Ronald Darby helps Eagles' D torment Dak Prescott, Cowboys in return

USA Today Images

Ronald Darby helps Eagles' D torment Dak Prescott, Cowboys in return

ARLINGTON, Texas -- After not playing in a game for over two months, Ronald Darby worked hard last week during practice. Especially on his conditioning. He worked hard enough that he actually threw up a few times at practice. 

It earned him a nickname.

"I call him Willie Beamen," Rodney McLeod said, referencing the movie character. "Because every time he throws up, he seems to do well." 

Darby wasn't sure how his return would go. At first, he thought he would be eased back into action slowly, but as he came back to practice as a full participant last week, he began to realize he was getting thrown back into the fire. 

During the Eagles' 37-9 win over the Cowboys Sunday night at AT&T Stadium, Darby had an interception, two passes defensed and eight tackles (see Roob's observations)

Perhaps what was even more impressive was that he played all 63 of the Eagles' defensive snaps. 

"I was a little out of shape," said Darby, who hadn't played since dislocating his right ankle in the season opener. "I was on a scooter for like three weeks. I had to try to get my feet up under me."

There were a lot of questions heading into this week about why the Eagles would change up a secondary that was working so well. Why insert Darby and possibly affect chemistry? Darby showed why Sunday night. 

After breaking up a few passes in the first quarter, Darby got his first interception as an Eagle in the second on a Dak Prescott pass that was intended for Dez Bryant. It was Darby's first interception since Sept. 27, 2015 — his third NFL game. 

On Sunday night, Prescott was eager to find out if Darby would show any rust. He really didn't.

"I've been out two months, so I came into the game knowing I was going to get tested," he said. "It's either show up or get exposed."

Darby's performance Sunday might have been a surprise to the Cowboys and Eagles fans, but it wasn't a surprise to his teammates. Both  McLeod and Jalen Mills said they saw this coming based on Darby's week of practice. 

McLeod said Darby was breaking up just about every pass during the week at practice. 

"His whole week of preparation, the guy was just practicing hard," Mills said. "That's what you want to see from a guy like that."

Darby began the season as the Eagles' starter at left cornerback, but Mills played so well there in his absence, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz elected to keep Mills there. That meant Darby lined up on the right side Sunday night. 

Darby said it was "a little bit different, I ain't going to lie," but still felt pretty comfortable on the right side.  

While his ankle is healed, Darby admitted he felt some rust on certain drives, but he thinks it'll come back in time. 

How close is he to being back to where he was? 

"I can't tell you," he said. "You sit out two months, of course, you're not going to be at the same level as the rest of these boys who have been out there these two months." 

At least he's off to a good start.

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

USA Today Images

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."