Eagles

Eagles injury update: Sidney Jones, D.J. Alexander nearing return

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Eagles injury update: Sidney Jones, D.J. Alexander nearing return

Updated: 3:59 p.m.

As the Eagles got to their first real practice Thursday, two players who have missed a few weeks were participating. 

Backup linebacker and special teamer D.J. Alexander (hamstring) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) were on the field inside the bubble today, indicating they are nearing a possible return. They were both limited.

Did not practice: Carson Wentz (back), Michael Bennett (foot)

Limited: Alexander (hamstring), Jones (hamstring), Jason Peters (quad), Alshon Jeffery (ribs), Golden Tate (knee), Mike Wallace (ankle) 

Some notes: 

• Alexander hasn’t played since the Rams game. He doesn’t play on defense but has been a big-time special teams contributor this season. 

• Jones hasn’t played since re-injuring his hamstring in Dallas. Even if he returns this weekend, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles’ starting him over Avonte Maddox or Rasul Douglas, who have shored up the secondary in his absence. 

• Tate and Jeffery popped up on yesterday’s injury report, but look like they’ll be able to play Sunday. Tate had a compression sleeve on his left leg. 

• Wallace is an interesting one. Since today is the first day of practice this week, not sure about his chances to play Sunday. We’ll learn more later in the week. It might still be too early. 

• Jason Peters has been limited for a while, but he managed to make it through the last game. He should be good to go for Sunday. 

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Eagles mailbag: Who is the Eagles' 2019 MVP so far?

Eagles mailbag: Who is the Eagles' 2019 MVP so far?

Since the Eagles play on Monday night this week, we have an extra day to wait for their game against the Giants. 

So let’s take a dip into the mailbag. As always, thanks for all your great questions. 

We’ll get to some more tomorrow. 

This is a simple question, but it’s not a simple answer. Far from it. I spent way too much time thinking about this question, so I’ll walk you through some of my thought process. First, I came up with a list of players I deemed eligible: Carson Wentz, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox. 

Wentz: I had to include the quarterback, but he isn’t playing as well as he needs to play. I still think he’s far from their biggest problem, but he’s not the MVP either. 

McLeod: You wouldn’t know he’s coming back from injury and he’s been solid. But he hasn’t really made many splash plays either. 

Howard: The Eagles were 5-4 with Howard and are 0-3 without him. That shows how important he has been to this team. But he’s about to miss his fourth straight game, so he’s eliminated. 

Sanders: An interesting choice. The rookie running back got off to a slow start but is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has been one of the most explosive playmakers on offense. 

Graham: There aren’t many players who are exceeding expectations this season, but Graham is one of them. He has 7 1/2 sacks to lead the team and has been consistently good, even before those sacks started piling up. 

Johnson: He missed one game with a concussion, but the right tackle has been as solid as they come this season. He was rewarded with a big contract and should be heading back to the Pro Bowl. 

Brooks: Like Graham, Brooks is one of the few players exceeding expectations. He missed most of one game after a return of his anxiety, but aside from that, he’s been their most reliable offensive lineman. And that’s after coming back from an Achilles tear. 

Ertz: Ertz has been the Eagles’ best offensive weapons again this season. He has 70 catches for 736 yards and three touchdowns. He’s on pace for 93 catches for 981 yards. Another great season, but a drop from his numbers in 2018 and he’s made more mistakes this year. 

Cox: He’s still their best player and he has come on incredibly strong, but he got off to a slow start coming back from injury. He always has a strong case. 

My verdict: I’m going with Graham. On offense, my pick would have been Brooks, but I’m going with the best player on what has been the stronger unit. Graham got paid this offseason and has been very good and consistent. He has a shot at his first 10-sack season and is still as stout in the run game as ever. 

(Note: It’s not a good sign that it was this hard.) 

I don’t think so. Right or wrong, the Eagles are committed to Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills as their starting corners. Now, if one of them were to get hurt, they’d have a decision. Ultimately, I think Maddox is either a nickel corner or a safety. As unorthodox as it might be for a guy of his size (5-9, 184), I really liked him at safety last year. 

During the 2018 season, Jim Schwartz compared Maddox to Cortland Finnegan. But I have another comp for Maddox. When he was playing safety last year, I saw a little Bob Sanders. Not saying he’ll be that good, but a smaller safety with ball skills who can still hit. The Eagles will have a decision to make on McLeod this offseason. If he’s not back, I’d think about Maddox at FS. 

Tough question because they’ve lost these games in different ways. Since the offense barely showed up in two of those three games, I’ll go with the lack of offensive consistency. Even in the game when they scored 31, they couldn’t get points late. 

As much as they don’t look like contenders, it’s Doug Pederson’s job to try to win games. And this team still has a really legitimate shot to make it into the playoffs. And if they win the division, they get a first-round home playoff game. I know it’s unlikely this team goes on a run to the Super Bowl, but they have to at least try to get to the playoffs and see what happens. Remember, they were pretty darn close to advancing to the NFC Championship Game last year after starting that season with a 4-6 record. Gotta at least try. 

I have actually talked to people about this before. I really don’t think they could bring him back. They made their decision to go with Carson Wentz — and it wasn’t even like they thought about it. Bringing back Foles would put so much unnecessary pressure on Wentz, it wouldn’t be fair. From a football standpoint, it would make a ton of sense. But everything the Eagles do should be with Wentz in mind. I wouldn’t do it. 

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Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson said he hopes to get recently re-acquired running back Jay Ajayi more involved in the offense as the Eagles head into the stretch run.

Ajayi has eight carries for 25 yards and a 3.1 average in two games since returning to the Eagles following a year layoff. 

A Pro Bowler in 2016 with the Dolphins and a stud down the stretch during the Super Bowl season, Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 last year and didn’t play from Oct. 7, 2018, until Nov. 24, 2019, when he made his 2019 debut against the Seahawks.

Ajayi didn't have OTAs or a training camp and didn't even practice until the Wednesday before the Seattle game. 

It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, he's a bigger, powerful guy that we can use in spots.

With Jordan Howard missing the last three games with nerve damage in his shoulder, rookie Miles Sanders has essentially been the entire running attack. But the Eagles are so hesitant to increase his workload significantly that it’s created a situation in which the Eagles just haven’t run the ball very much during their three-game losing streak because they haven’t had a viable second option.

During these last three games, Sanders has 40 carries, Ajayi eight and Boston Scott seven.

This is the first time the Eagles have leaned this heavily on one back in a three-game stretch since 2012. 

During a late-season three-game stretch in which LeSean McCoy was hurt, Bryce Brown got 52 carries and Dion Lewis had four.

The Eagles ran 45 percent of the time in the nine games Howard played and 31 percent since he got hurt. They’re 0-3 without him.

Miles has done a great job,” Pederson said Saturday. “I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season.

The current stretch is the first in franchise history that the Eagles have thrown at least 40 times and run the ball 23 or fewer times in three straight games.

Howard hasn’t played since before the bye week and is out for the Eagles’ game Monday night against the Giants. 

Pederson said earlier in the week he doesn’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, but will Howard be able to pick up where he left off after such a long layoff even if he does return?

The Eagles began the season with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles in what looked to be a deep running back rotation. 

Sanders is the only one of that group left. Can Ajayi make a difference after such a long layoff? Sounds like Pederson wants to find out.

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