Trae Elston

Eagles promote DT Justin Hamilton from practice squad, waive S Trae Elston

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Eagles promote DT Justin Hamilton from practice squad, waive S Trae Elston

LOS ANGELES -- With a shortage of defensive tackles, the Eagles have signed Justin Hamilton off their practice squad.

To make room, they released safety Trae Elston.

The Eagles were down to three defensive tackles heading into the weekend after Fletcher Cox (calf) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist) were ruled out for the Chargers game. Instead of using their defensive tackles inside and messing with the rotation, the Eagles elected to call up Hamilton. Still, that doesn't mean you won't see Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham inside Sunday. 

Hamilton has been on the Eagles' practice squad since the start of the season. After a really solid training camp, he was beaten out by draft pick Elijah Qualls for the last DT spot on the roster. 

Hamilton, 24, spent time with the Bills, Packers and Seahawks before joining the Eagles. He went undrafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2015.

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pop quiz for newbie; Carson Wentz's escapability

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pop quiz for newbie; Carson Wentz's escapability

As if new Eagles safety Trae Elston's head wasn't already spinning, some jerk reporter gave him a pop quiz Thursday. 

When the Eagles claimed Elston off waivers this week, they became his fifth team in the NFL since going undrafted just a year ago. 

Could he name all of them in order? 

"I think," he said. "All right, go ahead."

All right, first you were where? 

"Saints … yeah." 

Then where'd you go? 

"I went to Tampa." 

Then …?

"Then Cleveland." 

Then you were claimed …

"By Buffalo … now I'm here." 

OK, you got it. Good job. 

Elston starting smiling. "It's crazy though." 

It really is. Coming out of Ole Miss, Elston signed with the Saints in May 2016 and lasted until final cuts. He joined the Bucs' practice squad in October but lasted just until November. In December 2016, he was signed to the Browns active roster for two weeks before he made it to their practice squad. He was with Cleveland until this past April. From there, the Bills claimed him. He made their team out of training camp but lasted just a couple weeks into the season. He was cut by the Bills on Tuesday, claimed by the Eagles on Wednesday and joined his new team at practice for the first time Thursday. 

He's right. It is crazy. 

"Sometimes you can say it's a bad thing, but it's a good thing also because I'm learning a lot," he said Thursday at an unmarked locker in the middle of the wrong position group. "All that knowledge I'm getting from a lot of old heads that's on all these teams and learning how they play things, learn how they do things. I try to take it all in. I take a lot of notes and I keep all the notebooks. And I think it's going to help me in the long-term."

The Eagles didn't show any interest in him before last year's draft, but he doesn't care much about that anymore. Elston is just trying to make the most of his next opportunity. This one with the Eagles arose because of a few injuries to their secondary. 

The day before his arrival, the Birds had just two healthy safeties on their practice field. 

How quickly can he pick up this new system? 

"I think I'll be very quick to pick it up," Elston said. "I'm a pretty smart guy."

And it's not like he hasn't done it before. 

Giant compliment
Through two games, Carson Wentz has been hit more than any quarterback in football. But what has really stood out about him is how he's able to get away from other hits. 

He's pulled off some Houdini moves in the first two weeks of the season and it sounds like the rest of the league is taking notice. 

"Looks like he has eyes in the back of his head out there," Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters this week. "He's really playing with good instincts in the pocket. He's escaping the pocket well, moving well in the pocket. Strong with two hands on the ball. He can get out of the pocket and get in position to make a deadly throw down the field in a heartbeat."

During the summer, the Eagles kind of tried to downplay the idea that Wentz and Alshon Jeffery needed more time to jell. Jeffery missed some time with an injury and then more time when Doug Pederson decided to give him extra rest. Still, the pair worked together whenever they could. That rapport finally showed against the Chiefs, when Jeffery caught seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. 

As a veteran offensive coach, McAdoo knows these things take time. 

"I think the more they play together, the more the chemistry will come," McAdoo said. "It's hard to manufacture the chemistry, it just takes time. Development takes time and chemistry takes time. Trying to work with a quarterback and a receiver, especially when you factor in the defenses they're going to see. They're going to see the same defense every day in OTAs and in training camp. It's different when you get into the season and you face different types of coverages and leverages. I think it takes a little time to get that chemistry down."

Literally running the offense
Wentz is the Eagles' leading rusher through two games. That's not ideal and says more about the Eagles' rushing attack than it does Wentz. But it also shows that Wentz isn't a statue in the pocket. He's able to buy time and when there's nothing downfield, he'll take off. He has 61 yards rushing already. 

Wentz joined Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick as the only Eagles quarterbacks to rush for 60 yards through the first two games of the season. That sounds great, but those other three were actually trying to run some of the time. 

"I think my scrambling is very situational," Wentz said this week. "Even on those runs, my eyes are downfield when I was scrambling and then I just took off. That's something the Chiefs presented where they were dropping eight. Things weren't opening up and I was able to buy some extra time, O-line was able to hold up, just kind of keep plays alive that way.

"I've said it from Day 1: I always want to be a thrower first, even when I start scrambling, I'm always trying to keep my eyes downfield and make a play throwing the ball first. But when the time comes where I have no fear of taking off and running and, again, knowing how to get down and protect myself."

But what about designed runs for Wentz? The Eagles haven't called a play like that yet this season, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich said with a player like Wentz, those calls are "always in your back pocket." 

Reich said every team the Eagles play has to think about Wentz's legs, which is true. But do they actually have to worry about designed runs? Probably not. At least not until the Eagles run one. The Eagles obviously don't want to put Wentz in a situation where he could get injured but Reich said those types of QB runs are always available. 

"Designed runs, in the National Football League, designed quarterback runs are very limited," Wentz said. "It's a week-by-week thing. Coaches know the right time for that. I'm always more than willing. But it's a situational thing."

Eagles looking at safety options for Sunday vs. Giants

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Eagles looking at safety options for Sunday vs. Giants

The Hamstrung Trio would make for a decent band name. 

It might be music to the Giants' ears. 

As practice kicked off at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, the Eagles were without three of their top options at safety. Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins all stood on the sideline and watched thanks to hamstring injuries they suffered during the Kansas City game (see Injury Update)

That left the Eagles with two healthy safeties: Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos. 

"You never know what's going to happen," Graham said. "You never know the situation. I would like to believe that out of three of us, at least one of us will be able to go. I'm hoping and praying that all three of us are not out (for Sunday's game). We're all just going to get enough treatment. At worst, hopefully, one of us will be ready to go."

Graham, 32, said he suffered his hamstring injury — he thinks — in the second quarter on Sunday and was able to play through the pain. It felt worse the next day. 

The 11-year NFL veteran has been incredibly durable during his career. In fact, he has played in 159 consecutive games (165 with playoffs). Only Pittsburgh's William Gay has a longer consecutive games streak than Graham. 

"That's out of my control obviously," Graham said. "I'm not going to go out there if I feel like I can't help us. But I'm also the type that I can play through some things. I always have in my career. I've had nicks and bruises, things like that. A hamstring is a little different. I've never had a hamstring injury in my life. It's not something I'm used to. My pain tolerance is pretty good though." 

Of the Hamstrung Trio, Graham is the most likely to be able to play on Sunday. But if all three are out, the Eagles will be in the same precarious situation they were in during the 27-20 loss to the Chiefs. 

During that game, Jim Schwartz approached linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and told him he was one more injury away from entering the game at safety. With the Eagles' numbers at safety still low, Grugier-Hill, mostly a special-teamer, thinks he might get some practice reps at safety later this week. 

"I'm excited. It's a great opportunity for me," he said. "But we want those guys who are injured to come back as soon as possible. I'm excited; they're preparing me for whatever and I'll be prepared for that." 

Before it gets to Grugier-Hill, it's likely special teams ace Maragos would get into the game. Under the former regime, Maragos wasn't completely relegated to special teams. While he played just one defensive snap in 2016, Maragos was on the field for 304 (25.1 percent) in 2015, the last year under Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. 

When the new coaching staff — Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz — arrived to town, they signed McLeod and clearly saw Maragos as a better fit on just special teams, where he has thrived throughout his career. Maragos took the demotion in stride and actually said it allowed him to focus most of his attention on what has made him so valuable in the NFL. 

"I got a lot of great experience on defense, which is great," he said. "Obviously, for me, I've kind of made a name for myself as a special teamer. Obviously, you run down 100 yards on kickoffs, it's a different type of mentality, it's a different type of win. But if I need to split time with my mindset on defense and special teams, it actually helped me those couple years back, in the event that if I need to do anything, I'll mentally know what to expect."

There will be at least three safeties on the field Thursday afternoon for practice. The Eagles claimed former Bills safety Trae Elston off waivers Wednesday, but it'll be a race to get him ready for Sunday (see story). It's hard to imagine him having a big role. 

So, the three options so far are Maragos, a linebacker, or a guy who wasn't with the team yesterday. Things don't look great. But for whatever reason, Malcolm Jenkins doesn't seem worried. At all (see story)

Jenkins even brought up a fourth option: moving a cornerback to safety. The Eagles often boast about the versatility of their safeties, their ability to also play corner. But Jenkins says it goes the other way too. He said the Eagles' safeties play like slot corners in the majority of their packages anyway and the team has plays where they'll rotate a corner to a deep defender, "which is in turn, the same thing as a safety." 

If the Eagles went with this option, moving a corner to safety, Jenkins recognizes that it would put more on his shoulders. He'd have to make sure everyone was lined up correctly and make the calls. But he thinks they could do it. 

"We've got options," Jenkins said. 

The best option would be to simply get back one member of the Hamstrung Trio back on the field. They're hoping to break up the band.