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December 16, 2019

Eagles injury updates: Several players 'trending in the right direction,' but what the hell does that even mean?

The latest comments from Pederson could be good news for Nelson Agholor, Lane Johnson, Jordan Howard and others. Or it could be totally meaningless.

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5_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Jordan_Howard_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

The last time we saw Jordan Howard on the field was back in Week 9 against the Bears. But don't worry, he's been trending in the right direction for almost a month.

For what feels like the first time in a while, the Eagles actually escaped a game with both a victory and their health, as there weren't any major injuries sustained by Philly in Sunday's 37-27 win over Washington. 

And, honestly, it's about damn time. 

That being said, there are still plenty of key players on the mend for the Birds, and they're hoping to have several of them back for this week's all-important matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Against Washington, the Eagles were without starting right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), their top remaining wide receiver in Nelson Agholor (knee) and, once again, their former* starting running back Jordan Howard (shoulder). On defense, the Birds were without defensive end Derek Barnett all day and without cornerback Ronald Darby for a good amount of the game, although he's expected to be fine.

*It's safe to assume this is now Miles Sanders' backfield.

According to head coach Doug Pederson — and, please, stop me if you've heard this one before — all their injured players are "trending in the right direction."

"Everybody is trending in the right direction. I'm optimistic," Pederson said at his day-after press conference. "Lane, obviously, is going to be a day-to-day thing. He is getting better, [but I] don't expect him to do a whole lot today, tomorrow, Wednesday right now. We'll see where he's at later in the week. Nelly's [Agholor] in the same situation. Jordan is in the same situation. So really no change, or anything further with them.

"Derek Barnett is doing better. We'll expect him to do something later in the week, see where he's at, get him on land and get him going. So everybody's getting there. It's a slow process, but they're healing."

This is pretty much the same thing Pederson has said every time he's been asked about his injured players, and saying that they're "trending in the right direction" is like saying the hands on the clock are moving forward. Because if your injured players are resting and are somehow trending in the wrong direction, then you have a serious problem on your hands. 

What precisely Pederson means by that — and how it relates to those players' status for Sunday's game against Dallas — is open for interpretation. By all accounts, Howard has been trending in the right direction since his injury occurred back in Week 9, but we have no evidence that he's any closer to a return to the field. 

Don't believe me? Here's what the Eagles head coach had to say about Howard back on November 27, prior to the Dolphins game in Week 13, when asked if there was a chance Howard's injury, which was originally diagnosed as a stinger, could be a more long-term injury: 

DOUG PEDERSON: It's day-to-day. It is going, it is progressing, it's trending obviously in the right way. We just have to make sure that he gets his strength back before we can put him back out there.

And here's what he said five days before that, heading into the Seahawks game:

DOUG PEDERSON: He can do individual stuff. It's a tough injury. It’s a tricky injury. Again, until I get more updates and further notification on him, that's where he is at. He's progressing. He's trending [in the right direction].

There have been other examples of this as well, specifically with Agholor and Jeffery, who were both "trending in the right direction" heading into the Seahawks game — Pederson even made a joke in that presser about "trending" being the word of the day after he also used it to describe another player's status — only to eventually be declared active on that Sunday.

On that Monday, after the Seahawks loss, Pederson used his favorite phrase again to describe their status when asked why they ultimately missed that Week 12 game. Here's the question and answer from the Eagles own transcript of the presser: 

Q. WR’s Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor were "trending" in the right way on Friday and then they didn't play. What changed between Friday and Sunday?

DOUG PEDERSON: They're still trending in the right direction. They just weren't ready to go.

In other words, don't think that just because of Pederson's optimistic comments that these guys are all likely to return to action on Sunday, even with the stakes as high as they are. Sure, the entire season may come down to their matchup with the Cowboys, but Pederson isn't willing to rush anyone back. 

"Bottom line is I'm not going to risk further injury with anybody for a game," Pederson said. "But if they're capable of playing in this football game, then we'll make that determination later in the week."

Sure, there's a chance that all of these players return against Dallas — but there's also a chance the Eagles continue on without them. And while it was enough to get the job down against the Giants and Redskins, it might be a tough ask against the Cowboys.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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