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August 07, 2018

Here's how Doug Pederson plans to use his quarterbacks (and his other starters) in Eagles' preseason opener vs. Steelers

Let's just get this out of the way at the start: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, still recovering from the torn ACL and MCL he suffered in Week 14 against the Rams, isn't playing on Thursday night against the Steelers — and very possibly not at all this preseason — as head coach Doug Pederson and the rest of the people making the decisions about Wentz's health continue to take a cautious approach to their starter's rehab.

In the meantime, that means Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is at the top of the Birds' depth chart at quarterback entering the team's first game of the summer. However, Foles has been sidelined for each of the last three practices with that he Eagles referred to as an "upper body" injury. 

But Eagles fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief on Tuesday when Foles revealed that he had been dealing with muscles spasms in his lower right part of the neck, near his trap, something Pederson confirmed was totally unrelated to a nagging elbow injury that caused him to miss all of last preseason.

"It's not a big deal," Foles said after practice. "Once again, we're just being smart."

And according to the veteran quarterback, this doesn't seem like a longterm injury — in fact, he even left the door open for a possible return against the Steelers.

"We're still talking about it. Day to day," Foles said when asked if there's still a chance he plays Thursday night. "We're worrying about the training room right now, we're going through the rehab protocol. We'll see. We never rule anything out. But at the end of the day, we'll see what happens."

With the Eagles just having a walk-thru on Wednesday, it still seems unlikely the Foles will see any action, although Pederson was also unwilling to completely rule out Foles seeing some action, saying that they're "going to monitor it again today and tomorrow and see where he's at."

However, you might not want to put too much stock in that, because the Eagles' newly-extended head coach went on to have the following exchange with a reporter a few minutes later:

We haven’t heard anything about QB Carson Wentz being cleared for contact. Is it safe to assume he's not going to play this week?

PEDERSON: You know what assume means, right?

Oh, I think we know...

"He obviously hasn't taken part in 11-on-11 [drills]. We're still watching his progress and monitoring that," Pederson said when asked directly whether or not Wentz would play. "If he's not in practice, you can figure it out." 

Pederson also reiterated that he doesn't expect the team's plan for Wentz to change next week.

"[We'll] probably keep going the way we're going," he said. "He's progressing extremely well. He's getting stronger every single day. The seven-on-seven reps that he's getting are valuable reps. It's all part of the process."

The biggest news of the day, however, may have come when Wentz was spotted eating some Rita's, which is given out for free down at training camp and is extremely popular among players coming off the field after practice. Through a team source, PhillyVoice confirmed that the Eagles QB is indeed a mango man.

[NOTE: Only four flavors are offered at camp — mango, lemon, blue raspberry, and Swedish Fish. On Tuesday, however, pear was available in place of lemon. I'll assume my Pulitzer is in the mail. Thanks.]

With Wentz and Foles likely out, that means fans heading down to the Linc on Thursday night will see a healthy dose of third- and fourth-string QBs Nate Sudfeld, who took over the backup role last year when Wentz went down, and Joe Callahan, who the team recently acquired from the Packers.

And while that may not be an ideal situation for the fans, it's makes this game even more important for the two quarterbacks in question.

"It's extremely valuable," Pederson said. "We saw Nate in the Dallas game at the end of the year and thought he played well there. Those are things that you hope he can carry over into the preseason this year. I've been in that role before as a back-up where this is really our regular season. This is where we get to play and shine and perform. I encourage both those guys to embrace the opportunity for however long they're in there. 

"It really will go to show exactly where they are with this team, what they know with the offense and just the whole growth process of just learning everything that we're about."

As for Sudfeld, he's looking forward to the opportunity.

"Every time you go out there — I feel like I treat every single practice like a game, so there will be more fans, but the fans that were here the other day is basically going to be like the preseason game only they'll be a little quieter when we're on offense. I think it's going to be fun." 

So if the injured starting quarterback (Wentz) and the backup-turned-starter who replaced him (Foles) are both going to be out, how much of the other starters can fans expect to see? Most likely, it won't be much, considering Pederson said the plan is to get the starters a full game's worth of reps over the course of the entire preseason. 

"Honestly, if I can get a game full of snaps — 65, 70 plays — within three games or so, that's good work," Pederson said. "That's good solid work with the starters. Still got to maintain an edge, obviously. It's harder though. It's harder in a preseason game because they know they're only going to play ‘X’-amount of plays and then they're coming out, so it is not a full game yet. 

"We have to try and maintain that edge into the Atlanta game."

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