Eagles

After injuries to Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, plenty of reason to be concerned about Eagles’ DT spot

After injuries to Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, plenty of reason to be concerned about Eagles’ DT spot

A couple weeks ago, Hassan Ridgeway was just a nice rotational depth piece and Akeem Spence was at home on his couch. 

A lot changed very quickly. 

Now, the Eagles need both defensive tackles to be real contributors for at least the next month, possibly longer. 

“It’s a whirlwind, but that’s the NFL,” Ridgeway said. “You never know what’s going to happen. People can drop, people can get injured. You just never think it’s going to happen like that.” 

The Eagles came into the 2019 season with tremendous depth at the defensive tackle position. That unit already had All-Pro Fletcher Cox, added former Pro Bowler Malik Jackson in the offseason, brought back a healthy Tim Jernigan and then added Ridgeway in a draft-day trade. It was a strong group. Strong enough that they even waived Treyvon Hester at final cuts. 

It isn’t anymore. 

For as much as we’ve talked about receiver depth this week — and for good reason — the defensive tackle position is a serious concern as well. 

Jackson suffered a Lisfranc injury in the opener and is done for the year. Jernigan broke his foot on Sunday and is out at least a month. Two big injuries in two weeks. 

“It’s hard to see them go down like that,” Ridgeway said. 

That means that in the last couple of weeks, Ridgeway went from being a depth piece to a likely starter and Spence went from his couch to being the first guy off the bench. 

“I was sitting at home,” said Spence, who was without a team in Week 1. “That was my first Sunday ever being at home, just watching the opening week. And, bang, it’s back to it.”

And to top it off, Cox hasn’t looked like his usual dominant self as he comes back from offseason foot surgery.  

Is Doug Pederson concerned? 

“Obviously it's early in the year, and if you go in with three tackles, you have to maybe shift some guys around,” Pederson said. “But we've done this before with our end positions, BG [DE Brandon Graham] can obviously come down inside and do some things in there. We keep those guys as fresh as we can with a rotating system, and we go play. We can’t really worry about that too much. We just have to go play.”

Maybe Pederson isn’t concerned. But maybe he should be. 

The real problem for the Eagles is that they were relying on the strength of their interior pass rush this season. They had great depth on the edge last year, but lost Chris Long to retirement and traded Michael Bennett. Despite that, they felt good about their defensive line, especially after the addition of Jackson, a skilled interior rusher who would alleviate the need to rush defensive ends from the defensive tackle spots. Then he got hurt. 

And even after Jackson went down in Week 1, the Eagles probably felt lucky that Jernigan was healthy, because he was about as good a backup as they have at any position. Then he got hurt. 

The one bright spot here is that Ridgeway is in his fourth NFL season and Spence is in his seventh, so at least the Eagles aren’t relying on completely unproven rookies. And, even though they initially wanted to avoid it, they do have defensive ends who can play defensive tackle.  

Despite all that, a key position of strength has turned into a question mark pretty quickly this season. We’ll see soon enough how the Eagles handle it. 



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Eagles Injury Update: Jalen Mills will start Sunday, but Eagles missing other key players

Eagles Injury Update: Jalen Mills will start Sunday, but Eagles missing other key players

The Eagles are getting at least one key starter back for Sunday Night Football against Dallas, but will be missing several others. 

Jalen Mills (foot) will be officially activated off the PUP list and said he will start against the Cowboys. 

I asked Mills what it meant to him to be named a starter after nearly a year off the field. 

“I had to make plays at practice, you know what I’m saying?” Mills answered. “It wasn’t nothing given. At the end of the day, you’ve got to show the coaching staff and you also gotta show the other 10 guys on the field that I’m capable of going out there and making plays.” 

It’s been nearly a year since his last game action (Oct. 28, 2018), but Mills said he feels like he’s in good enough condition to play the entire game if he needed to. But that probably won’t happen. Expect to see the Eagles rotate some. 

“It’s good,” Mills said about his conditioning. “Did a great job with Josh (Hingst), our strength coach as far as these six weeks on PUP on the side field, as far as me running and getting my heart and my lungs strong. And then football today and the last two days, running all over the field. If the ball’s getting thrown the other day, chasing it down.” 

Mills was not required to be on the injury report all week because he hasn’t been on the active roster. 

Here’s the final injury report of the week: 

Out: Nigel Bradham (ankle), DeSean Jackson (abdomen), Tim Jernigan (foot), Avonte Maddox (concussion, neck), Jason Peters (knee) , Darren Sproles (quad)  

Questionable: Ronald Darby (hamstring) 

No real surprises there. All the players ruled out haven’t practiced all week. 

Darby hasn’t played since he suffered his hamstring injury against Detroit. Doug Pederson said on Friday morning that he still viewed Mills and Darby as starters. So if Darby is able to play, expect him to start opposite Mills. 

Without Peters, rookie first-round pick Andre Dillard will make his first-career start at left tackle. He’ll see a lot of Robert Quinn and maybe a little of DeMarcus Lawrence. 

Jackson has been doing some work on a side field this week, but didn’t practice. He hasn’t played since early in the Atlanta game in Week 2. This will be his fifth consecutive game missed. On Friday morning, Pederson was asked if it’s even possible for Jackson to get to 100 percent this season. 

“Nobody is ever 100 percent,” Pederson said. “Again, with the type of injury that he has, and being a track guy, a speed guy, it affects you. It makes a difference. Is he going to be 100% when he comes back? Probably not. Is he going to feel better? Yeah, he'll feel better and be able to put it behind him and focus on football.”

Bradham was seen on Friday walking through the locker room, still with a noticeable limp. Without him, expect Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards to be the starters, with the first two playing on nickel downs. 

Sproles is out again, but is at least healing. For the first time (at least that reporters have seen) since his injury, he was working on a side field Friday. 



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Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

 

DeMarcus Lawrence says Doug Pederson should ‘shut his ass up’

DeMarcus Lawrence says Doug Pederson should ‘shut his ass up’

Earlier this week, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Monday morning said the Eagles were going to go down to Dallas and win on Sunday night.

Pederson claimed it wasn’t a guarantee; it was just showing confidence in his team. 

And then we went most of the week without hearing a ton about it, at least nothing incendiary, from any other players or coaches … until Friday. 

I don’t think it was ever in question that Pederson was going to stay on the sideline for this game. Not much use for a 51-year-old backup quarterback coming off offseason ankle surgery. 

Anyway, with two 3-3 division rivals battling on Sunday Night Football, neither squad probably needed a ton of extra motivation. But here it is. 

For the Cowboys, it’ll be Pederson’s declaration that the Eagles are going to win. 

For the Eagles, it’ll be Lawrence saying their head coach should “shut his ass up.” Don’t talk to dad like that. 

Some of this stuff can be silly, but I’ll take anything that throws gasoline on the rivalry fire. And this might just do it. It’s just more fun when these two teams hate each other. 

While Lawrence is a very good player and has been to two straight Pro Bowls, it is worth noting that Lane Johnson has pretty much shut him down in the past. Lawrence has played the Eagles nine times in his career and doesn’t have a sack.

 

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