Eagles

Eagles-Cardinals 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Cardinals 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (3-1) are riding high after returning from Los Angeles with their second road win of the season. 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (2-2) come to the Linc after an 18-15 overtime win against the 49ers at home. In fact, both of the Cardinals' wins have come in overtime. 

This Arizona team isn't the same one that won 13 games in 2015. The Cardinals have fallen off a little bit, going 7-8-1 last season. But they still have good players at key positions. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday: 

Jared Veldheer vs. Brandon Graham 
The Cardinals' right tackle has struggled this season and is going against the Eagles' best edge rusher. Veldheer has given up two sacks, three QB hits and 16 QB hurries so far this season, according to ProFootballFocus. He really struggled against Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence.  

On a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said QB Carson Palmer is in the best shape he's ever been. 

"We've just got to quit getting him hit so much," Arians said. 

Palmer has been sacked 17 times through four games. That's more than any other quarterback in the NFL and just the eighth time in the last 10 years a QB has been sacked that much through four games. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles had eight sacks in the first two weeks of the season but have had just two over the last two weeks. Graham might have a chance in this one. 

Cardinals' running backs vs. Eagles' run defense
The Cardinals have the worst rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 57.0 yards per game. They're clearly missing David Johnson, who is out with a wrist injury. In his place, the Cards are using a combination of senior citizen Chris Johnson and former starter Andre Ellington. It hasn't gone that well. 

On the flip side, the Eagles have the second-best run defense in the league, giving up just 70.8 yards per game. 

Arians said he would like to be more balanced and run the ball but fourth quarters have dictated their lack of run game. They might try to get it going in Philly on Sunday but it won't be easy. 

Larry Fitzgerald vs. Patrick Robinson
Fitzgerald is 34 years old and is still the Cardinals' best receiver. It's pretty insane. This season he has 26 catches for 276 yards and two TDs. He's on pace for what would be his ninth 1,000-yard season and his third straight. He should be slowing down, but the move into the slot a couple years ago has really given his career some extra length. 

Arians said most teams elect to use their slot cornerback against Fitzgerald and if the Eagles do that, it means Robinson will give it a go. Robinson came in as an outside starter for the Eagles but got bumped inside after they acquired Ronald Darby. Robinson's been great there so far this season. 

Now, in the past, Malcolm Jenkins has enjoyed this matchup against Fitzgerald. And there's a chance he might play there some on Sunday, but it'll depend on the health of Corey Graham. Graham has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. If Jenkins moves into the slot, the Eagles need Graham to take his spot at safety. 

"It would be a huge benefit to get Corey in there," Doug Pederson said. "And it does give Malcolm flexibility to move down into the box and play some nickel if need be." 

Alshon Jeffery vs. Patrick Peterson
Jeffery has been somewhat underwhelming through the first quarter of his first season with the Birds. He has 17 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He's on pace for 68 catches, 860 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad, but not WR1-type numbers either. 

And this week, it won't get any easier. Peterson is one of the NFL's best cover corners. This is his seventh NFL season and he's already been to the Pro Bowl six times and has been All-Pro three times. Expect to see him stick with Jeffery all afternoon on Sunday. 

Jason Peters vs. Chandler Jones
The Cardinals lost Markus Golden for the season to an ACL tear but they still have Jones, their best pass rusher. He already has four sacks this season and is on pace for his third straight double-digit sack season. Jones is a handful. 

Most of Jones' snaps this season and all four of his sacks have come from the right side, which means he'll be going against Peters a lot on Sunday. But Peters has been incredible through four games. He has yet to give up a sack or a QB hit and has given up just four QB hurries. 

So maybe, the Cardinals want to move Jones over to the right tackle. The problem there is that Lane Johnson has been nearly as good. Either way, it'll be a good battle.

Carson Wentz returns to 11-on-11s, and there's even better news too

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AP Images

Carson Wentz returns to 11-on-11s, and there's even better news too

The good news is that Carson Wentz is participating in full-team 11-on-11 drills Sunday.

The better news is that Doug Pederson says it’s permanent.

“Every day, he’ll get a little something,” Pederson said.

Pederson said a week ago that he anticipated Wentz resuming full-team drills on his surgically repaired knee this week, and he said before practice that the plan was still in place, even though the Eagles practiced outdoors on rain-soaked fields Sunday.

It was their first practice since their preseason game Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and it was closed to the media.

Pederson said it was a big step for Wentz to return to full-team drills. He said Wentz and Nick Foles would split reps Sunday with the first offense.

Does this mean he’s going to play against the Falcons in the opener?

It’s certainly a big step.

“It’s big,” Pederson said. “It’s big to begin to evaluate him and see where he’s at and get him back in there with the guys. 

“It’s still a slow process, but at the same time, it’s still exciting for us to get him back out there.”
 
Wentz, who tore his left ACL in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, participated in 11-on-11 drills July 26-28, but after the third day, Pederson shut him down, limiting him to only individual and 7-on-7 drills the last three weeks.

Pederson said it wasn’t a setback but that he had seen enough from Wentz.

But now, with opening day just 2 1/2 weeks away, Wentz is back doing full-team drills, and Pederson said everything he sees from Wentz is encouraging.

“His arm is live, he’s moving around well,” Pederson said.

He said Wentz will still be limited to how much full-team work he gets but will get some in every practice.

“He’s not going to get the full complement of reps,” Pederson said. “We’ll sprinkle him in in each drill.”

Pederson was asked what he learned by watching Wentz these last few weeks. 

“Quite a bit, actually,” he said. “His overall health, the strength of his knee, where he’s at physically. His arm is live, he hasn’t had all the reps … like Nick has had, like Nate (Sudfeld) has had, so he’s fresh. All the things where he wanted him to be at this stage.”

Wentz won’t play against the Browns on Thursday night, and Pederson said he doesn’t plan on playing him in the preseason finale, even if he’s fully cleared.

“Probably not,” he said. “We’re not there yet. We’re just going to take it day-by-day right now. … I haven’t thought beyond getting him out there today. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Wentz wasn’t made available to the media before or after practice Sunday. He’s scheduled to talk Monday.

Pederson said he knows Wentz was frustrated not being involved in team drills these past few weeks, but Pederson made it clear to the 25-year-old third-year pro that he wasn’t going to deviate from the plan.

“The biggest thing is communicating with him,” Pederson said. “Just saying, ‘Hey, here’s the plan, and this is the way it is and this is what we’re sticking to.’  

“If I were in his shoes, I’d probably want to be out there, too. But this is obviously for his health and benefit and his progress and the longevity of his career, so the biggest thing for me was just being honest and communicating with him up front.”

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Eagles Injury Update: Nick Foles was right about his right shoulder injury

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Eagles Injury Update: Nick Foles was right about his right shoulder injury

Just a few days after Nick Foles was wincing in pain on the field at Gillette Stadium, he’s all good. 

It was just a minor shoulder strain. Foles will practice today. 

“He’s fine,” Pederson said. “Yeah, he’s good.”

Foles suffered the injury early in the second quarter. He was taken out of the game but was very optimistic late Thursday night. He was right about his injury. Tests showed it was minor, indeed. 

That’s obviously great news for the Eagles, who kept Foles as an expensive insurance policy for Carson Wentz. The Eagles still hope Wentz will be ready for Week 1, but if he’s not, they have a Super Bowl MVP to fall back on. 

As Wentz returns to 11-on-11 action today, he and Foles will split first-team reps “50-50,” according to Pederson.  

This afternoon, Pederson also updated a few other injuries: 

• Don’t expect to see Darren Sproles or Jason Peters at all this preseason. Pederson said he doesn’t need to see them in a game. Sproles and Peters are both over 30 and coming off ACL tears. 

“Overall, they’re great,” Pederson said. “Right on track. Both of them are healthy and doing a nice job. I don’t necessarily need to see these guys. These two guys have played a ton of games.”

Pederson said they see enough from those two players during practices, which can be tougher on them than an actual game. Pederson thinks they’re ready to play. 

• Tight end Richard Rodgers, who suffered a knee injury against the Patriots, is considered to be “week to week.” That means we might not see him for a while. If Rodgers isn’t healthy by the start of the regular season, the Eagles will have a decision to make. Maybe they keep a fourth TE for a little bit. 

• Corey Clement and Nelson Agholor are considered “day to day,” Pederson said. Both have lower-body injuries and didn’t play in Thursday’s game. If they don’t practice this week, expect them to miss this coming Thursday’s game in Cleveland. 

• Jalen Mills, who didn’t play Thursday after leaving Tuesday’s practice early, will practice today. He’ll be limited to individual periods and won’t get in for 11-on-11s. 

• While Pederson said Donnel Pumphrey is “doing good,” he probably won’t practice this week. That means he probably won’t play in another preseason game. Hard to make the team on the sideline.

• Mack Hollins returned to practice today. He missed about a week, including the game. Jay Ajayi was not at practice for unknown reasons. That left the Eagles with just three healthy running backs today. 

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