January 01, 2020
As the Eagles prepare for Sunday's NFC Wild Card matchup with the Seahawks, some of the injury news is already known — like, for example, Brandon Brooks being out for the year or DeSean Jackson being unable to return until next week, if the Eagles make it that far — but there are still several key players whose statuses are up in the air for this weekend's game at the Linc.
On Wednesday, head coach Doug Pederson rang in the new year by meeting with the media at the NovaCare Complex prior to the team's scheduled holiday walkthrough.
"We're getting close on a couple of guys," Pederson said. "I do expect Lane [Johnson] — especially because it's a walkthrough this morning — to be able to go through and take a few plays. I think Zach [Ertz] might be able to give us a little something this morning. You know, the rest of the guys, we've got to see. A little more day to day with them, and make sure they're closer to 100% before we stick them out there."
And it's worth noting that it was a walkthrough and not an actual practice, as Pederson used the term "mental reps" about eight times during his press conference, meaning a player's participation on Wednesday doesn't mean they'd be participating in a real practice. With that said, here's a look at what Pederson had to say about four key Eagles: Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, and Jalen Mills.
Let's start with Sanders (ankle), who has been instrumental in the Eagles late-season playoff push but left Sunday's win over the Giants with an ankle sprain and was ultimately unable to return. The good news for Sanders is that it appears to be a relatively mild low ankle sprain, and not the dreaded high angle sprain.
Pederson seemed quite high on Sanders' chances to play on Sunday, and said that they would take it easy with their rookie running back early in the week in order to avoid any setbacks.
"You've got to be careful early in the week — you don't want to set him back at all — but again, if we can get the mental reps from him, that's great," Pederson said. "And then see where he's at the week progresses."
For those concerned that the signing of Elijah Holyfield meant Sanders would miss the Seahawks game, Pederson said that addition was more about depth than anything else and that the Eagles typically carry four running backs on the roster, and this move gets them back to that number.
The Eagles starting tight end suffered a broken rib, a lacerated kidney and some sort of back injury early on in the Eagles penultimate game of the regular season, causing him to miss the finale against the Giants. And now, it's not looking great that he'll be back in time for the start of the playoffs. A previous report suggested that the kidney injury would likely heal on its own, but could keep Ertz out for the remainder of the playoffs, no matter how far the Birds advance. As of Wednesday morning, Ertz still hasn't been medically cleared for contact, but Pederson did say that he, like his injured teammates, would be taking "mental reps" at walkthrough.
As for the possibility of re-injuring himself, specifically his kidney, Pederson said Ertz's return will be left totally up to the doctors, unlike a guy like Sanders, who will likely get to make the decision to play on his own, based on his pain level and his tolerance.
"I'm going to leave that up to the doctors," Pederson said of Ertz' possible return. "Obviously when they clear him, they clear him, and then we play. But until that time, I don't know."
The Eagles starting right tackle has missed the last few games with an ankle sprain, but his status for Sunday's game remains up in the air. Like all the other players on this list, he'll be taking some mental reps during Wednesday's walkthrough and will likely be listed as a limited practice participant.
This leaves the right side of the Eagles offensive line in a bit of a tough spot with Brooks already out. If Johnson can't play, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who filled in nicely last week, will again take Johnson's tackle spot with Matt Pryor getting the start at right guard. If Johnson can play, Big V will slide over to guard, according to Pederson.
Mills, who injured his ankle in the win over the Giants, would also likely be a limited participant if the Eagles had an actual practice today. Instead, he'll have to settle for more of those mental reps.
"Jalen is improving," Pederson said. "Again, I think we get in these walkthroughs — if he can get mental reps today in the walkthrough, that would be great. And then we just see where he's at, he's kind of a day-to-day guy."
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