Doug Pederson will huddle with his coaching staff and determine, between now and the start of Thursday’s preseason game against Tennessee (7:30 p.m., NBC10, locally on PhiladelphiaEagles.com) the rotation of players he’ll see in action at Lincoln Financial Field.
At this point, it’s anybody’s guess if quarterback Carson Wentz and the starting offensive unit will play against the Titans. Wentz, for what it’s worth, is excited to do whatever Pederson asks. The head coach, though, is going to talk it through with his coaching staff before making a final decision.
“We have a personnel meeting later today so we are still working through a bunch of stuff,” Pederson said on Tuesday following Training Camp practice at the NovaCare Complex. "We have a lot of bodies we want to see in this game so we haven’t made a determination yet.”
Even if Wentz and Co. play, it’s likely they would see very minimal action to open the preseason. Given Wentz’s Training Camp workload – he’s been out on the field every day since the spring and, don’t forget this, the Eagles will see Baltimore at the NovaCare Complex later in the month for joint practices – it’s possible that the franchise quarterback will see very little time in this four-game preseason.
All of the work Wentz has gotten in with receivers Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor have paid off, as the passing game has shown explosiveness and chemistry. How much of a live game situation would improve that on-field camaraderie?
"That's the fine line with all your starters or the guys you project for the opening-day roster,” Pederson said when asked if Jackson will play. “You know, but again, someone who has not worked with Carson and if it's an opportunity, great. These are things we're going to work through and we'll find out Thursday.”
The younger Eagles will play, including quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson, and Cody Kessler. Pederson wants to see the backups handle the huddle and the environment with a good Tennessee defense on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
On Sudfeld, Pederson said: “I think it can be a really good indication for him. You know, the goal would be to get him as much time as we can behind center in these four games. I don't want him to feel like there's any kind of pressure but there's always pressure to just go perform and just play. He's very comfortable with the offense. I think by cutting it down, too, the volume of information, even for a guy that's been here, can help when you cut the volume down.
"Just again, I want to see him just manage the team, manage the offense, execute the offense, get us in the end zone, and do the things that he's capable of doing, and I think that there kind of shows what he can do possibly in the regular season.”
A fifth-round draft pick this past spring, Thorson has had the ups and downs a rookie quarterback faces. Pederson thinks the Northwestern product has made progress since the start of summer.
“I just think it's confidence with the offense and the trust with the guys he's working with,” Pederson said. “It's a slow progression, obviously, with young quarterbacks, and really young players in general, but he's getting real comfortable with what we're doing. You know, you've got to remember that every time he steps out here, it's a little bit of a new day from the standpoint of what we're throwing at him situationally, and he's handled it really well and want him to carry it over into the game.”
Thursday night marks the first time the Eagles will see their rookie class, headed by left tackle Andre Dillard, in game action. Those young players, along with second-year players like offensive tackle Jordan Mailata and a bunch of players on the roster “bubble,” are going to be given valuable reps.
“We are evaluating everybody,” Pederson said. “It's not just one position. I think as we get deeper into camp, we can focus more on certain guys or certain positions. But right now in this first game with a lot of opportunity for a lot of guys, we are just evaluating the whole team. Kind of seeing where we're at after two weeks.”