Could the Eagles' cautious approach with Carson Wentz impact his regular season play?

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz sat out the 11-on-11 portion of the team’s training camp session Friday morning. It’s fifth straight day he has not participated in this part of practice, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, though according to the team, it’s all to plan.

Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in Week 14 last year

Wentz, 25, tore his ACL and LCL in Week 14 of the 2017 season when he contorted his body reaching for the endzone against the Rams. The injury occurred on December 10, and returning from ACL reconstruction usually takes eight months at least (it can often take longer). That would put Wentz’s return date at roughly August 10, though that timetable certainly changes based on how severe the injury is, how the individual’s body reacts to the surgery and other factors.

At the time of his injury, Wentz was leading a Philadelphia team that had finished last in the NFC East the year before to the top of the division’s standings at 11-2. He was among the top candidates to win league MVP. In his second year out of North Dakota State, Wentz tossed 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and posted a league-best QBR of 74.4.

Of course, as history tells us, the Eagles still completed one of the most remarkable seasons in NFL history with Nick Foles at the helm. Philadelphia claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC, stormed through the conference and then beat New England 41-33 in Super Bowl LII, all with Foles at the helm.

Philadelphia fans shouldn’t be too worried about Wentz’s absence

As NBC Philadelphia reported on Wednesday, there has not been a setback regarding Wentz or his knee. Wentz, who took place in 11-on-11 drills three straight days last week, has not missed a single practice this training camp. He’s still not cleared for contact, though — remember that eight-month mark still hasn’t been met. And even though quarterbacks wear red jerseys to ensure they are not contacted, 11-on-11 at least presents the risk of incidental contact. Wentz seemed antsy, as any athlete would, but understanding:

“It’s just part of the plan. Haven’t been cleared for contact and I know that’s part of the reason. Obviously, as a competitor, you want to be out there. I got my feet wet and got out there and ran around and it felt great, but you’ve got to listen to what the doctors and coaches are saying and just trust the plan.”

Head coach Doug Pederson was similarly adamant in maintaining Wentz was on track.

“I’m very encouraged obviously where he’s at, and what I saw last week is enough to ease my mind. I don’t need to see him in 11-on-11.”

Eliot Shorr-Parks of reported Friday that Wentz has looked healthy and mechanically sound, which are both good signs. But he also reported that Wentz’s reps are significantly down from last training camp — that’s to be expected — and he has been rusty, a common issue for players coming off a major injury of any sort.

The big question: Will Carson Wentz be ready for Week 1?

It’s the question Eagles fans have asked if they’ve taken at least a slight pause from celebrating their first-ever Lombardi Trophy: Will Carson Wentz be ready for Week 1?

With the Eagles’ season opener against the Falcons under five weeks away, Wentz is certainly on a bit of a time crunch. And reps in training camp are really important, even for a player of Wentz’s caliber. It’s not unheard of for players to come out of the gate slowly after missing training camp time. The  Eagles have first-hand experience: Alshon Jeffery missed a significant chunk of training camp last year dealing with a shoulder injury and wasn’t as effective out of the gates. Across the state, Le’Veon Bell started slow last year for the Steelers after holding out of training camp, something he’s doing again this year.

As for quarterback examples, Robert Griffin III tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs and never was the same player after returning for the 2013 season opener. While Griffin III and Wentz are not nearly the same player, both rely on their mobility as a key part of their game. The same can be said for Ryan Tannehill, who opted against surgery following multiple knee sprains in late 2016, only to tear his ACL fully in 2017 training camp.

Philadelphia has a solid backup plan if Wentz can’t go

It’s a good sign Pederson was encouraged enough by Wentz’s 11-on-11 performances in the first week of camp, but that doesn’t mean Wentz’s absence won’t affect his play going forward. Practicing 11-on-11 matters, if only to get back into the swing of game-like situations, work on exchanges with centers and running backs, and face “live” defense. The Eagles will want to see a Wentz that resembles the 2017 MVP version, and not anything less.

The good news for Eagles fans — aside from Wentz’s apparent health — is that the backup situation is well in place. Foles, after all, is coming off of a masterpiece Super Bowl LII with 373 yards through the air, three passing touchdowns and one reception for a touchdown on the iconic “Philly Special.” He’s received plenty of work with the starters throughout training camp as Wentz’s work has been limited. So while Wentz could be completely healthy and confident by Week 1, if that timeline is unrealistic or uncomfortable, the Eagles don’t need to push it.

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Carson Wentz continues to work his way back from an ACL tear. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)