October 19, 2020
The Eagles are essentially a walking infirmary right now after finishing Sunday's 30-28 loss to the Ravens with just two remaining starters on offense: Carson Wentz and Jason Kelce. And what's worse yet for Doug Pederson's team is that the injury bug isn't just limited to his starting unit. It's seeped down the depth chart, destroying any depth the team might have had coming into this season.
Just look at the team's offensive line, where they're already up to their 11th different combination of starters dating back to their preseason projection.
Here are Eagles' updated offensive line versions (some perceived) since May. New one likely incoming in Week 7. pic.twitter.com/jDh8OnqQ0j— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) October 19, 2020
If it was just one injury group that was hurt like this, it would be one thing. But the Eagles are also without all three of their projected starting wide receivers, both of their tight ends and their starting running back — and that's just on the offensive side of the ball.
Still, the team somehow managed to put up 28 points against a tough Baltimore defense, which was promising. The biggest problem, however, is the short turnaround the Birds now face heading into their Week 7 Thursday night matchup with the New York Giants. Some of the injuries the team is facing could be resolved if the team was scheduled to play on Sunday, but with the short week, the players will not only have less time to recover, but guys returning from injury will have fewer practice reps to integrate themselves back into the offense.
And that leaves Philly in a tough spot.
On Monday, a day after his team fell to 1-4-1 on the season — but somehow remained in second place in the NFC East — Pederson spoke to the media and the first thing he was asked about was the status of his recently injured players, namely Miles Sanders, Zach Ertz and Jack Driscoll on offense and Malik Jackson and K'Von Wallace on defense. Those five players all appeared in Sunday's loss, but none were able to finish the game.
And with the short week combined with the players still receiving tests, Pederson didn't have much of an update on the those guys specifically.
"Actually, I don't [have any updates yet], guys," Pederson said. "I'm actually going to have more updates later today. I haven't done the medical report yet with our docs, so I really don't have anything to update on the injury front."
Because of the Thursday night game, the Eagles will have to release their first injury report of the week on Monday, so we will likely learn more later in the day and will update it here.
UPDATE [4:04 p.m.] — The Eagles released their first injury report of the week, and while it was only an estimate, the biggest surprise on this list was that Lane Johnson would not have participated if it was a full practice. Each of the other five players held out on Monday were injured in Sunday's game, so that was to be expected.
That's not a great sign for Johnson's status on Thursday night, and with Jack Driscoll looking like he'll be out (based on Chris Mortensen's report below) and Matt Pryor still on the COVID list, things could really get dicey on the right side of that offensive line. Stay tuned...
But in the meantime, there have been some reports regarding the health of the Eagles players, and we've got the latest for you right here (we'll also continue to update this post throughout the day with any further news that breaks).
Zach Ertz suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter against the Ravens and did not return to the game. According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, both he and Miles Sanders were expected to undergo MRIs today, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen provided an update on both early Monday afternoon following Doug Pederson's availability. And it's not great.
Eagles expect Miles Sanders to miss Thursday night's game with knee injury... Zach Ertz also expected out for 3-to-4 weeks with an ankle injury, according to sources.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 19, 2020
Adam Schefter added a few minutes later that it's a dreaded high-ankle sprain for Ertz and confirmed that he should miss about a month.
Interestingly enough, Dallas Goedert, who missed the last three weeks with a fractured ankle, is eligible to come off injured reserve Monday, but that's hardly a guarantee and the short turnaround makes it almost a certainty he doesn't return this week. Still, the Eagles have two more games before their bye week, so they shouldn't have to go with Richard Rodgers as the starter for very long even if Goedert's injury keeps him out until then.
Unfortunately with both he and Sanders out this week (more on Sanders in a bit), a very winnable game against the Giants, one in which they opened as a 6-point favorite according to TheLines.com, becomes all the more difficult.
The update on Miles Sanders is a bit more vague, with Mort only reporting that he would be out for Thursday's game against the Giants — there's no word yet on the severity of his injury or whether it will keep him out beyond this week. However, on Sunday night, Glazer did report that the team was more concerned over Sanders' injury than they were over Ertz, so either that miscalculated something, got some surprisingly good news on Sanders, or there's a bigger update on the running back yet to drop.
With the way this year has been going, would option No. 3 really surprise you?
Sanders, who injured his knee on his long touchdown run on Sunday, also sent out this ominous tweet:
Adversity visits the strong, but stays with the weak. I’ll be aight!— Miles Sanders (@BoobieMilesXXIV) October 19, 2020
An extended Sanders absence is a problem on several levels, for as effective as Sanders has been this season, the running backs behind him have been equally ineffective. But that didn't stop Pederson from saying he's confident in a running-back-by-committee featuring Boston Scott, Corey Clement and Jason Huntley.
"I think, yeah — hopefully Miles is OK and he is available, but Boston [Scott], Corey [Clement] and [Jason] Huntley are the guys that would be in that running-back-by-committee, so to speak," Pederson said. "[That] would be our next move. Obviously, [Adrian] Killins is an opportunity as well, it would just depend on the rest of the roster, as you know, to get him up. But, yeah, we know Boston has played, we know Corey has played, Huntley's the only one that's really limited from the standpoint of playing, but we've got confidence in all three of those guys to get the job done."
The stats, however, suggest otherwise, especially with a patchwork offensive line that could still be down to just one starter (more on that in a bit). Here's a look at what the Eagles have gotten out of each running back this season:
*Carson Wentz is actually the team's second leading rusher with 28.5 YPG and 4 TDs.
And that's not even counting Sanders contributions in the receiving game.
Pederson did add that the team is "hopeful" to have Sanders back this week, but if he's sidelined against the Giants, could the Eagles turn to one of their more successful offensive players this season? Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, with whom the team is averaging 10 yards per play when he's on the field...
"In the case of Jalen, you saw yesterday some of the X plays or some of the plays that are un-scouted with him have been productive for us in the last three-four weeks," Pederson said. "I think it's something that we've got to continue to explore. It does give us the ability to run the football with him, so he's like, I don't want to say another running back, but he's a quarterback that can run the zone read plays from the quarterback position.
"So it's something that we're definitely going to continue to explore each week if it's conducive. It has been successful for us and I could see things continuing each week that way."
If nothing else, it's an option for the Eagles to try if Scott, Clement and Huntley can't get anything going on the ground.
The rookie right tackle, who was filling in for Lane Johnson, was carted off late in the game after Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell appeared to roll over on his ankle. Brett Toth went in to replace Driscoll, but the team had no update on the offensive lineman as of Monday morning. A couple of hours later, Mort provided some insight on Driscoll, saying that he'd likely be out for two weeks.
Hopefully, it won't be that big of an issue issue if Lane Johnson (more on him in a bit) can return from his ankle injury on Thursday night.
Defensive line has been one of the areas the Eagles have not only remained healthy but have played consistently well this season. The former changed a bit on Sunday when Malik Jackson went down late with a quad injury. Like Driscoll, Mort is reporting that this is a two-week injury for the big defensive tackle.
The @Eagles are also looking at possible two-week injury absences for DL Malik Jackson and T Jack Driscoll but guardedly hopeful on getting couple players back for game vs. @Giants on TNF. https://t.co/JpgXL0KYMC— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 19, 2020
The good news is, it's one of the areas where the Birds have some depth, and Javon Hargrave and Hassan Ridgeway can slide right in. Unfortunately for the Birds, Jackson has been a beast this season and losing him could have a trickle down effect on the rest of the interior line rotation. Like the others, there was no update on Jackson so stay tuned for the latest.
The rookie safety, who has been seeing most of his playing time on special teams, suffered a scary shoulder injury while making a really impressive tackle in punt coverage. Wallace remained down for a few minutes before getting up on his own and being helped gingerly into the locker room. He did not return, and appeared to be in significant pain. How serious the injury is — and how long it keeps him sidelined — remains to be seen.
What about the other injured players who didn't appear in the game on Sunday but have been working to get back on the field? Like, DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Alshon Jeffery (foot) and Lane Johnson (ankle).
As has been the case for several weeks now, Pederson said the team is optimistic they'll be ready this time around — but not without hedging by pointing out that it's a short week and could be tough for them to get up to speed.
"Well, obviously, you know Alshon and DeSean have been practicing with us — and DeSean last week — and so, obviously [we'r] optimistic. But it's a short week, so you don't know how guys are going to respond physically. We'll see where they're at, because with short weeks we don't get actual live reps in practice, so we keep everything at more of the traditional walk-through. And so, that's kind of where we're at. Lane Johnson is in that same boat with those two guys."
It sounds positive on it's face, but then you realize this is almost the same exact thing they've been saying, at least about Jackson and Jeffery, every Monday for almost a month now.
Keep an eye on their statuses this week.
Right guard Matt Pryor was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list last week after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. There's a chance he's cleared in time for the Giants game, but even if he's not, Pederson said he has options, which is a generous way to put it.
"Well, we've got some options — as crazy as that sounds, we do have some options at guard. We've got [Sua] Opeta, who can play, [Nate] Herbig can move in there, we have Jamon Brown. We're hopeful Pryor, with being on the COVID list, I believe we can get him back as well, so we'll have some options there moving into this week. We've got to do what's best for the football team, what's best for the offense. We'll make those determinations here pretty quick."
In other words, Pederson has options in the way Sophie had options.
According to the Eagles coach, however, there's a chance that Pryor doesn't make a return to the starting lineup even if he's cleared.
"Yeah, I'll tell you, it's difficult this week because it's a short week," Pederson said when asked if the job was Pryor's once he's cleared. "You understand? If we get him back, it's hard to get the reps to be ready to be a starter. It'd be different if we had a full week and we were playing on Sunday or Monday. It's just something we have to look at and evaluate because some of these other guys are going to be getting the bulk of the reps today and tomorrow."
Interestingly enough, he didn't mention that as a concern when talking about Lane Johnson, who would be coming back from an actual injury.
That's all we've got on the injuries for now, but stay tuned as this post will probably get more than a few updates throughout the afternoon and evening.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports