Eagles

2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

Now that we're past a bunch of the cupcake games, a few interesting matchups will take place today in college football.

And inside those games, we'll get to see some interesting matchups featuring several 2018 NFL draft prospects.

Before watching any of the big games tonight, familiarize yourself with the names below. One of them could help the Eagles in 2018 and beyond.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (7:30 p.m., ABC)

Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State, junior (6-1/225)
Simply put, Baker is a stud. As a sophomore, Baker recorded 86 tackles (9 1/2 for a loss), 3 1/2 sacks and two interceptions. Baker's biggest strength is his athleticism. He's all over the field and excels in coverage. He's the ideal 'backer for today's pass-friendly game. Today should be a fun test against Baker Mayfield and the Sooners' explosive offense. 

Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma, junior (6-5/254)
Andrews' numbers from 2016 won't blow you away, but he showed in Oklahoma's blowout win over UTEP why he's getting serious draft buzz. Andrews hauled in seven catches for 134 yards for a ridiculous 19.1 yards per catch. Andrews has flashed seriously ability to create after the catch and should be one of the first tight ends off the board come April.

No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 13 Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN)

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson, junior (6-1/190)
Cain is arguably the best receiving prospect in the 2018 draft class. Playing second fiddle to first-round pick Mike Williams last season, Cain posted 38 catches for 724 yards and nine touchdowns. Cain lacks the size of his former teammate Williams, but he is much more explosive. He only made two catches in the Tigers' lopsided win over Kent State, but one of them was a 61-yard touchdown. Clemson lost some serious weapons to the NFL in 2017 and Cain appears to be well on his way.

Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn, junior (6-1/203)
After being selected to the All-SEC freshman team, Davis struggled in his sophomore season. It's also been revealed that he was dealing with a series of nagging injuries all season. Davis seems to fit the NFL prototype with his tall frame and long arms. He's shown an ability to be physical and jam receivers at the line. Now that he's healthy, it'll be interesting to see what happens when Cain forces him to turn and run.

No. 14 Stanford vs. No. 6 USC (8:30 p.m., FOX)

Bryce Love Jr., RB, Stanford, junior (5-10/196)
(OK, so I'm cheating a little bit with this "matchup," but it should be a lot of fun to watch these two try to match each other with big plays.)

With Love in the fold, the Cardinal won't feel the loss of first-round pick Christian McCaffrey quite as much. Love is similar in stature and explosiveness to the now Carolina Panther. Splitting time last season, Love ran for 779 yards on just 112 carries (seven yards a carry). He looked unstoppable in Stanford's 62-7 win over Rice. Love carried the ball 13 times for 180 yards and a touchdown (I'll save you the math: that's an absurd 13.8 yards a carry). 

Ronald Jones Jr., RB, USC, junior (6-0/200)
Speaking of explosive, Jones might be the most explosive back in the class. Jones has rushed for 900 yards in each of his two seasons for the Trojans. He seems well on his way to topping that mark once again after rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns in USC's opening win against Western Michigan. Like Love, Jones is a bit undersized but he's a dangerous player in space. I'd like to see both players do a little more damage in the passing game. They're both capable, the numbers just aren't there as of yet.

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

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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.