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December 29, 2022

Tyrone Johnson: Injuries are the biggest threat to the Eagles in the NFC

Happy New Year everyone! As the Eagles enter week 17, I feel very confident that they are the best team in the NFL when healthy. When healthy. The organization saw before the fans and nation just how good they were, and they handled preseason with a conservative, different approach. 

It came from both Nick Sirianni and the analytic department. The thinking was pretty simple: the more players that you get to the starting line healthy will mean the more that will make it to the finish line. We know how many players over the years around the league have been lost in the preseason and the Eagles did all they could to try to avoid that. The critics of the plan claimed that football is a dangerous game and that there is no shielding players from injuries. Others say that there is no other era with more information, and it is wise for the Eagles and others around the league to adjust training to the modern era. When you know better, you do better. The Eagles’ plan has worked out well overall, but football is still football, and the injuries, while not overwhelming in total numbers, are starting to mount in spots where they just can’t afford.

The obvious note first: Jalen Hurts sprained his shoulder. While that isn’t optimal, he should be just fine for the postseason thankfully. He is still the league MVP in my eyes. Gardner Minshew did well overall against the Cowboys considering it was his first start of the year and Miles Sanders’ fumble was far more costly than any of Minshew’s mistakes (Sanders owned his mistake and will be better going forward).

Minshew is better than seven to 10 starters in the NFL. Still, the Eagles can’t win the Super Bowl without Hurts under center. How many of you said, “the Eagles win that game with Hurts,” on Saturday? Minshew is a better QB than mortal Nick Foles. We saw that when they were both in Jacksonville. He is not nearly as good as the magical Foles the Eagles had when they won their only Super Bowl. Again, by all indications Hurts will be back, but it highlights just how fragile your chances are in the NFL.

Then came Avonte Maddox, who sustained what is said to be a “significant” toe injury against Dallas. We saw how Josiah Scott played when pushed into duty and it was problematic. With C.J. Gardner-Johnson also still sidelined with his lacerated kidney, it adds to the ongoing problem. Gardner-Johnson will probably be back for the postseason. He can play both in the slot and at the safety spot so the Eagles may be able to handle Maddox’s absence, but his injury makes things that much more complicated. I believe Johnathan Gannon was intentionally vanilla with his scheme last Saturday. He would likely do things to better hide Scott in the playoffs, but things are no doubt tougher without Maddox.

Later in that Cowboys game though was the big one, however, when Lane Johnson went down with a torn abductor muscle. Both NFL Network and the Inquirer have reported that Johnson has met with Philadelphia-based surgeon William Meyers to discuss options. Johnson is out for the regular season, but is putting off surgery to play through the injury in the playoffs. I applaud and marvel at the fact that Lane has been a warrior for the city for years. He played through a very bad ankle for multiple years and never complained. He handled his mental health situation as admirably as any pro athlete in the country. 

His injury has me very worried though, and not just for the Eagles. 

There were bad rumors that his injury would heal in a few weeks. Now we know he needs surgery. The abductor muscle helps open your hips. Lane Johnson is an offensive tackle. I can’t even imagine the amount of pain he will be in when he tries to play. For his sake, I hope he isn’t putting himself in any real long-term danger. Football is important, but his post-football future is more important. Assuming he does take the field, what are the odds that he will be effective? If anyone can do it, Johnson can, but it is scary. Jack Driscoll has played a lot over the years, but it is slowly starting to feel like the Super Bowl boat is taking on water.

I am still all-in on the Eagles making the Super Bowl. They are the best team, if relatively healthy, may have to be the new edict. Nobody is as good as the Eagles are, but I think we are at the point in the season where injuries are the biggest threat to the Eagles in the NFC.