Pederson Will be Boxed in at QB Soon Enough
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The one question Eagles fans really want to be answered isn't going to be, probably until the players themselves slip and let the media know how the first-team work is being divvied up in practice next week.
Will he or won't he?
Will Carson Wentz be cleared for Week 1 against Atlanta, seven days short of the ninth-month goal multiple independent surgeons have told 973espn.com would be a reasonable goal for a high-level athlete coming off ACL and LCL repair surgery?
In Wentz's case, he was injured on Dec. 10 of last year and had the surgery three days later making Sept. 13 the nine-month mark, one week after the home-opener against the Falcons.
"I'm not going to put myself in a box, I'm not going to put my quarterback in a box," a defensive Doug Pederson said Sunday. "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to go out on a limb and I'm not going to say that. Either ask it a different way or otherwise I'm -- you're going to get the same answer."
Wentz himself had repeatedly stressed that Week 1 in his goal and has claimed it will be "close" while Pederson has answered question after question about his star quarterback's status since the spring, something that seems to be wearing on the coach in the wake of a dismal offense contributing to an 0-3 preseason to date.
"I don't know how many times I can answer this question," Pederson said. "When [the doctors] clear him, he'll be cleared."
Understand that the Eagles don't have to provide concrete injury updates until next week and letting the public in on Wentz's status for the Falcons would erase at least a slight competitive advantage for Philadelphia.
After all, if Dan Quinn doesn't know who to prepare for between Wentz and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, he and his staff will have to spend some time on both.
To be honest, though, if you are ready for Wentz you should be able to stop Foles as well something Pederson acknowledged earlier this month.
"I think so," the coach answered when asked about a potential competitive advantage. "But, again, it's not Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick [a drastic style difference], you know what I mean? So in this case, I think it's very similar. At the same time, I think it doesn't hurt to not put it out there who is going to start right away."
There are some differences between the two QBs of course and the Eagles are a much-heavier RPO team with Foles because that's what he's comfortable with. Wentz, on the other hand, is far more well-rounded.
"My first couple of years here, oftentimes I didn't know who was going to play quarterback, so I just concentrated on getting open, and when the ball's in the air, just making plays," Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz said. "Whether it's Nick or Carson or Nate Sudfeld, we've got all the confidence in the world in all three of those guys. ... I'm sure as a team we'll know and when that announcement takes place, everyone will support that decision 100 percent."
There is no competitive benefit at this stage to announce Wentz has been cleared by doctors and it's really of no consequence anyway because those red shirts in practice mean you can't hit the QB anyway.
The only tea leaf left that matters now is reps. Last week Wentz and Foles split the first-team work and this week Pederson refused to talk about his plan.
"Well, we're not into next week, we're into the Jets," Pederson insisted, "so I'm not worried about that yet right now."
Once there is a clear tipping point in practice reps identified, we'll finally know which QB is earmarked for Atlanta.
"I think about it, but at the end of the day, it's really not going to help me either way," All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said. "I'd like Carson to be in there if he's healthy, but if not, we can hold off. We're really probably not going to get the green light 'til next week."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen