Eagles

2017 NFL draft: Fiesta Bowl prospects for the Eagles

2017 NFL draft: Fiesta Bowl prospects for the Eagles

We already took a peak at a few prospects that could help the Eagles during the early game of the College Football Playoff (see story).

But there is plenty of talent during the night game as well between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State.

Here are a few players to watch closely during the second game of the CFP.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl - No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson, 7 p.m., ESPN

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, redshirt junior, (6-3/225)
Williams is a monster. If he's on the board when the Eagles are drafting, it's a no-brainer. He's big, he's strong, he's fast, he has tremendous ball skills. He's the whole package. He's put up 84 catches for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He'd likely already be in the NFL if not for a neck injury he suffered at the beginning of the 2015 season. One aspect of his game I love is the chemistry he's developed with Deshaun Watson on back shoulder throws. We've seen Carson Wentz throw one of those this season and it was one of the prettiest balls he's thrown all season (a 20-yard completion to Jordan Matthews against the Packers). Wentz needs weapons, and Williams fits the bill.

Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson, senior, (6-1/200)
Tankersley could've jumped ship to the NFL after his junior season, but decided to come back for his senior year. He has good size, excels well in man coverage and has decent ball skills. He's also considered a leader on the Clemson defense. What he may not have that guys like Alabama's Marlon Humphrey and Washington's Sidney Jones have, is the makeup speed which separates good corners from great ones. Tankersley is likely a Day 2 pick, but he has the potential to be a productive corner at the next level.

Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State, junior, (5-11/197)
The Eagles' offense has been void of explosiveness all season. Samuel is an offensive weapon whether it be as a back or a receiver. For the season, Samuel has 65 catches for 822 yards and 91 carries for 704 yards. He's scored 15 total touchdowns (eight rushing, seven receiving). Ohio State lines him up out of the backfield and split out as a receiver. His route running is a little rough, but he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could be Darren Sproles' heir apparent.

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, junior, (6-1/195)
Conley is a great athlete with good size and speed. He also has decent ball skills. The thing that scares me about him is a lack of physicality. He's not strong in the run game and he's just OK when asked to press. He's likely a Day 2 pick, but he has above average coverage skills. It'll be interesting to see how he does against Williams, who's extremely physical.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson, junior, (6-0/210)
Gallman is going to fall victim to an excellent running back draft class. Every year, there are players I can't help but to like more than some of the pundits. Gallman is one of those guys for me this year. After posting over 1,500 yards in 2015, Gallman has carried less of the load for Clemson but is still over 1,000 yards. He also has a nose for the end zone with 28 rushing touchdowns combined the last two seasons. One of the knocks on Gallman is that he runs high. It's a fair criticism, but it's a habit you might be able to teach out of him. What you can't teach is his feet. I love his patience and how quickly he can bounce around the line. If there is even the slightest crease, he'll find it. He's also a solid receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 61 catches in his college career.

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

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USA Today Images

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

It won't be a surprise, but Jordan Hicks is going to get a pretty great Christmas present this year. 

He won't find it under his tree either. 

Hicks, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and surgery, will hit another big milestone in his recovery on Dec. 25. That's the day the walking boot comes off of his right foot. 

"Real good present, right?" Hicks said. 

Hicks, 25, tore his right Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Washington on Oct. 23. Having already torn his left Achilles in college, Hicks knew immediately that his season was over and a long recovery was ahead of him. 

But Hicks has no doubt he'll return to being the same player he was before. He thinks he'll be even better. 

"Oh there's no question about that," Hicks said on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room for the first time since the injury. "There's no question about that. I'll be fine. I did my left Achilles in college and came back better. I know more, the advancements are better. There's no doubt in my mind I'll be a better player when I come back."

Hicks said the normal recovery time from an Achilles rupture is six to nine months. The six-month mark will be April. He expects to be back for training camp and be completely ready for next season. 

Before suffering this Achilles tear, Hicks had been dealing with an ankle injury on his left leg. Hicks, who has been labeled as an injury-prone player since college, was very proud of playing all 16 games in 2016. So when that ankle injury popped up earlier this season, he tried to play through it. That ankle injury led to a calf injury in his right leg and then the Achilles popped. Hicks thinks overcompensating for the initial injury led to a more serious one. 

"I think a couple weeks could have helped me, but it's always easy to look back," Hicks said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I wouldn't change anything just because it's my personality. It's who I am. All I want to do is be there for my teammates. Every time I step out there, the biggest goal for me is to have my teammates know that I'm their leader and I can be accountable. For me to sit here and say I shouldn't have been out there those weeks, it's hard for me to say that because all I want to do is be out there."

Hicks lasted just a couple plays in that Washington game before his Achilles popped, which put him right back on that road to recovery. And initially, it wasn't easy. Jason Peters joined him in the locker room a quarter later with his own season-ending injury and tried to raise his spirits, but that didn't change the fact that Hicks' season was over.

And for the second time in his three-year career, he knew he would end the season on injured reserve. 

"The grief set in," he said. "For the first week or so, it was tough, but man, there's no time for that. There's no time to sit here and sulk. There's no time to think about what could have been. ... All I'm focusing on is making sure I'm better and ready next year for my guys. That's all it is. For me, it's about accountability."

While Hicks made a rare appearance in the Eagles' locker room during media time on Friday, he's been around the building plenty. He and the Eagles' other injured players have remained involved despite their injuries. In fact, every week, Hicks studies opponent film to see how they handle blitzes. And every Friday, he gets in front of the defense to present it. 

After the injury, Jim Schwartz came to him and asked him to do this. 

"It's easy to isolate yourself in situations like this," Hicks said. "For him to come up to me and ask me to do that was big. I try to keep guys' spirits up and share my perspective." 

For the last month and a half, Hicks has been around the team but has been forced to watch games on TV, which he said is really tough. He hopes that's about to end. He'll be in North Jersey this weekend for the Giants game and hopes he'll be back on the sideline. 

"It's tough," Hicks said. "It's never easy to go through something like this. It tests your patience, this tests your character. You learn a lot through these times because it is so difficult. You have to really grind through some hard times. Put your head down and I think your character is really shown through this."

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

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Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest.