Eagles

Eagles leaning toward playing Alshon Jeffery, Ronald Darby on Thursday

Eagles leaning toward playing Alshon Jeffery, Ronald Darby on Thursday

It looks like the Eagles will unwrap two of their biggest additions on Thursday night at the Linc. 

Head coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday said he's leaning toward playing receiver Alshon Jeffery and cornerback Ronald Darby in the second preseason game of the summer. It will be the first time either player will suit up with the Birds. 

Jeffery was held out of the first preseason game by Pederson, who has been limiting the star receiver's practice time over the last couple weeks. Jeffery had a shoulder injury but even after he healed wasn't a full participant in practice for about another week. Jeffery finally took 11-on-11 reps Monday. 

"I am leaning toward playing [Jeffery], yes," Pederson said. "He feels comfortable, we've talked about it, so I'm comfortable with it."

This will offer Carson Wentz his first opportunity to play with Jeffery in game action. The two have worked hard to build chemistry while at practice and away from the field. Jeffery was a part of the group that went to North Dakota to work out with Wentz during the offseason. 

"It seems like it's been a long time coming with [Jeffery]," Wentz said. "I'm not sure if he'll play or not or how much, but hopefully he does and hopefully we can start getting that chemistry, that relationship out on the field in live situations."  

The Eagles didn't trade for Darby until last Friday, so this will be his first chance to play in a game with his new team. By pure coincidence his first game as an Eagle will come against his old team, the Bills. 

"Yeah, it will be a little weird knowing I was just there a few days ago," Darby said earlier this week, "but that's just how the league works." 

While Darby will likely play on Thursday, his counterpart in the trade, Jordan Matthews, will not. Matthews suffered a cracked sternum in his first practice with the Bills on Sunday. 

Meanwhile on Sunday, Darby practiced with the Eagles for the first time and was immediately thrown into action with the starters at left cornerback. It's likely that's where he'll play on Thursday night. 

"Same thing [as with Jeffery]," Pederson said. "Give him an opportunity to play and [it will] be exciting to watch him in live action."

Pederson said while the plan wasn't definitive, he'll probably play Wentz and the starters for just a series or two against the Bills. He just wants the starters to stay in game shape while avoiding injury. 

"You know how it is, you get in the middle of the game and it starts flowing and you get a feel for when it's right," Wentz said. "I trust he'll make the right decision. Obviously, I want to play as much as he thinks is fit and we'll roll with that." 

Brandon Brooks (ankle) and Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) will be game-day decisions. Both have been back at practice after missing the preseason opener but aren't guaranteed to play this Thursday. If Brooks doesn't play, Chance Warmack will make his second straight start at right guard. 

Jason Peters was excused from practice Tuesday for personal reasons. In his absence, Lane Johnson took over at left tackle and Matt Tobin filled in at right tackle because Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It's unclear if Peters will be back in Philly in time for the game. 

If nothing else, putting Johnson at left tackle is good practice if something were to happen to Peters during the season. 

"Lane obviously worked at left tackle all spring (during OTAs)," Pederson said. "Big V obviously at the time was right tackle. But this will be a good opportunity if something were to happen and they have to do that at least this Thursday."

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

LOS ANGELES — He went in to play for one team that gave up on him against another team that gave up on him.

Such is life in the NFL as a backup quarterback.

Nick Foles, now 28 years old and in his sixth NFL season, relieved an injured Carson Wentz Sunday night at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives as the Eagles rallied past the Rams, 43-35, at L.A. Memorial Coliseum (see breakdown).

“He was unbelievable," tight end Trey Burton said. "He stepped in there and led us and took us where we needed to be.

"He’s an unbelievable quarterback. A lot of people sometimes might forget about that, but he’s won a lot of games and he’s set a lot of records."

Although there was no word from the Eagles, team officials believe Wentz has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which would presumably end his season.

If that's the case, the 11-2 Eagles would go into the playoffs with Foles at quarterback.

“I’m absolutely ready," Foles said. "That’s why I’m here. I’m ready to go. Prepare every day, work every day, ready to go if need be. That’s my job. That’s why they brought me here."

Foles didn't exactly light up the Rams, but also, in his first extended playing time in more than 13 months, he didn't make any mistakes and made a few big throws under pressure.

He entered the game with the Eagles trailing 35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives — the second after a takeaway deep in Rams territory.

But his biggest play was a nine-yard completion to Nelson Agholor on a 3rd-and-8 with 1:52 left that enabled the Eagles to run out all but the last few seconds on the clock.

“They went two-man coverage and it was 1-on-1 inside, and Nelson did a great job of getting off his defender," Foles said.

"I threw it away from his defender, and he did a great job catching it and getting the first down and it allowed us to run a lot of the clock out, which was big."

Head coach Doug Pederson, who was Foles' position coach with the Eagles in 2013 and his offensive coordinator in K.C. last year, showed a tremendous amount of confidence in Foles on that third and long.

“I want the ball in my hands," Foles said. "I love throwing the ball. I love having the ball in my hands, making decisions.

"It’s one of those situations where, 'Hey, if it’s not there you either run (or) just don’t make it worse,' and Nelson did a great job. Coach Pederson showed a lot of confidence in me, and he knows I can go out there and play."

Foles led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2013 with a record-setting Pro Bowl season then went 6-2 in 2014 before getting hurt. He had a dismal 2015 with the Rams and then spent 2016 with the Chiefs before returning to the Eagles this past offseason.

Talk about full circle.

“It’s odd. It’s kind of crazy. But it’s one of those things you don’t really think too much about though," he said.

"You’re really just focusing on getting a 'W' and we did. A big one on the road."

The Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East title for the first time since 2013, Foles' big season.

"Hell of a job by Nick coming in and making plays when we needed it," Lane Johnson said.

"Nick’s a pretty good quarterback. People have forgotten the year he had a few years ago. Nick works his tail off, so I was confident he would do just fine. He was calm. Same Nick he’s always been."

Foles' numbers Sunday were modest: 6 for 10 for 42 yards plus a nine-yard scramble.

But he did exactly what he had to do (see observations).

"He prepares, he's had success before in this league as a quarterback," Malcolm Jenkins said. "We understand he's not Carson Wentz and there are some things he can't do that Carson can do, so we'll use common sense with that, but I think everybody feels good about him throwing the ball.

"That throw to [Agholor], that's a dangerous throw, but he put the ball right where it was supposed to be and allowed his receiver to make a play at a crucial point in the game. We've got a lot of faith in Nick, and we're going to lean heavily on him if Carson isn't out there."

Foles is 20-16 in his career as a starter and 15-9 as the Eagles' starter. Sunday in L.A. was his first extended playing time in an Eagles uniform in more than three years — since he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone injury in Houston midway through the 2014 season.

"I love it," Doug Pederson said. "This guy’s come in, he’s played a lot of football games in this league. He’s started in this league. Guys have confidence in him. I have confidence in him.

"Great way to step in under these circumstances and pull this game out. It’s huge for Nick."

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — With a heavy black brace around his left knee, Carson Wentz hobbled through the postgame buffet line in the bowels of the LA Memorial Coliseum, just outside of the cramped visitor locker room.

Wearing black shorts, a black hat, a black long-sleeve AO1 shirt and headphones hanging around his neck, Wentz used a big metal spoon to scoop some catered Mexican food into a bowl.

From there, he settled himself on the back of a motorized cart that took him outside the stadium into the cooling L.A. night. He then hobbled his way again, this time from the cart, onto the team bus and out of sight.

Of course, he walked. That's just what Carson Wentz does.

After the Eagles' NFC East-clinching 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown), Wentz will fly back to Philadelphia with the rest of the team. Call it a 4 1/2 hour prayer session. Because Monday he'll get an MRI on his left knee. The Eagles fear he's torn it, a team source confirmed (see story).

Wentz left Sunday's game in the third quarter. He injured his left knee on a play where he scrambled and dove head-first into the end zone for a touchdown that was called back because of a holding call. 

Then he stayed in the game.

Wentz very well might have been standing on a torn ACL, but he stayed in the game for four more plays.

"It shows how tough he is, man," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Shows how much this stuff means to him. Football means the world to him. He's a fighter. Moving forward, whatever the situation is, he's going to fight." 

Wentz's last play of the game — and possibly his MVP-like season — was a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

It was his 33rd touchdown pass of the season, breaking the Eagles' single-season record. The record had stood since 1961.

"Carson's a hell of a player," Jeffery said. "A hell of a competitor. He's our MVP."

Several of Wentz's offensive teammates thought there was a chance he was hurt. After all, he did take a tough shot on that diving play. But Wentz didn't speak a word about it in the huddle. Some of his teammates didn't even realize he might have a significant injury until he made the long walk of about 110 yards from the sideline to the tunnel.

The play where the injury came is a pretty typical Wentz play. He gave up his body to try to score a touchdown. That's just the way he plays.

"That's one of the things that makes him an incredible player in this league," center Jason Kelce said.

After Wentz went inside, the team almost immediately announced he was out for the game, never a good sign.

"He's the ultimate competitor," safety Rodney McLeod said. "He stayed in strong, threw that pass to Alshon. It was one of the biggest plays of the day. We're going to celebrate. We got the win for him and we're going to move on."

As you might expect, the mood after this game was a little strange. The Eagles won the division, so they celebrated. They beat another NFC contender, so they celebrated. And they own sole possession of the top spot in the conference, so they celebrated. 

But you'll forgive them if the celebration wasn't over the top. Because, sure, they won the game, but they might have lost the heart and soul of their team (see Roob's observations).

"Yeah, it sucks, but there's nothing you can really do about it," Johnson said. "We came into this game hoping to win this game and clinch the division. That part's done. I have the utmost confidence moving forward." 

Head coach Doug Pederson said he had spoken to Wentz after the game. Pederson said Wentz was "fired up" and "excited" about clinching.

Not too long before Wentz hobbled his way to the team busses, he waited at the entrance of the visiting locker room as his comrades bounced inside after clinching the division.

Wentz was there congratulate Nick Foles and the rest of his teammates on the NFC East title.

A little while later, Wentz tweeted how proud he was of his team.

"You see his leadership, man, no matter what," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "He's still going to be the leader of our team. He might not be out there, but he's definitely going to be out there in spirit."