January 04, 2019
It seemed like with each new week that passed during the Philadelphia Eagles' 2018 regular season, another player was lost for a substantial amount of time with a significant injury. Some positional groups were hit harder than others, but special teams aside, none went unscathed.
On offense, the Eagles missed QB Carson Wentz, RB Jay Ajayi, RB Darren Sproles, RB Corey Clement, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Mike Wallace, WR Mack Hollins, TE Richard Rodgers, and OG Isaac Seumalo for at least two games each.
On defense, they missed CB Jalen Mills, CB Ronald Darby, CB Sidney Jones, CB Avonte Maddox, S Rodney McLeod, S Corey Graham, S/ST Chris Maragos, LB Jordan Hicks, DE Derek Barnett, DT Timmy Jernigan, and DT Haloti Ngata for at least two games each.
As such, the Eagles have had to scramble all season just to find players to sub in for the wounded. Most of these fill-ins, as you would expect, have not been good. However, a few guys picked up off the scrap heap have emerged as competent players worth keeping around for 2019. A short list of them:
• CB Cre'Von LeBlanc: The top three Eagles corners when the season began are all either on IR (Mills and Darby), or don't appear to be returning to the lineup anytime soon (Jones). As such, the Eagles were taking anyone they could find and inserting them into the lineup at corner. DeVante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan were clearly over-matched in real games, but LeBlanc stepped right in at the slot corner spot and played like he belonged.
"I think Cre'Von, in particular, has really solidified that nickel," Jim Schwartz said. "That nickel position is a really important position, and it's a tough position to play. You have to be a combination of a lot of things. He's been good tackler for us he's been tough, he's been quick, he's been able to play zone, and he's been able to play man. So all those things go into that spot.
"He also had a little bit of experience, too. Played that position for Chicago last year. So that helped to get him sort of up to speed. But I think that's probably been the biggest one."
LeBlanc will clearly be in Eagles training camp in 2019, and he'll have a great shot of making the team, at a minimum as a backup slot corner. With Maddox also playing well (and showing valuable versatility), the Eagles can probably feel more comfortable about letting Darby walk in free agency.
• DT Treyvon Hester: Hester has played 226 snaps this season at defensive tackle, and has played reasonably well, particularly against the run. On the season, Hester has 13 tackles (2 for loss), a sack, and 4 QB hits. He's currently getting a similar number of snaps as Ngata on the inside.
The Eagles could certainly use another starting DT to plop down next to Fletcher Cox, but at $645,000 on the cap in 2019, Hester could be a low-cost reserve, potentially allowing the Eagles to save some money that might otherwise be spent on a guy like Ngata.
• DE Daeshon Hall: It might be a little premature to include Hall here, seeing as he has only played 18 snaps with the regular defense, but he has 3 tackles, a half-sack, and a hit on the QB. He has also impressed Schwartz with his ability on kick coverage.
"I don't want to speak for Fipp, but I've enjoyed watching him run down on kickoffs," Schwartz said. "He's played hard, and that big body on kickoffs and special teams, he's found a way to contribute. That's another tip of the hat to him."
Hall was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2017, and many felt that he was something of a project, with upside. With a full offseason to work with him, maybe the Eagles can get unleash his potential.
Cre'Von, Treyvon, and Daeshon all rhyme, so there's that.
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