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Carson Wentz’s injury, Eagles staying in Philadelphia, Sean McVay on Fletcher Cox | Early Birds

Keys for the Eagles on Sunday, links to all our coverage, and much more.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles meets Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff after the Eagles 43-35 on Sunday, December 10, 2017.  YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles meets Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff after the Eagles 43-35 on Sunday, December 10, 2017. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning. The Eagles practice at 1:20 p.m. today to continue preparing for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. Of course, the status of Carson Wentz will be the big story to watch.

This is a Thursday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. 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 @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Carson Wentz injured his back, Nick Foles preparing to start

Carson Wentz’s injured back was a surprise to begin the Eagles' week, but given the way the season has gone, it’s fitting that an injury dominates the news for the team. It’s always a bigger story when it involves the quarterback, though.

Wentz wasn’t at practice on Wednesday. There’s no official word on whether he’ll play this week, but it certainly sounded like the Eagles are getting ready to have Nick Foles at quarterback.

The injury did not occur in the Cowboys game. Wentz has been playing with the injury and it seems to have reached a point that the team felt it needed greater attention. It’s not yet know what prompted it or when – has it contributed to some of the recent inconsistencies? – but knowing Wentz, my guess is the only way he’s not on the field is if they’re not letting him play.

“Whether he plays this week, or whether he plays this rest of the year, he’s definitely doing everything he can to play,” tight end Zach Ertz said.

This is why Foles is on the roster. There’s a drop-off – Foles is an icon in Philly, but Wentz is the better quarterback – but Foles can win them games. It’s going to be tough for Foles to lead them to playoffs, though, or even get the win this weekend. Even Wentz was a big underdog to go into Los Angeles and come out with a win.

There are many unanswered questions about Wentz that should have more clarity in the coming days. But for now, it looks like that the Eagles will try to keep their season alive with Foles at quarterback.

Why didn’t the Eagles spend the week in California?

Last season, the Eagles stayed in Southern California before the Rams game. They had just played in Seattle, and instead of flying all the way back to Philadelphia and continue jumping time zones, they remained on the West Coast and didn’t need to disrupt their body clocks again.

Doug Pederson could have kept the Eagles out west after the Dallas game, but he elected to make it a normal week in Philadelphia. It might be different if they were on Pacific time last week, but Pederson didn’t think the back-to-back trips required a remote stay. It might be good for team camaraderie, but Pederson also considers the personal lives of the players.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Pederson said. “For me. it's about these players. We have all the resources available to us right here in Philadelphia. And, one, they're still around their families, their kids, and things like that. Plus, all the rehab and the sleep and everything that they can do, they can do it right here.”

The Eagles will actually stay on Eastern time during their entire time in California. So they’ll arrive on Saturday afternoon and operate as if they’re playing an 8:20 p.m. game on Sunday – not a 5:20 p.m. game – and never adjust to the time difference. The Eagles did that for the Chargers game last season.

“It was a success for us,” Pederson said. “I just feel it’s important that we try to keep the same consistency with everything we do, and this is part of it.”

Sean McVay: Fletcher Cox jumps off the screen

Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are the highest-profile defensive linemen in Sunday’s game, but Fletcher Cox is also in the category of top linemen in the league. Rams coach Sean McVay has prepared to coach against Cox for much of his career. Cox had three quarterback hits against the Rams in the game last season, so you can be certain he’ll be a focal point of the Rams’ game plan.

“I just think how disruptive he is,” McVay said when describing what stands out to him about Cox. “One of the things I really respect and appreciate about him is the relentless effort he plays with. Clearly he’s a powerful guy that can work edges, extremely strong, explosive player. I just think certain guys, you’re just watching the tape…and they jump off the screen. Fletcher’s been one of those guys who’s done that consistently.”

Cox’s goal was to win defensive player of the year this season. That won’t happen – Donald, last year’s winner, might be the frontrunner to repeat – but Cox had 1.5 sacks last week and would have had 2.5 if the Eagles did not accept a holding penalty.

Cox needs 3.5 sacks in the final three games to reach double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Carson Wentz’s status is unclear. Get the latest on the quarterback situation.

  2. How can the Eagles beat the Rams? Paul Domowitch writes they must commit to the run.

  3. Looking for the Eagles' problem this season? Marcus Hayes says it’s not Wentz.

  4. The Eagles have no plans to bring John DeFilippo back.

  5. The latest Birds' Eye View podcast breaks down Wentz’s injury. 

From the mailbag...

I don’t know how anybody expects to get better when the only practice TWO times a week I know rest is a good thing, but when things aren’t going well, practice makes improvement. Last year when things were not going so well they all told coach they wanted to practice with Pads. Now it seems like they practice only 2 times a week {& only ½ day practices at that} What’s up with that? – Rick, via email

Just to clarify, the Eagles practice three days – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – and they have a walkthrough on Saturday. They practiced twice last week because they were coming off a Monday night game and the Eagles want to give the players a certain amount of time after games to allow their bodies to recover. I can understand it. When you see some of these players after games, it’s clear the physical toll the game takes. I hear your point about last season, although that was also because the Eagles had a bye week in the playoffs. They wouldn’t have had such physical practices if they didn’t have the bye week.

At this time of year, some players just need to make it to Sunday. The meetings and game-planning are important, and practices have value as far as the scout team giving the starters the looks they need, but the Eagles have kept a fairly standard practice schedule other than short weeks or Thanksgiving week.

Now, are they practicing well enough? That’s a valid question. But I don’t think the problem right now is not practicing enough.