With the NFL preseason officially here, the Pittsburgh Steelers drew the 2017 NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles for their first opponent. The Eagles won't look quite the same as they did during the Super Bowl due to new additions, acquisitions, and departures, but the game should be a decent preview of who may make their final roster. It will be the Steelers' first test of their own revamped roster as well. While the outcome of the Thursday night game in Philadelphia will mean nothing to the standings, it will be an excellent evaluation of individual players and squads.
On Monday morning, the Eagles were back in action but Carson Wentz did not participate in anything but individual drills and Nick Foles sat out for his second straight day. Instead, Nate Sudfeld took advantage of extra repetitions with both the first- and second-team offensive units.
On Tuesday, Wentz did not participate in 11-on-11 drills but looked sharp during the 7-on-7 drills. After practice, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told the media Wentz would not take the field on Thursday. "Obviously, he hasn't taken 11-on-11," he said. "We're still watching his progress... but if he's not in practice, you can figure that out." Foles has been suffering from muscle spasms in his neck. He has been cautious and spending time in the training room to keep the issue from becoming a true "injury". This means that Sudfeld should get plenty of on-field time against the Steelers as he works at real-speed running the offense. Joe Callahan may get called on to get some snaps in as well, although he has not made much noise at training camp thus far.
Watch live as Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, & Nick Foles meet with the media. https://t.co/qTbUVQoiHJ
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 7, 2018
With the coaching staff expressing trust that Jay Ajayi is their lead back heading into the season, the Eagles are still likely to use a running back-by-committee approach in 2018. Darren Sproles is healthy and Corey Clement seems to be favored by the coaching staff in third-down and red zone duties. While Pederson said on Tuesday that he will not necessarily keep starters out of the preseason game, it is likely that Donnel Pumphrey will get a majority of touches and the game will give the Eagles an excellent opportunity to evaluate Matt Jones, Josh Adams, and Wendell Smallwood - long shots to make the final 53-man roster.
While every team in the NFL would love to be able to carry as many receivers as the Eagles have in camp, they can't. Alshon Jeffery was placed on the PUP list in the hopes that he will be ready for Week 1. While Nelson Agholor has had a nice offseason, the Eagles may offer Mack Hollins, who has had a decent camp so far, more snaps and test Shelton Gibson (who beat Rasul Douglas in the seam on a leaping catch on Tuesday despite having dealt with a concussion earlier) in starting situations. Pederson is expected to get all available receivers on the field.
Other notable players on offense
Dallas Goedert is having a fantastic first training camp and has been nearly unguardable in the red zone. The Eagles look to be utilizing multiple tight end sets and that could prove to make things difficult for opposing defenses this upcoming regular season. Where Goedert has struggled at times is blocking efficiently.
Rookie guard Matt Pryor opened some eyes when he was able to stand Haloti Ngata up in pass protection and looks like he'll be a nice addition to the offensive line. Pryor has also lined up at tackle during camp practices. "I don't know what to expect but I feel like college has set me up for this," Pryor said after practice. "It's a big stepping stone to see how my career goes. I want to take advantage of it."
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 6, 2018
Defensive end Brandon Graham started camp on the PUP list, working to get himself ready for Week 1. That has allowed Michael Bennett to work against and with younger players. Next to Fletcher Cox, Destiny Vaeao has been taking nearly all of the first-team snaps at defensive tackle.
Three linebackers that look to already have a lock on the final roster are Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, and Kamu Grugier-Hill. The Eagles will test the WILL linebacker position against the Steelers offense and try to determine who does best in that spot in the regular season. Joe Walker has been getting first-team reps at the MIKE spot. Nathan Gerry has continued to see action with the starting base defense and has acted as the middle linebacker in the Eagles' reserve nickel package.
The Eagles are excited about the showing Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have shown at camp this year. For Sidney Jones, he may get more playing time if he earns the nickel corner role. Douglas has had an up and down camp, either making significant plays on the ball or getting burned deep.
With the re-signing of Corey Graham, the Eagles look to continue to count on Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, and Tre Sullivan to round out their safety positions. Sullivan had been taking reps as the third safety until Graham was re-signed. "I'm actually glad he's back," Sullivan said about Graham. "I'm a young player... I know I have to learn and have to grow as a player and I feel like my ceiling is extremely high and I'm glad those guys are around me to help me learn."
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 3, 2018