It was Wednesday and there were clouds in the sky, but a good chance they would still drift away as the Eagles practiced at the NovaCare Complex. On a near field, Josh Huff was working with the kickoff return team; one eye on the ball, the other on the clouds that would eventually lower and encircle him.
When the quarterbacks and receivers began their drills, Carson Wentz lofted long passes easily into that sky, and the receivers dashed along the sideline to meet them. It looks so simple in practice one would assume the deep pitch and catch is a staple of the Eagles offense rather than a trick so difficult it is rarely attempted.
And then Bryce Treggs ran down the sideline.
"He likes to throw the ball downfield," Treggs would say after practice, the Los Angeles kid talking about the North Dakota farm boy, both rookies, both taken by that long arc described when the ball gets very small and then suddenly very big again. "He throws a gorgeous deep ball. I tell him to put it out there, and my job is to go get it."
This was only one practice rep, with air and grass playing defense, but it was Treggs blistering down the field and the ball almost disappearing behind the clouds before descending into his hands, with receiver and ball at full speed - what? - 60 yards from scrimmage, 65 yards. It was many things, but mostly it just looked different from the others.
"There's no pressure. I've been catching balls all my life," Treggs said. "I've been waiting and preparing for this moment."
It appears almost certain Treggs will be active on Sunday for the first regular-season game of his professional career. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cal by the 49ers, but was waived after suffering a minor knee injury in the second preseason game. The Eagles signed him, put him on the 53-man roster, and have been bringing him along slowly as he recovered from the injury and learned the system. Even if Huff were still on the team, indications had been Treggs would get his chance against the Giants to inject some fizz into what has been a flat passing game.
"He's definitely got some speed. He can run deep and stretch the field," said cornerback Leodis McKelvin. "But you don't know until he's out there on the field. Practice can tell you something, but when game time comes and you throw them out there, some guys are practice players and some guys are gamers. You don't know what he may be until the lights come on."
As Treggs said, he's been getting ready to answer that question for quite a while. His father, Brian Treggs, was also a star receiver at Cal, the school record holder in receptions and yardage when he graduated with a legal studies degree. From as early as Bryce can remember, his father had him in the yard at night, and the routine was always the same: 100 catches. Every night.
The lessons continued when Brian coached the wide receivers at Bryce's high school, St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., making time around his law profession and his work with a younger son, also a football player, and two daughters who are competitive figure skaters.
Brian Treggs had come very close himself, but his NFL career was limited to four punt returns in two season-ending games for the 2-14 Seattle Seahawks in 1992. If there was a way to make it happen for Bryce, whose final receiving totals at Cal were greater than dad's, a little extra time was the very least he could do. However, while you can stand in the dusk and throw passes, and teach a good athlete how to catch them, you can't teach someone to run a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, which is what Bryce Treggs did at Cal's pro day, and it is the reason he will get his shot in the NFL.
"The thing my father always told me was to play fast. That's solves a lot of problems most of the time," Treggs said. "But there's a lot you have to focus on to stick here, not just playing fast. So, you watch the film and study the game, do all those things I've been doing since high school."
Treggs, at 6-foot and 185 pounds, would seem suited to the slot position, but he said he's been asked to practice at each of the three receiver positions. He's also been used at the speed positions on the special team coverage units.
"They seem a lot more comfortable with me. The first few weeks, I hadn't had training camp here, and I didn't get the installs, and they had to tell me what to do," he said. "Now, it's: 'Treggs, go to X.' 'Treggs, go to Z.' 'Treggs, go to S.' I know all three positions. I needed to get them to trust me before they put me out there. Hopefully, that's this week. I want to go out and make an impact."
Getting open for a pass that Wentz couldn't throw just as easily underhand would be an improvement for the offense.
"He obviously does have an asset, and it's his speed," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "We want to utilize that as soon as we can."
The sooner, the better. A little bit of vertical game will take pressure off the running backs; open up the clogged field for the underneath routes; and, perhaps most satisfying of all, free the young quarterback to send those passes arcing through the sky, beautiful as they hang in the clouds on their long way back to earth.
"The guy can fly," Wentz said of Treggs. "It will be interesting to see."