Good morning. The Eagles return to the NovaCare Complex today to start preparing for their Week 4 game against the Tennessee Titans. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have news conferences beginning at 1:45 p.m.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. 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

Dallas Goedert (left) celebrates with Joshua Perkins (center) and Carson Wentz after his first-quarter touchdown catch against the Colts.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Dallas Goedert (left) celebrates with Joshua Perkins (center) and Carson Wentz after his first-quarter touchdown catch against the Colts.

Carson Wentz is back after nine months

The Eagles relied on their tight ends in Sunday's win over Indianapolis, and the playing time distribution supported it. Zach Ertz played 99 percent of the offensive snaps. That's the highest percentage of his career. Dallas Goedert, who played only 23 percent of the snaps during his first two games, was on the field for 67 percent of the offensive snaps. That was more than any wide receiver except Nelson Agholor. And Joshua Perkins, the No. 3 tight end, played 38 percent of the offensive snaps. He wasn't a well-known player entering the summer, but the coaching staff likes his versatility.

The tight end usage came at the expense of the wide receivers. After Agholor (98 percent), Kamar Aiken was next on the depth chart with 55 percent of the snaps. Jordan Matthews took 40 percent of the snaps even though he just signed on Wednesday. Shelton Gibson could only get on the field for one offensive snap.

On the offensive line, the Eagles were fortunate to have all five starters take all 82 offensive snaps. That type of continuity will make a big difference for the Eagles, if it continues.

Corey Clement took 55 percent of the snaps at running back. That meant he was the lead running back, but not necessarily the "featured" running back. Wendell Smallwood played 35 percent of the offensive snaps, and Josh Adams played 10 percent of the snaps.

On defense, the Eagles' defensive line rotation doesn't include Fletcher Cox rotating out of the game. Cox played 88 percent of the defensive snaps, which was 24 percentage points more than the next defensive lineman. He's their best player, and they want him to stay on the field this year.

"It's just his want to, his will to be a dominant defensive tackle," coach Doug Pederson said. "That's what you're seeing right now."

Elsewhere on the defensive line, Derek Barnett was the top defensive end with 64 percent of the defensive snaps. That's evidence of what the coaching staff thinks of the blossoming second-year player. It wasn't much more than the others in the rotation. Chris Long (61 percent), Michael Bennett (59 percent), and Brandon Graham (58 percent) all played between 34 and 36 of the 59 snaps.

Corey Graham had a bigger role at safety because of Rodney McLeod's injury. Graham took 80 percent of the defensive snaps. Nigel Bradham took only 69 percent of the defensive snaps at linebacker. (Jordan Hicks didn't come off the field for the third consecutive game.) Sidney Jones took 78 percent of the snaps in the slot.

Even though rookie defensive end Josh Sweat was active for the first time, he didn't get into the game because he does not have any special teams responsibilities.

Where the Eagles stand at running back

The Eagles played Sunday without Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles, leaving them with only Clement, Smallwood, and Adams at running back. So, naturally, the Eagles had their best rushing output of the season.

The Eagles rushed 35 times for 152 yards. Clement and Smallwood gained 56 yards apiece. Smallwood did it on 10 carries. The offensive line blocked well for the ground game, and Carson Wentz did a nice job at the line of scrimmage putting the rushing offense in good situations. But credit should go to Clement and Smallwood, too.

"I thought they both played extremely well, extremely tough," Pederson said. "All three of them. Putting Josh [Adams] in the mix, too, with the couple of carries he had. Corey and Wendell, both core special teams players and then turn around and play offense. It's tough to do. Both these guys did a great job. Wendell runs hard, runs tough; Corey the same way. They're young players. They continue to learn, they continue to grow, get better each week, and it's good to see."

Ajayi and Sproles could return this week, so the rotation will change. The Eagles will continue using a committee approach in the backfield. Ajayi will get the most carries when he's healthy. Sproles will have an offensive role. But Clement is not going away, and Smallwood showed flashes of what intrigued the Eagles entering the 2017 season when they planned for him to take on a larger role in the offense.

Elsewhere in the NFC East …

The Eagles are tied with Washington atop the NFC East at 2-1. Washington's 31-17 win over Green Bay was impressive (Adrian Peterson rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns), and they now enter a Week 4 bye week as the team the Eagles should be most concerned about in the division. Of course, they lost to Indianapolis in Week 2.

The Giants earned their first win of the season with a 27-22 road victory over Houston. They lost tight end Evan Engram to a sprained MCL in the game. The Giants play the Saints and Panthers the next two weeks before hosting the Eagles on Oct. 11.

After beating the Giants in Week 2, the Cowboys fell to 1-2 with a 24-13 loss to Seattle. Dak Prescott has not passed for more than 170 yards in a game this season. Dallas hosts the Detroit Lions next week.

Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement celebrate Smallwood’s fourth-quarter TD run against Indianapolis.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement celebrate Smallwood’s fourth-quarter TD run against Indianapolis.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

Shelton Gibson, the Eagles' 2017 fifth-round pick, is behind Kamar Aiken and Jordan Matthews, who weren't on the roster Week 1. That's not a good sign. Gibson took only one offensive snap during the first game without deep threat Mike Wallace. Gibson was drafted to be the deep threat. The coaching staff doesn't appear to trust him much on offense right now. This would have been the week for Gibson to earn time. Doug Pederson was asked about Gibson on Monday, but he focused on how the Eagles used multiple tight ends.

"Without getting into a lot of scheme stuff, we just felt better yesterday with some of our 12 personnel, some of our 13 personnel," Pederson said, referring to two-tight end and three-tight end sets. "Kept them in base defense. They did jump into nickel a little bit because then we were in our 12 and 13 personnel being able to run the football. So just the way the game kind of unfolded just a little bit. Shelton is a young player that's continuing to grow and get better with the offense. We had a package of plays for him yesterday; just didn't get to him."

What that answer doesn't cover was why Aiken and Matthews played ahead of Gibson. Both players are experienced receivers, so the Eagles might trust them more. They might also be better. Right now. Gibson is the last wide receiver on the depth chart, and the reason appears to be because he hasn't earned the confidence of the coaching staff during the week.