Good morning, Eagles fans. The team is off today after a 2-hour, 40-minute full-contact practice Thursday morning. It was just one of two full-contact workouts the Eagles will have during training camp.

They’ll be back on the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday morning, then have their one and only open-to-the-public training-camp practice Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. That practice will start at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. Proceeds will go to the Eagles’ Autism Challenge. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will talk to the media at 6:40.

This is a preseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here​. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @pdomo. Thank you for reading.

— Paul Domowitch (earlybirds@inquirer.com)

Greg Ward Jr., who spent the spring in the short-lived American Alliance of Football league, has been flashing in the first week of training camp.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Greg Ward Jr., who spent the spring in the short-lived American Alliance of Football league, has been flashing in the first week of training camp.

A spring-league boost

After two previous unsuccessful attempts at making the Eagles’ 53-man roster, wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. is back for a third try. The team’s first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans still is six days away. But Ward is having an excellent training camp and has earned the attention of the Eagles’ coaching staff.

Ward, who spent the spring playing for the San Antonio Commanders in the short-lived American Alliance of Football, was one of the standouts of the Eagles’ first full-contact practice Thursday.

He got a lot of reps in both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work and caught everything thrown to him. He made what might’ve been the best catch of the day on a touchdown throw from Nate Sudfeld in the red zone, adjusting his body in traffic to haul in the pass.

Ward was signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad.

“It was good going against our No. 1 defense (in practice) and competing against those guys every day,’’ Ward said.

Last year, after failing to make the team, he was again signed to the practice squad, but was abruptly released one week into the season. He spent four months out of a football job before signing with the AAF. The Eagles signed him right after the league folded in April.

“(The AAF) was a valuable experience for him to play and get out there and compete,’’ Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s a guy that we know. He knows our system. He’s getting comfortable in the slot.

“We’re kind of moving him around a little bit. He’s showing up on tape. We’ve been excited by his progress.’’

Even if he continues to play well this summer, Ward hardly is a lock to make the team. The Eagles are going to keep no more than six, and possibly only five, wide receivers on their 53-man roster.

Four of those spots belong to Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, DeSean Jackson and rookie second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The frontrunner for the fifth spot, if he can stay healthy, is 2017 fourth-round pick Mack Hollins, who caught 16 passes as a rookie before missing last season with a pair of groin tears. He has been sidelined the last three days with yet another lower body injury, but Pederson said he is expected to return “in the next few days.”

Two other wideouts who are in the mix for a roster spot are Charles Johnson and Marken Michel.

Mack Hollins' health could influence Greg Ward's chances of making Eagles' roster.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Mack Hollins' health could influence Greg Ward's chances of making Eagles' roster.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

TWITTER

Thanks for the question, GoalChasing. It’s still a little early to throw in the towel on Clayton Thorson, but he definitely has struggled in the first week of camp. I don’t think the Eagles would release him, but I could see them putting him on the practice squad. The key here is going to be whether the Eagles want to keep three, or just two, quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.

Nate Sudfeld has been up and down thus far, but pretty much is a lock to be Carson Wentz’s backup. Given Wentz’s injury history, though, and given Sudfeld’s inexperience, I would think the Eagles would want to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The question they have to ask at some point is whether they feel Cody Kessler is good enough to be that No. 3 guy, or whether they want to bring in someone else.

Eagles by the numbers

In DeSean Jackson’s first seven NFL seasons, including six with the Eagles, he had 50 receptions of 40 yards or more. In the last four years, he’s had just 15. Had just one in 2017, but finished tied for seventh in the league last year in 40-plus-yard catches with five.