Matthews Sidelined for a Few Weeks
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - After the Eagles last full-scale practice before Thursday's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, first-year coach Doug Pederson made a little news by declaring that the much-discussed live periods in this year's training camp are done and that his top receiver, Jordan Matthews, will be missing a few more weeks of practice with a strained knee.
Whether one has to do with the other is up for debate but Matthews' injury came during a live period on Friday of last week when rookie cornerback Jalen Mills went low on the 24-year-old wideout.
Pederson added that he hopes to have Matthews back in time for the all-important third preseason game, where starters generally get most of their work. If that timetable comes to fruition, Matthews should be on track to play Week 1 against Cleveland.
Philadelphia's other top receiving option, tight end Zach Ertz, has also been hit low on two occasions by safeties Rodney McLeod and Blake Countess, and has already had a concussion scare.
"I'm not concerned as much about that," Pederson said when talking about the injurieds "I just have to look at the overall health of the football team. It's not about getting somebody hurt, but it's about protecting the guys out here. They have been doing an excellent job. These last six days have been tough. I wanted it to be tough on them."
The Eagles only have four full-scale practice sessions remaining in this year's training camp and will continue to have thud periods but tackling to the ground if now off the table.
"The padded days are not over," Pederson said. "The live tackling drills will probably be over. But we will continue to practice in pads throughout training camp and into the regular season."
Pederson, meanwhile, set his rotation at the quarterback position for the preseason opener after practice, revealing that Sam Bradford will start and get a cameo appearance before things shift to backup Chase Daniel for the remainder of the first half.
That means the much-anticipated debut of rookie Carson Wentz will have to wait until the start of the third quarter.
"We have been out here going against each other for quite some time now so I think we are ready to play someone else and I'm excited to play in the Linc, play in front of these fans and finally get my opportunity," the second overall pick said.
It's been an up and down camp for Wentz, who has flashed his impressive physical skill set at times but has had trouble adjusting to the speed of the game on occasion and struggled with his footwork at times, a mechanical issue that can lessen his accuracy.
Thursday's game is by no means a final exam but it will be the first opportunity to see Wentz in a real NFL environment.
"First of all, I'm not wearing a red jersey," Wentz said when asked what will be different against the Bucs. "The live bullets will be coming so the reaction will be a little different. The game will be a little different. ...and obviously, we will be playing in front of the fans so that will be a lot of fun."
For Pederson, however, it's about much more than fun.
"I just want to see that execution," the coach said. "I want to see (Wentz) lead the football team; especially in this first game."
MONDAY NOVACARE NOTES:
-Sixers coach Brett Brown, rocking the full beard, and GM Bryan Colangelo were at practice today. Senator Bob Casey was also on hand.
-Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was forced to leave practice early with hamstring soreness, something to keep an eye on because the veteran has struggled with those types of issues in the past. Najee Goode worked with the first-team in Kendricks' absence.
-Along with Matthews, left tackle Jason Peters (quad), safety Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring), running back Wendell Smallwood (quad), defensive end Marcus Smith (concussion), defensive tackle Mike Martin (knee) and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring) remained sidelined, which likely means none are playing on Thursday.
-Bradford was scheduled for media availability after today's practice but was excused to attend to a personal matter.
-Brandon Graham continued to mix in with the first team at left end and it looks like the Eagles are concerned with setting the edge on what's typically the strong side because all three of their top DEs, and really all four if you add Smith into the equation, are best-suited on the weak side.
-Rookie undrafted receiver Paul Turner may have the best hands on this team. In a camp plagued by drops up and down the receiver corps, Turner, a Louisiana Tech product, has been really consistent catching the football. At 5-foot-10, he's best suited for the slot and it remains to be seen if he has enough speed to gain consistent separation but Pederson has mentioned him on a couple of occasions when talking about young players who've stood out to this point.
-Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel and cornerback Denzel Rice were all wearing the helmet cameras today.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen