PHILADELPHIA – There are no off days for Carson Wentz. At least not yet.
Wentz participated in the Eagles' second straight training camp practice Friday, continuing his return from season-ending knee surgery and continuing to make strides toward a Week 1 return. The Eagles are easing into camp, as is the norm, and aren't hitting yet or, frankly, doing all that much intense team activity. But that's fine for Wentz right now.
For the second straight day Wentz ran the second team offense – though with a handful of players on the PUP list and he ended up working with mostly backup linemen but a fair number of pass catchers who could feature prominently in the Eagles' offense this year. He took part in 11-on-11 drills on Thursday and took normal work again Friday, albeit in a format that didn't offer much beyond seven-on-sevens. He continued to be accurate with his passes – most short and intermediate stuff given the limitations of the practice script – and was able to move and cut naturally. Wentz said he is more at ease with this particular model of brace on his left knee than others he has experimented with in the past, though he conceded that adjustment is ongoing.
"Carson is unbelievable," third-string quarterback Nick Sudfeld, a rising prospect in this organization, said. "They guy has been so determined and relentless in his recovery."
The Eagles remain quietly enthused about all of the strides Wentz has made, though the coaches and front office are resisting getting locked into any firm return date yet. Bottom line is if he continues on the trajectory he has been on since the spring, he will be starting games for the Eagles in September and quite possibly by Week 1. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles continued to get the starting reps at the start of camp, though everyone here knows that could be changing soon and Foles' lack of ego and unselfishness make that potentially awkward situation more comfortable.
"That's who he is – as humble as can be," Sudfeld said of Foles. "Nick's just an amazing guy the way he has handled this."
- I'd be shocked if the Eagles don't make at least two more trades before they play a game that counts. This roster is shaping up to be deeper than a year ago and possibly better than a year ago and barring a rash of injuries at particular position groups, they could have more running backs, quarterbacks and defensive backs than they can carry. Howie Roseman will be working the phones, trust me. They may well have too many quality players to fully utilize and if Roseman can spin some of that quantity into truly elite quality for a particular player, he'll explore every option to do so. And Foles is the biggest trade chip of all, who could yield a reward of future top drafts picks to replenish what they gave away to move up to get Wentz and keep the waters of young, cheap talent flowing here. There is a sense Sudfeld can play in the league and is developing quite well, which could provide ample cover in the event they did move Foles.
- Whether or not Jason Peters stays healthy is generally a legitimate question, but the hulking left tackle is running with the first team and all indications are he is good to go after suffering a season ending injury a year ago. As much is made of Wentz coming back, and rightfully so, if Peters anchors the left side with Lane Johnson on the right, this offense could actually be better than a year ago.
- Darren Sproles is another player flashing early after missing out on the Super Bowl a year ago due to injury. Sproles caught a screen pass from Wentz on Thursday and darted down the field and he is not a forgotten man here by any stretch. The emergence of Corey Clement a year ago as the pass catching alternative to starter Jay Ajayi means Philadelphia has even more weapons in the RPO game now than a year ago. "That's a special player," quarterback Nick Foles said of Sproles. Later he called him a "Hall of Famer."
- The vibe here is quite different from most defending champs I have been around in the past. The fact that so many of the team's true leaders – Wentz, Peters, Sproles, Jordan Hicks, specials teams stud Chris Maragos – missed out being able to take part in the playoff run – has kept everyone else from getting too caught up in what was already accomplished a season ago. Those guys are as motivated as ever to be a part of the very best this team has to offer, and while it won't be easy with the NFC so loaded, you get the sense being around here for a few days that the hurt of sitting out the Super Bowl with injuries will be a rallying cry that won't easily be expunged.
- The acquisition of defensive lineman Michael Bennett hasn't received as much fanfare given everything else going on here, but he still could be a quality contributing player in what should be a nice rotation of linemen. "He's going to be a great asset to the team … and not just for his play," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Michael is a great mentor to young players."
- The Eagles began camp with the following players on the PUP list – WR Alshon Jeffery, DE Brandon Graham and Maragos. Coach Doug Pederson wasn't ready to commit to a full timetable on their return yet.
- Pederson is preaching the need to stay determined after an offseason in which the Eagles were serenaded and praised by what is usually a very tough fanbase. Fighting against complacency is a mantra around here after finally getting over the Super Bowl hump. "The greatest enemy of success is complacency," said Foles in talking about the messages the coaches are sending. "You see it all the time and we're aware of that."
- Eagles personnel executive Joe Douglas has become a very hot name in NFL circles and Roseman made a very shrewd move in landing the former Bears and Ravens evaluator. Douglas has reached back with great success in helping steer the team to several Ravens players he knew from his time there (Timmy Jurnigan, Torrey Smith, and now, Mike Wallace, Haloti Ngagta and Kamar Aiken) and he has been a strong sounding board for the general manager. Expect him to be a hot name come January and the inevitable GM openings elsewhere and at the top of many lists. He has been a part of three Super Bowl teams and his time is now (or, in January/February, more to the point).
- Some around the league were surprised Schwartz did not generate more head coaching buzz and interviews last year. The Lions former head coach will get another shot at some point and – with his roots going deep back into the Ravens organization as Douglas' do – you wonder if they may be an intriguing package deal to some owner looking to reshape his franchise in 2019. Regardless, another strong season from this Eagles defense and I can't imagine Schwartz not being in a strong position to be a head coach again. Alas, with winning comes the inevitable departure of key components, and not just off the playing roster.