Eagles' fears with Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks injuries confirmed

Eagles' fears with Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks injuries confirmed

The biggest win of the season didn't come without a couple huge losses. 

The Eagles confirmed some bad news on Tuesday afternoon: Linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters are out for the season.

Hicks ruptured his right Achilles two snaps into the Eagles' 34-24 win over the Redskins on Monday Night Football. Peters was carted off in the second half with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Head coach Doug Pederson confirmed both injuries on Tuesday afternoon. 

Go ahead and add them to the growing list of important players injured this season. 

"They rally around the guys that are hurt, No. 1, support them," Pederson said. "But at the same time, we still have a lot of football left. We still have a game this Sunday and the season's not over." 

The two key injuries were the only downside to the Eagles' win Monday night, which gave them a commanding lead in the NFC East and a great shot at nabbing a first-round bye. At 6-1, the Eagles have the best record in the NFL. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai will take over for Peters at tackle. It's unclear yet whether Vaitai will play left tackle or swap positions with right tackle Lane Johnson, but it seems very possible Big V will simply take over for Peters on the left side. Pederson mentioned how well Johnson is playing at right tackle and there are plenty of very good pass-rushers coming -- Von Miller, Khalil Mack -- who generally rush on that side. 

Pederson said he will meet with offensive coordinator Frank Reich and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland later on Tuesday or Wednesday morning to formulate a plan.

As for tackle depth, it appears for now that versatile lineman Isaac Seumalo would be the next tackle up, while Dillon Gordon could be signed from the practice squad. Pederson said the team will also explore options outside of the building.  

Losing Peters is a huge blow for the Eagles, as shown by the entire team going on the field to wish him well. 

"It just shows the love and respect the guys have for him," Pederson said. "And the chants in the crowd from the fans, (it) was breathtaking to experience that for a guy that means a lot to this organization and to this community, this city. His blood, sweat and tears have been on that practice field and game field for a long time. Lot of Pro Bowls. It's just the love that everybody has for him and to see that yesterday was pretty awesome."

On defense, the Eagles play about 70 percent of their snaps in nickel, meaning only two linebackers are on the field. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks (who missed Monday's game with a hamstring injury) figure to form that duo moving forward, with Joe Walker and Najee Goode filling in on base downs. The Eagles also have recently-called up Nate Gerry on the roster. 

Still, losing Hicks is obviously a huge deal. He's not only a very good player but is the quarterback of the front seven, responsible for aligning the linebackers and linemen. 

While Kendricks missed Monday's game, Pederson said the veteran linebacker was close to playing and thought a few more days of rest would do him good. Once thought to be a possible trade chip, the Eagles will need him back for the rest of the season. 

As for Ronald Darby, Pederson said the cornerback is "getting close." Darby will practice again this week. He hasn't played since dislocating his ankle in the opener. 

Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

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Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

The strength of the Eagles is built on fundamental, sound pay on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Yes, the play of Carson Wentz is the biggest reason the Birds are 9-1, but the play of the defensive line and offensive line are also major factors.

There was no question coming into the season that the DL would pull its weight. I doubt if knowledgeable football minds could argue against the D-line being ranked the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz centered his defense around the play of his D-line's ability to generate constant pressure on opposing offenses, whether that's in the run game — the Eagles are the NFL's best run defense — or creating havoc on quarterbacks in the pocket. The defensive line has allowed the young secondary to catch up and perform well above expectations, and then Ronald Darby returned Sunday in Dallas (see story).

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line has also become a top-five unit in the NFL, and that's without future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. I know Carson Wentz wouldn't argue that.

In Sunday's 37-9 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles' O-line, against a pass rush with featuring a stout defensive front that includes NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawerence (11 1/2), didn't allow a sack. A lot of credit goes to Lane Johnson for his work on Lawrence.

With no real individual leader to hold this Eagles' offense's hat on, it's a total team effort in which the Eagles go about their about their business. This is just a shining example of why this O-line is so good and underrated. At 9-1, there has not been a wide receiver over 100 yards in a game. If my memory serves me right, the Birds have had a 100-yard rusher twice, both by LeGarrette Blount. So, even with the absence of the all-world Peters, I am secure in rating the Eagles' OL as the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Fundamentally speaking, football is won in the trenches. I was privileged to be a part of a Super Bowl team with the same formula the Eagles are using to win eight straight games: A young franchise QB (Ben Roethlisberger), a really good defense and a very good O-line.

The Eagles are just scratching the surface with their potential. Like these young players — guys like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Derek Barnett — develop in the trenches, the sky's the limit for the core of this team.

Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

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Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

One kicker is getting better. One kicker just got hurt. One kicker isn’t even a kicker at all. Who’s going to kick Sunday? Maybe Caleb Sturgis, maybe Jake Elliott, maybe someone else. Definitely not Kamu Grungier-Hill. 
Does that clear everything up?
Head coach Doug Pederson revealed Monday that Elliott, the rocket-legged rookie, will be the Eagles’ placekicker long-term moving forward, but he also said he doesn’t know whether Elliott — who suffered a concussion Sunday night during the win in Dallas — will be available for this Sunday’s game at home against the Bears.
"We haven't made any decisions yet," Pederson said. "We still have a couple days before we have to make a decision."
Elliott replaced Sturgis, who suffered a quad strain in the opener against the Redskins and has been on injured reserve since. 
Ideally, the Eagles want Elliott to be cleared through the NFL’s concussion protocol and be able to kick Sunday so they can keep Sturgis on IR. 

If Elliott isn’t ready, they could activate Sturgis, who Pederson said is "close," but that would mean they would have to clear a spot on the 53-man roster for a guy who they don’t plan on keeping long-term. 
"He's continuing to rehab, he's begun a kicking regimen," Pederson said. "He's getting himself back to where he was prior to the injury. He's close. He's close."
If neither Elliott nor Sturgis is able to go, the Eagles could add a third kicker for a week or two, although that would also require keeping two kickers on the 53 (and another on IR).
"Again, you're talking about roster spots and making moves and things of that nature," he said. "We're not there yet. We'll continue these discussions the next couple days."
Most importantly, Pederson said despite Sturgis’ excellent track record since joining the Eagles, Elliott will be the team’s kicker once everybody is healthy. 
"I think so," Pederson said. "If he's healthy and he can play. You hate to disrupt that right now. I'd have to say yes to that one."
Sturgis is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Elliott is under contract through 2018, and the Eagles control his rights through 2019.
Elliott, whom the Eagles signed off the Bengals’ practice squad in September, is 17 for 21 this year. He missed from 34 yards against the Cowboys Sunday night, although that miss came after he apparently suffered the concussion. 

Pederson said the concussion symptoms weren't discovered until after Elliott had attempted the field goal.
Elliott has made five of six attempts from 50 yards and out, including the franchise-record, game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants.
Sturgis is 7 for 11 as an Eagle from 50 yards and out. Including his years with the Dolphins, he's an 81.0 percent kicker, although with the Eagles he's made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts — third-best in franchise history behind Cody Parkey (87.5 percent) and Alex Henery (86.0 percent).
"I think moving forward, as we continue to evaluate this week, we'll find out more in the next couple days with Jake, and I don't want to put myself in a box, but we'll keep all the options open," Pederson said.
"It kind of goes back to the same old thing. We still have a couple days here today and tomorrow to evaluate Jake and see where everybody's at. There's still a little while before we play Sunday."
There's one other option.

No, not letting Grugier-Hill kick. Going for two all the time.
Pederson — who's 9 for 12 as Eagles head coach on two-point conversion attempts — admitted he's thought about it.
"Yeah, I have," he said. "You always go into a game with a few (plays) in your pocket. You never expect that situation again like we had last night. But, yeah, you look at the numbers. If you're around 94, 95 percent on the extra point from the 15-yard line, your conversion rate should be in that 47, 48, 49 percent on a two-point conversion. So we look at all of that.
"We keep a couple extra plus-five red zone plays in our pocket for that situation. It just worked out, I think 3 for 4 last night. It's something we'll look at going forward."