Eagles

Eagles CBs Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson pass first test in preseason loss to Rodgers-less Packers

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Eagles CBs Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson pass first test in preseason loss to Rodgers-less Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Near the end of the first quarter in Thursday night's preseason opener, the Eagles' starting defense came out of the game. 

Except for two players. 

Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson, the current frontrunners to win the starting cornerback jobs (well, maybe not anymore), remained in the game and played an extra series. Cornerback has been the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the Eagles for months. 

On Thursday night, though, the top corners held up. Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a spectator for his team's 24-9 win. 

"We played maybe two series, three series," Mills said. "And that offense is way different without No. 12 in the backfield. We just have to work onto next week and just get better."

With Rodgers and his favorite target Jordy Nelson on the bench, backup Brett Hundley had trouble getting anything going against the Eagles' first-team defense. The Packers went three-and-out on the first drive and Fletcher Cox forced a fumble that Robinson recovered on the next. 

The biggest play either of the starters gave up was an 18-yard pass from Hundley to Davante Adams on the third series. Robinson was beaten on that play but he looked pretty good on Thursday and picked up a pass defensed. The veteran has had a rough training camp, but played much better in the game. 

Mills started strong, tackling Randall Cobb for a 1-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. 

"Going into a preseason game you really don't know how much you're going to play, especially me coming off being a rookie last year and trying to compete for the starting job," Mills said. "I felt pretty good though."

One third of the Eagles' current group of starting cornerbacks was injured on Thursday night. Ron Brooks, who appears to be the lead candidate to be the team's slot corner, left the game with a hamstring injury. He was the first man down the field near Trevor Davis before Davis broke off a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. It's unclear how significant the injury is, but Brooks seemed to be walking fine late Thursday night. 

It's no secret that the Eagles' cornerbacks are a weak spot on the team. It's a major reason that on Friday they traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for third-year corner Ronald Darby. Last week during his press conference, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — for the second time during training camp — noted that most of the questions were about the position. 

He knows why. 

"All those guys have shown something," Schwartz said about his group of CBs. "I don't know that anybody is consistent enough where we don't look at anybody else. I said the same thing coming into camp, or maybe back in OTAs, that it would be nice to have solid guys or solid starters at those positions, but we're still in the middle of a competition. Everybody is striving to be consistent."

Second-year player C.J. Smith wasn't consistent on Thursday night, but he did bounce back. In the second quarter, Smith gave up a 10-yard pass to Geronimo Allison and then two plays later was beaten by Jeff Janis on a little double-move for a 20-yard touchdown. It was ugly. 

But Smith had a short memory and made a couple nice plays later. 

Rasul Douglas, the third-round pick from West Virginia, had a pretty quiet night but could still make a charge for playing time. And Aaron Grymes is still in the mix. 

With three preseason games remaining, the competition at cornerback is far from over. 

"We played good but I always look for improvement," Mills said. "Always those little bitty things whether it's keying down-and-distance or formation. Just have to learn from those little bitty errors that we made and get better next week."

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

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Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood were both back at Eagles practice Tuesday.
 
Johnson missed the Panthers game with a concussion he suffered against Cardinals, and Smallwood missed the last two games after hurting his knee against the Chargers.
 
Practice was closed Tuesday and the Eagles are not required to release an injury report until Thursday because of the long week, but a team official confirmed that Johnson practiced — which means he was cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol by an approved neurosurgeon.
 
Johnson was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media, but Smallwood said he did practice without limitations and hopes to play against the Redskins Monday night.
 
"It's been coming along," Smallwood said. "Felt good these past couple days, since really after the Carolina game it started feeling good. I was full-go today, I practiced with the guys. ... I wasn't limited at all. It really didn't bother me much. I felt good today. Hopefully, later on in the week, I'll feel better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday. I think I should be ready."
 
Smallwood rushed for 113 yards with a 3.9 average and caught seven passes for 56 yards in four games before getting hurt early in the Chargers game.
 
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He's that thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back, he's good out of the backfield, he's really good in protection. It brings all those things."
 
Smallwood said he played "on adrenaline" with the injury but said his knee swelled up during the game.
 
Injuries have married Smallwood's career. He missed the last three games last year with a knee injury and missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.
 
"I get frustrated a lot when I'm not in the game, not being out there to help and progress as the year goes on," he said. "So it frustrates me.
 
"But it happens. I've just got to suck it up and not pay attention to it. Just know I can bounce back and just try to get on the field as fast as I can."
 
Smallwood said he expects to be 100 percent Monday night in a huge divisional game against the Redskins at the Linc.
 
"I believe so," he said. "I'm not going to hold back any. I'm not going to think about it or get nervous. I have that confidence in myself. As the week's gone on, I just started feeling better about what I'm able to do."

Also, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who became eligible to practice Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the reserve-non football injury list, said he did not practice. Jones has been out since suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day in March.

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

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USA Today Images

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he will rule Tuesday on an emergency request from attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty heard arguments from lawyers on both sides as the NFL Players Association scrambled to keep Elliott on the field after a federal appeals court last week overturned an injunction that had stopped the league's suspension.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, is on the suspended list. The Cowboys play at San Francisco on Sunday.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFLPA, asked Crotty to prevent enforcement of the suspension for two weeks so that the Southern District of New York judge assigned to the case — Katherine Polk Failla — can return from a vacation and rule. Crotty concluded the hearing by saying he'd look at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Brady case before ruling by the end of the day on the union's request for a temporary restraining order.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Kessler said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm — among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted — faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed.

In their request for the temporary restraining order, Elliott's attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league's perspective.

NFLPA attorneys, working on Elliott's behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn't practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.

Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation and announced the six-game punishment.

That led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses. Elliott has denied Thompson's allegations under oath.

The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list a day after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas court's injunction that kept Elliott on the field.

The case is shifting to New York because the New Orleans court ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott's attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back's appeal through the NFL. Elliott's attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge's findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.

Brady's suspension was served more than a year after it was imposed. A federal judge ruled against the NFL and overturned the suspension, but the league won an appeal.