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The Eagles can make the playoffs if...

OVER THE past week or so, you've seen a lot of Eagles training camp preview stuff on whatever media platforms you favor, but you might not have learned too much you didn't already know.

Quarterback Sam Bradford will have to stay healthy for the Eagles to have any chance of making the playoffs.
Quarterback Sam Bradford will have to stay healthy for the Eagles to have any chance of making the playoffs.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

OVER THE past week or so, you've seen a lot of Eagles training camp preview stuff on whatever media platforms you favor, but you might not have learned too much you didn't already know.

There is a very good reason for this. We, the intrepid Eagles media, haven't seen or talked to these guys in six weeks. The story lines haven't changed since minicamp wrapped up June 9. (Unless you count Nelson Agholor not being charged over that sexual assault allegation as a football story line.)

New stuff needs to happen, for us to refresh and reshape the Eagles' 2016 mosaic, and starting Monday, it will. Rookies and select vets reported to NovaCare Sunday and will take the field early Monday morning. Vets report Wednesday. The first full-team practice is Thursday.

It's tempting to say we've never known less about an Eagles team heading into camp, but that probably isn't true. Every year is weird in its very own way. In 2011, the lockout abruptly ended, free agency began while camps opened, and the Eagles signed what seemed like half their starters on the fly. That was chaos.

But this is the first time I can recall the team going into camp with a starting quarterback everyone knows won't be here next year, almost regardless of what he does. And I'm pretty sure there has never been an Eagles camp where the most important figure was a guy the coaches hoped not to have to put into a game.

There is your overriding theme, this week and every week - the Sam Bradford-Chase Daniel-Carson Wentz quarterbacking dance, and how rookie coach Doug Pederson handles it.

The decision to expend the resources required to move up in the draft to nab Wentz second overall dramatically affected expectations. The 2015 Eagles went 7-9 after back-to-back 10-6 seasons, and for this, their coach was fired, one of the implications being that the talent was better than the result. Yet the 2016 Eagles are in the second-from-the-bottom tier of teams when it comes to Las Vegas Super Bowl odds, at 66-1, according to Bovada. It's hard to find a national or local analyst who thinks their ceiling is higher than 8-8 or 9-7.

Some of this has to do with Pederson's lack of a coaching pedigree, but most of it has to do with the fact that the players and picks Howie Roseman expended to get Wentz could have been used on difference-makers at wideout, running back, offensive line, linebacker or cornerback, all of which the Eagles might need to become serious contenders.

That said, let's play a little game. "The Eagles can become a playoff team this year, IF . . . "

I'm going to list a series of things that could help make that happen. You're free to speculate on how likely any or all of them are.

1. Sam Bradford stays completely healthy.

This would imply a good job by the offensive line in protecting him. I do think Bradford played well down the stretch last year, and I'm kind of pulling for this scenario, however unlikely it might seem, because I really want to see how management spins trading or releasing its starting QB after he has led the team to the playoffs. (Well, yeah, but see, we DRAFTED this OTHER guy, and . . . )

2. Jordan Hicks stays healthy, and is everything he seemed to be during that all-too-brief glimpse last season.

Hicks is one of the most impressive Eagles rookies I've covered. A leader and a playmaker, now a 4-3 middle linebacker, playing behind a Wide 9 front. If he's for real, the defense probably works. But just for good measure, make 2(a) If Jim Schwartz really is a defensive genius, and 2(b) If the biggest reason the 2015 defense collapsed really was the inability of Chip Kelly's offense to stay on the field.

3. Running back Wendell Smallwood becomes a rookie sensation.

I was going to go with "if Ryan Mathews stays healthy," but how many of those "health" ifs in a row are you allowed? And Mathews never stays healthy, so let's talk about Smallwood, the fifth-round rookie from Wilmington, Del., via West Virginia.

He looked smooth and strong in the spring, with no pads on. The Eagles might need him to be at least what seventh-rounder Bryce Brown was in 2012 (564 yards on 115 carries), with that contribution spread out more than Brown's, which came in just a few memorable games.

West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider told me Smallwood was "the best back in this draft at catching the ball," which ought to help get him on the field in a West Coast scheme. Carpe Diem, Wendell. You could not have been drafted into a situation offering more opportunity.

4. If a Pro Bowl receiver emerges from somewhere.

Jordan Matthews? Nobody works harder. Darren Sproles from the slot? He's probably the team's most feared weapon, even at 33. Zach Ertz, as has been predicted before? Ertz needs to work with the same quarterback for an entire season, which means both he and the QB would have to be healthy. If that ever happens, Ertz has the size and ability to be a go-to tight end.

5. If Isaac Seumalo can make up for lost time and become a strong rookie starter at left guard.

Seumalo, a third-round pick, missed most of the spring work because Oregon State is on the quarter system. The first guy the Eagles drafted after Carson Wentz will begin camp behind returning starter Allen Barbre.

I have heard the justifications for Barbre, that he was unfairly maligned last season, that he graded out pretty well in film review, and I just don't buy it. If he starts dominating people in a new blocking scheme, I'll apologize. Until then, let's see Seumalo. Of course, left guard, where he'll be working, is the only spot on the o-line where he never started a college game, in 37 outings.