The Eagles have reported to camp and their first practice is at noon on Thursday – six weeks before they open their Super Bowl defense. The 2017 season is now in the past, part of the team's history and fans' memories. When the team begins training camp, they'll be together until the season ends – whether that's Dec. 30 after their season finale, in mid-January after a playoff game, or on Feb. 3 after Super Bowl LIII.
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Here's a primer on the Eagles' first training camp as defending Super Bowl champions:
Training camp stretches through Aug. 14, after which the Eagles will revert to an in-season schedule. During training camp, the team will hold mostly morning practices beginning at 9:15 a.m. at the team facility open only to invited guests. The two practices open to the public are on Aug. 5 and Aug. 11 at Lincoln Financial Field. Both are sold out. Coach Doug Pederson will continue to have live tackling during some practices.
The preseason opens at home on Aug. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The biggest story of the summer will be the recovery of quarterback Carson Wentz, who has his sights set on playing in the Sept. 6 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Wentz's progress will be measured daily by observers. Wentz participated in 7-on-7 sessions during the spring. The key benchmarks will come when he takes regular work in full-team drills and receives clearance for contact. It's unlikely Wentz plays in the preseason, so his practices will be where his status is best determined.
Nick Foles will begin training camp as the main QB. The Super Bowl MVP understands that Wentz is the team's quarterback when healthy. However, it's far from a given that Wentz will be back in time for the regular season, so Foles must be prepared for Week 1. Foles missed almost all of last summer with a sore elbow and didn't have the benefit of preseason games.
Nate Sudfeld is next on the depth chart and will likely get the most work in the preseason. The Eagles have invested in Sudfeld's development and are excited to get a full training camp and preseason with him after signing the former Redskins draft pick before Week 1 last season.
Joe Callahan is the last quarterback on the roster and will likely only be a summer arm, barring injury.
The injury list will be a source of intrigue the rest of summer, and it's not just because of Wentz's status. Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Tim Jernigan, Haloti Ngata, Darren Sproles, and Chris Maragos were among the high-profile players who were recovering from injuries during the spring. And in the injured included non-headliners, too, such as undrafted rookie running back Josh Adams.
Look for Pederson to be cautious with the injured players, especially the veterans who have clear roles on the team. The Eagles won't be in a rush to evaluate Jeffery in the offense or Graham in the defense. But progress will be important.
With one of the NFL's best rosters, the Eagles don't have many starting spots up for grabs. The competition for regular playing time will come at slot cornerback and weakside linebacker. After losing Patrick Robinson in free agency, the Eagles will experiment with different cornerback combinations this summer. Remember: Robinson didn't take over slot duties until midway through the preseason last year. The Eagles could bounce a starter like Jalen Mills inside to the slot on passing downs; see if Sidney Jones is suited for the nickel; or they could look at an under-the-radar player such as former practice squanders DeVante Bausby and D.J. Killings and fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz might have different combinations depending on the matchup, too.
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Schwartz is also seeking a replacement for Mychal Kendricks at weakside linebacker. The Eagles usually play with only two linebackers on the field, although Nigel Bradham's Week 1 suspension and uncertainty about Jordan Hicks' health could make the third linebacker even more important. Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and newcomer Corey Nelson are competing to earn playing time. LaRoy Reynolds will also try to work his way into the mix.
It will also be worth watching what happens at punter. Cameron Johnston, who has never punted in a regular season game, is the only punter on the roster. The Eagles are encouraged by Johnston, although they'll examine their options elsewhere if Johnston doesn't appear to be an adequate replacement for Donnie Jones.
The Eagles enter training camp with a 88-man roster. It must be pared to 53 players by Sept. 1. There will be difficult decisions to make at a number of positions, with running back atop the list.
You can count on Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles making the roster. It's wide open after those three. Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey are former Eagles draft picks whose leashes are getting shorter. Matt Jones is a former starter in Washington who's become a journeyman. Josh Adams, a Central Bucks South product and Notre Dame standout, will try to follow Clement's footsteps as a local undrafted player who earns a roster spot. The Eagles kept five running backs on their opening day roster last year. They usually keep four.
At wide receiver, the Eagles will decide whether to keep a veteran such as Markus Wheaton, or rely on young wide receivers to round out the depth chart. Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs, and Greg Ward are among the receivers they've been developing.
On the offensive line, the Eagles have big rookie projects Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata, who were the team's last two draft picks in April. Those rookies could take roster spots while assistant coach Jeff Stoutland works with them, or the Eagles could try to sneak them onto the practice squad.
The Eagles have contested roster spots at defensive tackle and in the secondary, too. There will be intrigue about what the Eagles do for safety depth. They could rely on former practice squader Tre Sullivan or again sign a veteran, like they did last year when they brought in Corey Graham.
Special teams will play a role in many of these decisions. Pederson said that special teams is an area in which the Eagles must improve in 2018.