Eagles Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - At this point "the best quarterback room in the NFL" has almost become a cliche In Philadelphia but like most banal expressions, this one is rooted in some truth as the Super Bowl champions possess a top-10 player at the position, as well as the Super Bowl MVP and as good a developmental prospect as you could hope for.
In Mack Hollins' words: "We have the MVP, the Super Bowl MVP and a future MVP." and while the second-year receiver may have majored in hyperbole at North Carolina, the gist of his platitude is sound.
Of the 31 other QB situations in the NFL, no one is more talented or as deep at the game's most important position than the Eagles.
The only question is the health of Wentz, already rated as the third-best player in all of football by his peers despite the fact that his second professional season was cut short by a torn ACL and LCL on Dec. 10 of last year against the Los Angeles Rams.
Independent surgeons have told 973espn.com that the typical rehab timetable for that type of injury and subsequent surgery is nine months, which would put Wentz in peril for the Sept. 6 opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Wentz, though, seemed far ahead of that schedule during offseason work, consistently working in individual drills and also being cleared for some controlled seven-on-seven action.
"Part of the rehab process with him is just giving him a little more – I don't want to say freedom – but a little more practice time," Eagles coach Doug Pederson explained back in June. "One of the controlled environments that we can obviously put him in is a seven-on-seven situation. Being able to sprinkle him in and just watch him in more of an up-tempo type of a practice in those situations has been good."
Since Foles came up on the winning end of a duel with Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII back in February, Pederson has done his best to walk a tightrope that pays deference to what Foles did for the organization yet also points to the obvious conclusion here: when the doctors give the all clear to Wentz: the Eagles are his.
"I think on the outside world people looking at the Philadelphia Eagles, they would probably say, ‘Yeah, Nick deserves an opportunity.’ But this is the offseason still," Pederson explained. "We’re working a lot of people. Obviously encouraged with Carson’s progress on the field right now. He’s obviously very limited, as you know, just working through some seven on sevens."
And when Wentz is no longer limited?
"I think inside, he’s very hungry [to get back]," Pederson said. "I would be, you know. As a leader of the team, face of the franchise, he was drafted to be our guy long-term, very hungry. Listen, I still believe this is Carson’s team. I don’t think differently about that."
And according to the coach, neither does Foles.
“For sure,” Pederson said when asked if Foles agrees with that sentiment. “For sure.”
As the spring turns to summer, Pederson will continue to hear similar takes from many others but he's not concerned that it will fuel any acrimony between two players who are friends before teammates, never mind competitors.
"I just think there are no egos involved,” Pederson said. “They’re in this thing together. Both support each other. Nick supported Carson during the season last year, and then Carson turned around and supported Nick at the end of the year. Their relationship has carried over into this spring and summer, and it’s really good. I see them working in the classroom. I see them working on the field. They keep talking. They want to get better individually. They want to get our team better. And so it’s been a really good, really good dynamic between those two.”
As for Sudfeld, the 6-foot-6 project got plenty of work in team drills during the spring, and Philadelphia remains confident that he will ultimately be an excellent backup in this league.
"Nate works hard and he’s got a lot of skill,” quarterbacks coach Press Taylor said. “I’m impressed with how far he has come in a short period of time. He hasn’t been here even a year yet, and that’s important to keep in perspective. We want to continue to get him reps and develop him. This is a big summer for him.”
Joe Callahan, the Absecon native who got to work with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay for two years, is the fourth arm in camp and remains an insurance policy in case something happens on the trade front with Foles in August.
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Eagles is off-the-field where Pederson has to replace his two most-trusted lieutenants, former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now the head coach in Indianapolis, and highly-regarded position coach John DeFilippo, now the OC in Minnesota.
Former receivers coach Mike Groh was elevated to OC with the Eagles and Taylor, DeFilippo's former assistant, was promoted to handle the position on a day-to-day basis.
"It's been terrific throughout the course of the spring and working together to plan for phase one, two, OTA’s, and minicamp, and getting ready for training camp," Groh said when discussing the transition. "... I'm very fortunate to be here working for Coach [Pederson]. He's super sharp, so he's been really helpful."
QB1 Carson Wentz - A superstar-level player. Mental hurdle from ACL/LCL surgery is biggest question mark moving forward.
QB 2 Nick Foles - Best backup in football and a tremendous insurance policy.
QB 3 Nate Sudfeld - Solid developmental prospect who Eagles believe will be a capable backup.
QB4 Joe Callahan - Undersized Absecon native who only factors in if Eagles move Foles.
POSITION GRADE: 9.0
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen