuesday's practice, one of a handful that head coach Doug Pederson has in his camp schedule, and now we're going to see some of the separation that occurs prior to the preseason games.

We're far from having an established 53-man roster, of course, with a full month and four preseason games to go before the Eagles make the single cut. There is a bunch to watch between now and then …

The Comebacking Eagles Face Contact

Everybody is encouraged with the progress made by veterans like linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters and, yes, quarterback Carson Wentz. Seeing those players, along with running back Darren Sproles, on the field last week was truly exciting. Now comes the next step, and it's a big one. Peters now can finish off his blocks in the running game. He's got to take his tempo up a notch in pass protection with at least a portion of practice "live." Same with Hicks. The coaching staff will get a realistic look at Hicks as he sheds blockers and gets to the football and makes tackles.

When the action is live, the tempo ratchets up a notch. And so a player like Hicks, who has been pleased with his progress coming back from an Achilles tendon injury, has to take his game up in tempo and intensity. This is all going to be very telling as the Eagles turn the corner this week and really have a chance to evaluate the roster. What's happened since the spring – all of those Organized Team Activities and the mandatory minicamp – and the four practices in Training Camp, two in pads, lead up to live contact this week.

Sorting Out The Competition At Cornerback

Yes, the Eagles are pleased with what they've seen at cornerback, particularly the progress made by second-year man Sidney Jones, who has split reps at the nickel position with De'Vante Bausby. The roster has really, really come a long way in the last 12 months at cornerback. The competition has been everything the coaching staff hoped it would be.

Now that the action is going to be more toward realistic game conditions, the cornerbacks are going to be asked to support against the run game and they're going to finish off plays in coverage. As much as we've seen in terms of determining athletic ability and instincts and all of those very important cornerback characteristics, what's ahead will be critical as the depth chart separates.

Finding Out About Depth At Safety

Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the "known" talents at safety. The rest of the group is, truthfully, about as untested as can be. Tre Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves have had their flashes since the spring, but now they're going to be graded more accurately. Within a week or so, including the first preseason game, the Eagles are going to know a lot more about their safety depth. With some veterans on the market, the Eagles will have options, Corey Graham included.

Separating The Talent At Running Back

Donnel Pumphrey has his burst back – at least in the non-tackling part of practice. The second-year running back now will have to show his ability to run through would-be tacklers or, in his case, elude defensive players who can now finish plays. This may be the most talented position group on the team, top to bottom. And it's fairly certain that Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles are going to make the team. Behind them? Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood – who has looked good in camp to date and must stay healthy to make this roster – and young veteran Matt Jones are in the heat of the battle. Rookie Josh Adams, who is practicing after missing the spring, is also going to get his touches. Everything changes when the pads go on and the action is live and the running back position is impacted as much as any group.

Seeing How Nate Sudfeld Handles The Heat

Now, Nate Sudfeld is wearing a red jersey, which means DO NOT TOUCH. That's not going to change. What will change for the third-string quarterback is the size of the windows through which he will be throwing. The tempo is going to be a bit faster. The windows will be smaller. Sudfeld will have to throw with anticipation. He's looked very good so far, and now he has another test to pass. After that, we'll see Sudfeld a lot in the preseason. Big couple of weeks ahead for him.

Learning More About The Rookie Class

Tight end Dallas Goedert is making good progress, with a ton more to learn. He's going to have a chance to contribute with Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers in the new-look tight end position. Avonte Maddox is taking good reps at cornerback and now can finish plays and get to the football in coverage. Defensive end Josh Sweat, who has had his hands on a couple of passes at the line of scrimmage, has the chance to make tackles now and show his technique. Offensive linemen Matt Pryor – who has opened eyes and taken some reps with the first team at right guard – and Jordan Mailata will see how the tempo increases starting Tuesday. How will they react to the heat?

Setting A Level Of Confidence About The LBs

How many times have you heard about the "lack of depth" at linebacker? A bunch, right? Well, the team hasn't rushed out to make any moves. Instead, they want to see exactly what they have at linebacker, and they're going to learn a whole lot in the next 10 days or so. Hicks is one to watch, no doubt, but so is third-year man Joe Walker, who the coaching staff has noticed now that he's all the way back from his ACL injury. How about the wide-open job at weakside linebacker? We're going to know who takes the lead heading into the preseason games very soon. A veteran like LaRoy Reynolds? Never heard of him, right? Well, he signed late in the spring and now looms as a potential factor for a team needing depth.

The thing about linebackers is that the Eagles play two of them about 60 percent of the time, using the third cornerback in nickel personnel. But let's be honest: There are a lot of questions with the opening at WILL, Hicks coming back from injury, Nigel Bradham being suspended for the opener, and the general lack of experience among the reserves.

Now that the camp turns to full contact – except the quarterbacks, don't worry – the learning curve changes for the coaching staff and the personnel department. It's about to get real in Eagles Training Camp, and not a moment too soon.

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