Good morning. The Eagles practice at 1:30 p.m. today. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh are scheduled to speak to reporters at noon. The Eagles practice again on Tuesday and host the New York Jets in the preseason finale on Thursday, although the starters are preparing for Week 1.
This is a preseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox three days per week until the season begins. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Neither Carson Wentz nor Nick Foles will play this week, but it remains a critical week for whichever quarterback is the Week 1 starter. Even if Doug Pederson said his attention is on the Jets (read more from Les Bowen on a testy Pederson), the starters are focusing on the Atlanta Falcons. Wentz and Foles aren't practicing to prepare for the Jets, no matter Pederson's press conference spin. So it will be interesting how Pederson splits the first-team snaps as the week progresses. By the end of the week, the Eagles need to finalize their game plan for the Falcons. They'll want to tailor practiced to that plan. It wouldn't make sense to split the quarterback snaps as the game approaches. The starter takes the snaps.
Wentz, by the way, has not been cleared for full contact yet. Pederson will not reveal a deadline to name Wentz the starter, saying "when he's cleared and if he gets cleared."
"I'm not going to put myself in a box, I'm not going to put my quarterback in a box," Pederson said. "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to go out on a limb, and I'm not going to say that."
The Eagles practiced on Sunday and will practice again today and Tuesday. Then they return to the practice field on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday next week before game day. So that's it. Five practices left. It's clearly a big week for Wentz.
Because he's participating in 11-on-11 drills, Wentz is doing everything that he would do in practice with full medical clearance. The only difference is how the snaps are distributed. Because quarterbacks wear a red non-contact jersey, they're not going to be hit.
Pederson might want to play this close to his vest for competitive purposes. But he's running out of days to do so. The Falcons game is fast approaching. Plus, by this time next week, the Eagles are mandated to release injury reports and practice participation reports. By then, there should be more clarity.
If Foles is the start, he must rebound from a bad preseason. There shouldn't be major concern with Foles — he's played poorly before and rebounded before — but if he's the Week 1 starter, he'll need his practice work.
"Obviously when the time comes, as far as we build game plans, things of that nature, but for him, it's just consistency," Pederson said. "Just over and over and over, seeing the same things, making the same throws, and just keep working and building toward the season."
The Eagles released Corey Nelson on Sunday. This is not a stunning move, and it seemed like it could happen while Nelson failed to distinguish himself this summer. The Eagles signed Nelson in March and gave him a chance to win the weak-side linebacker competition. When they released Mychal Kendricks, it appeared Nelson had an open track to the job. But Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry have been ahead of him all summer. LaRoy Reynolds, not Nelson, is likely the depth linebacker/special teams player. So that left Nelson as the odd man out. The Eagles saved $1 million by cutting Nelson, and they also helped their compensatory pick formula. Both matter to the Eagles.
My guess is Grugier-Hill will be the starting weak-side linebacker this season. I can't necessarily call the Nelson signing a huge mistake because it was a low-risk move, but the Eagles clearly had bigger expectations for Nelson than what came to fruition.
Speaking of Grugier-Hill, his attention was split before the game last week. A Hawaii native, Grugier-Hill was worried about the hurricane headed toward his home state. He said he was in "rough shape," not knowing what was going to happen.
"Definitely before the game, I was concerned, talking to my family," Grugier-Hill said. "Now, they're safe."
He called it "such a blessing" that the storm weakened. His mother lives in an old house and he didn't think it would withstand the storm. Although there are floods in Hawaii, he said it's "not as bad" where his family lives.
Nelson Agholor returned to practice after missing the last three weeks. That was expected — Doug Pederson had said Agholor was working toward Week 1 — and it's a big boost for the offense. Agholor is a key player for the Eagles, and the offense is not the same without him.
However, there's still no update on Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. When asked for Jeffery's status on Sunday, Pederson said "nothing further at this time." The season begins in 10 days. Jeffery doesn't need much practice, but I'd imagine the Eagles at least want to get him on the field for a few days if he has any chance of playing Week 1.
The Eagles must cut the roster to 53 players by Saturday. Jeffery could be transferred to the in-season PUP list, but that would mean he's out for at least six weeks. If he's on the 53-man roster, he takes a roster spot. So there could be some clarity in the coming days, but Week 1 would seem to remain in serious question considering Jeffery hasn't practiced yet.
Also, Mack Hollins was absent again on Sunday. That means the Eagles are without two of their top four receivers. I like the Eagles' receiving corps this year, but only if they're healthy. A top three of Agholor, Mike Wallace, and Shelton Gibson is not nearly as imposing for the Falcons on Week 1 than if the Eagles were at full strength. So wide receiver is a position that requires a lot of attention in the next 10 days.