Jordan Hicks

Jason Peters, Darren Sproles still engaged, contributing for Eagles

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Jason Peters, Darren Sproles still engaged, contributing for Eagles

Jason Peters and Darren Sproles may be out for the season, yet Eagles coaches say the injured vets are continuing to find ways to make an impact.

The Eagles have been unlucky to lose not only star players, but also tremendous leaders to injuries this season. At the same time, the Eagles are incredibly fortunate to have guys like Peters, Sproles, Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos who aren’t content to simply fade into the background until next year.

Take Peters, for example. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland revealed the nine-time Pro Bowl selection has been instrumental in preparing second-year player Halapoulivaati Vaitai to take over at left tackle.

“I lean on Jason Peters a little bit too with that,” Stoutland said Tuesday. “I’d send him some video and he would look at it, and we’d be on a Skype or whatever and he would say, ‘Hey, make sure you tell him this.’”

Even a fifth-year NFL veteran like Lane Johnson at right tackle can benefit from Peters’ pointers from afar.

“He’s got a great eye for that stuff,” Stoutland said. “It keeps him involved and he’s good at it. He’s a master at it for so many years, so I think he also has helped Lane and V with some of that stuff.”

Peters is home rehabbing from torn ACL and MCL tendons in his right knee but consults with Stoutland regularly. Not surprisingly, the future Hall of Famer identifies something on a “weekly” basis that will help his teammates.

“It’s good for those guys, too, to hear another voice other than mine,” Stoutland said.

Some of the Eagles’ wounded are taking a more hands-on approach. Hicks may be sidelined by a ruptured Achilles, but it sounds as though he’s preparing as if he were going to line up at middle linebacker in any given week.

“Jordan comes into our meeting room,” Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole said. “He’s there, and if you saw him, he takes notes like he’s going to play.

“He studies a lot of the tape when we’re in a meeting, and I think he sees things. Then I’m sure when he gets back in the locker room, he passes on little tips to people, says, ‘Hey, this is what I saw in this formation, and maybe we can cheat our alignment here.’”

Hicks is somebody the Eagles literally couldn’t keep out of the building if they tried.

“He wants to be a part of it,” Flajole said. “I kidded around with him a little bit. I said, ‘Are you driving your wife nuts now,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, kind of, coach. I need to get out of the house. She wants me here, and I want to be here.’”

Watch closely during any Eagles game, and you’ll see Maragos actively taking part in any way he can.

Maragos’ season was ended by a ton PCL. That hasn’t prevented the special teams captain and ace from walking out to the middle of the field for the coin toss before games or pumping up his teammates on the sideline.

“Chris Maragos is in half our meetings if he’s not rehabbing, and then he’ll be on the field on game day,” special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. “He’s breaking the huddle half the time before kickoffs.”

Fipp works closely with both Maragos and Sproles, the latter of whom reaches out to replacement return specialist Kenjon Barner on a regular basis.

“Those guys love being around it, and they do a great job helping the younger guys out,” Fipp said. “That’s why Chris is a captain. Same with Darren Sproles. They have the respect of all their teammates, and part of getting that respect is probably because, along the way, they’ve helped all those guys out at some point.”

Nursing a torn ACL and a broken forearm, Sproles isn’t always in the building or around his teammates. Even in that situation, the 13-year veteran commands so much respect, he’s still able to lead by example.

“He was our leader, and every now and then if he’s here he’ll come and stick his head in,” Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley said. “A lot of those guys follow those footsteps, which is awesome. You couldn’t pick a better guy to lead your group than him.

“Some of those guys, they look at him, they look up to him, all the things he’s been through, how long he’s lasted. Ideally, a lot of those guys want to be him, so they talk to him, they study Sproles, they study his eating habits. Eating, sleeping, everything.

“When you have a leader like that in the room, and he’s able to rub off on some of the other guys, they take ownership and they try to lead the younger guys that way.”

Sproles is 34. Peters turns 36 in January. There is some question as to whether either player will return from their injuries to play in 2018.

If either man plans on or would consider walking away, they’re certainly not ready to call it quits quite. In fact, whatever success this Eagles team enjoys in 2017 — be that a trip to the Super Bowl, or anything else — Peters, Sproles, Hicks and Maragos all seem determined to play a role in that.

Doug Pederson talks trades ahead of Tuesday deadline

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Doug Pederson talks trades ahead of Tuesday deadline

As Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline rapidly approaches, it would make some sense if the Eagles pulled off a deal. 

After all, they're a 7-1 team that has lost some key players to injury and if a team was ever going to add at the deadline, it seems like these Eagles fit the bill. 

But things are going pretty well. And head coach Doug Pederson admitted on Monday afternoon that he would be concerned about a trade affecting the chemistry of the team. 

"That's why you have to be careful, I think," Pederson said. "It's gotta be the right fit. It can't just be anybody. From my standpoint, you don't want to disrupt the chemistry that is going on in the dressing room right now. Those guys are playing with a lot of confidence and they're rallying around each other so it would have to be a pretty special fit to make it work."

While Pederson was seemingly worried about the chemistry issue, he wouldn't rule out the possibility of a trade and mentioned the team's scouting department is always looking for talent around the league. 

The Eagles have lost Darren Sproles, Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks this season, so replacing one of them in a trade would make some sense. 

"I like where we're at right now with our roster, the way guys are playing," Pederson said. "We're always looking, obviously. I'm not going to leave it out of the question. But again, the guys that we have in this locker room, we have a lot of confidence in and we go forward from there."

It would be a little difficult for the Eagles to fit any sizable contract under the cap. According to NFLPA records, they have just $4.7 million of cap space. The salary cap is one of the reasons that the NFL's trade deadline rarely produces a ton of excitement. 

Still, they have a de facto GM in Howie Roseman who isn't afraid to make trades and a situation that would really seem to lend itself to pulling that trigger. 

Pederson said he's just focused on facing the Broncos on Sunday but would be brought into conversations about potential trades if they come up. 

"Again, it would have to be a dynamic fit," Pederson said. "It would have to be somebody who would help the team. It would have to be such a fit that you don't disrupt the locker room and where guys are."

Vaitai and Walker getting comfortable with bigger roles

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Vaitai and Walker getting comfortable with bigger roles

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is not Jason Peters. And Joe Walker is not Jordan Hicks. 

But the Eagles aren't asking them to be. 

In the first game without their starting left tackle and without their starting middle linebacker, the Eagles picked up a 33-10 win over the lowly 49ers (see breakdown)

Both late-round draft picks a year ago — Vaitai was a fifth-rounder and Walker was a seventh-rounder — the two second-year players figure to have significant roles for the rest of the season. So far, so good. At least OK. 

Vaitai had a rough start Sunday, giving up an early sack. It's something we've seen from him a few times over the last couple of years. But like he has in other games before, Vaitai settled in as the afternoon went on (see Roob's observations)

"I just need to work on staying calm and play with poise," Vaitai said. "I tend to overlook things and get nervous ... well, not nervous but I'm thinking a lot. I need to go out there and just calm down like [Peters] says all the time." 

On the early sack he gave up, Big V said he got set a little too wide, so for the rest of the game, he tried to stay tighter next to the guard. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles went into the game trying to give both tackles some extra help but especially on the left side, where Vaitai filled in for Peters, who had started every game since Wentz became the starter last year. 

"[Vaitai] settled into the game and did a nice job," Pederson said. "Again, I'll evaluate the film tomorrow and get a chance to make the necessary corrections. But I think, overall, he filled in well and we'll get him ready next week again."

The Eagles elected this week to keep Lane Johnson at right tackle and simply replace an injured Peters with Vaitai. Big V has played more on the right side than the left but said he is starting to feel comfortable on the left too.  

As for Walker, he's technically a starter now, but he won't be playing a ton down the stretch, at least by comparison. He'll be in the Eagles' base package, which is on the field for about 30 percent of the team's snaps. 

How did Walker think he played? 

"We'll go back, we'll review the tape and we'll see," he said. "I've got some stuff I need to work on definitely."

While Walker will be the odd man out when the Eagles go to their nickel package — Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks will be on the field in those situations — he did technically get the first start of his NFL career Sunday. 

That also meant getting announced and running out of the tunnel before the game. 

"Oh man, it was something I'll never forget," he said. "Just the energy from the crowd, the atmosphere, I'll never forget it."