Eagles

Eagles missing linebacker as NFC Championship Game prep begins

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Eagles missing linebacker as NFC Championship Game prep begins

Updated: 4:03 p.m.

What's left of the Eagles' 53-man roster is pretty healthy as the Birds kicked off practice leading into Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. 

With one exception. 

Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was the only player on the roster who did not practice as the team worked out inside their practice bubble in pads Wednesday. Ellerbe has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Ellerbe was there as a spectator and without a helmet. Sidney Jones (hamstring) was a full participant. 

The veteran linebacker missed practice last Tuesday, was limited Wednesday and became a full participant Thursday. We'll see if this week mirrors that. 

Ellerbe ended up being listed as questionable for the game, but was active against the Falcons and played 23 snaps (37 percent). Ellerbe is the Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker in their base package. He comes out on nickel downs. 

In Minnesota, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen missed practice with a lower back injury. Thielen caught 91 passes for over 1,200 yards this season.  

The Eagles were back in pads Wednesday, trying to keep things as normal as possible. There was plenty of intensity during the open portion of the practice. During special teams drills, rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas ran through veteran linebacker Najee Goode. That's some West Virginia on West Virginia crime. 

Here are some views from Wednesday's session: 

Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

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AP Images

Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

We answered half of your questions in yesterday’s mailbag (see story), but there were plenty more. 

So in between scarfing down hot dogs and burgers, take some time to check out these answers. 

To give some background on this question, cornerback Sidney Jones has been working in the slot during OTAs. Last year’s second-round pick, who missed most of his rookie season with that Achilles injury, looks good and is ready to be a real player in this league. 

It seems like the Eagles really want to give Jones a chance to learn the nickel corner position and take control of it. It’s a new spot for him, but he should be talented enough to handle it. If he doesn’t look good in the slot, they could always move him outside on those downs and slide Jalen Mills inside. 

As far as Jones simply being a starter … it seems unlikely now, just because Mills and Ronald Darby are still ahead of him. As long as they’re both there, Jones is the third guy in. Either way, he’s going to play a ton this year and I’m on the record predicting a big year for Jones. 

Nah. Gotta trust the doctors and trainers. As I understand it, the stuff Carson Wentz is doing right now is just a part of his rehab. He hasn’t done any work outside of individual drills and has to start throwing and working on footwork at some point. It seems like he’s doing a lot, but he really isn’t yet. Although what we’ve seen is a good sign. 

The Eagles aren’t rushing Wentz. They’re making sure he doesn’t rush himself. If anything, they’re going to end up being too cautious.  

I have seen just one practice, so I don’t have a ton to work off of. I like the look of defensive end Josh Sweat. He’s long and slender and could get on the field in pass rush situations this year. It’s way too early, but if Sweat ever lives up to his potential, we might look back at him as a steal. 

As far as guys under the radar, I don’t think anyone is making a big enough deal about Mike Wallace. Most people know he’s an upgrade, but he should be a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith and it should really help the Eagles’ offense be more dynamic. 

If I had to guess now — and, again, I’ve seen one practice — I’d say, Jones. Doug Pederson talked about Jones like he actually has some plans for him this season. We’ve already seen him have success in the NFL and he’s not that far removed from it. 

Adams had a good college career, but there are some clear flaws in his game, which is why he went undrafted. I know everyone looks at Corey Clement from last year, but that’s rare. Adams might be a better fit on the practice squad this year, if they can sneak him there. 

I’ll revisit this in the summer once the pads go on. 

Well, those smoothies are still around. Pederson kept a lot of that stuff but made it more voluntary. Players still get personalized drinks. 

The easy answer here is ice cream. Doug likes his ice cream. Plain vanilla. Can’t believe Häagen-Dazs hasn’t found a way to get Pederson in some ads. 

Aside from that, I know wings in the cafeteria have been a big hit on Fridays. The cooks — who are great, by the way — make non-fried wings with plenty of different sauces to choose from. A couple years ago, a player from Rochester, New York, introduced Boss Sauce and it became a hit among the players. I think the wings are still around. 

Eagles Mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

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Eagles Mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. The Eagles are probably enjoying it too — because Tuesday, they’re back to work. 

That’s when the team’s second round of OTAs begin. The Eagles will have a few more weeks of the voluntary offseason program before the mandatory minicamp June 12-14. 

Let’s take a dip into the mailbag: 

Yeah, I’d consider Jay Ajayi the lead back for this coming season. I really think the Eagles are going to ride him a little more than they did last year now that he’s had plenty of time in the offense. But I still don’t see Doug Pederson or Duce Staley abandoning the running back-by-committee approach. So while I think Ajayi will get the bulk of the carries, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles will still play plenty. 

Ajayi will be the feature back, but Pederson will want to keep him fresh for the playoffs too. Sure, the Eagles want to use him up on the final year of his deal, but they shouldn’t do it before they really need him. 

The Eagles really like Mack Hollins and it’s not hard to figure out why. He’s a nice, humble kid who works extremely hard. As a rookie, Hollins played in all 16 games and had just 16 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. He was even less productive in the postseason, when he caught one pass for nine yards. 

To answer your question, yes, I think Hollins will be more involved. It also can’t hurt that the Eagles brought in his college position coach, Gunter Brewer. The problem is that as long as everyone’s healthy, he’s still behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor. He’ll get snaps, but they’ll be limited. He’ll have to make the most of them. 

Quick Hollins story: Late in the season, I asked him about his lack of offensive production and he looked me dead in the eyes and said his job isn’t to catch passes. I probably looked confused. “My job is to help us win,” he said. “And I’ve been doing that.” 

Got a few questions about bringing in a linebacker and I understand why. On the first day of OTAs, the Eagles cut Mychal Kendricks and lost Paul Worrilow for the season. Earlier this week, I looked at the depth the Eagles have. I still wouldn’t worry about the position. 

I think it’s very possible the Eagles bring in another veteran linebacker, but I’m not sure there’s a huge rush. What might have been lost this week is that to cut Kendricks, the Eagles must feel really good about Jordan Hicks’ recovery. And remember, the Eagles are in two-linebacker sets most of the time. Corey Nelson will have a chance to be the weakside guy with Kendricks gone. And there's still decent depth. 

Maybe the Eagles add a player this summer, but it’s also possible they wait a bit to see what they have. For what it’s worth, I’d at least take a look at Bowman to see if there’s anything left.  

Corey Graham is still available and Pederson seemed more than open to bringing him back, so that’s very possible. Graham was a really important addition last offseason because, like you said, it allowed Jenkins to move closer to the line.

A lot of Jenkins playing that hybrid LB position was out of necessity with Hicks gone. According to ProFootballFocus, he played 42 percent of his snaps at LB, so it’s hard to imagine him doing it more in 2018. Still, Jenkins' versatility and his importance to the team can’t be overstated.