Eagles re-sign DT Bruce Hector, release WR Kamar Aiken

Eagles re-sign DT Bruce Hector, release WR Kamar Aiken

With only two healthy defensive tackles on the roster, the Eagles on Friday morning signed undrafted rookie Bruce Hector from the practice squad.

Hector spent the first four weeks of the season on the active roster before being released on Oct. 2 and joining the practice squad two days later. Hector played 18 snaps on defense the first four weeks of the season and 12 more on special teams.

To make room for Hector, the Eagles released wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who played 131 snaps on offense after rejoining the team after the opener but caught only six passes for 53 yards — just 1 for 14 the last four games. 

The Eagles originally signed Aiken on July 25, released him Sept. 1 and re-signed him on Sept. 12.

Veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and has been limited in practice this week.

The only other defensive tackles on the roster before this roster move were all-pro Fletcher Cox and Trayvon Hester, who was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 2 — replacing Hector on the 53.

Whether Hector dresses out Sunday for the Eagles' game against the Panthers depends on whether Ngata will be healthy enough to play.

Hester has played 26 snaps on defense the last two weeks. He was a seventh-round pick of the Raiders last year and averaged 25 snaps per game at defensive tackle in 2017 for the Raiders.

With Aiken gone, the Eagles are down to five wide receivers — starters Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, plus DeAndre Carter, Shelton Gibson and Jordan Matthews. 

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10 things we learned from the 2018 Eagles season

10 things we learned from the 2018 Eagles season

Now that was a crazy season. 

The Eagles’ 2018 season ended a few weeks sooner than they would have liked, but it was a wild ride. They came into the year with huge expectations, got off to a horrific start riddled with missed opportunities. They read their obituary in the morning paper and came back to life with an improbable run just to get into the playoffs. Then they won a playoff game and came damn close to winning another one in the same stadium where they were crushed a couple months earlier. 

It was wild. But now it’s over. 

We are leaving this season with a few lessons under our belts. Here are 10 things we learned from the 2018 Eagles: 

1. This team won't give up under Doug Pederson 

Remember when everyone thought the Eagles' season was done and some uninformed folks even claimed the locker room was giving up on Pederson when the team was 4-6. Well, that didn’t happen. That’s never going to happen. The scene after the Eagles’ 20-14 loss in New Orleans is the best example of who Pederson is as a coach and as a man. He stood outside the visitor’s locker room door and greeted every player as they slumped inside. He has earned the respect of every single player on the team. 

2. It's hard to embrace the target 

We should all have a greater respect for what the Patriots have been able to do over the past two decades now. It’s damn hard to defend a Super Bowl title and the Patriots have themselves in the mix every single season. Everyone knows the defending champion has a target on its back, but there’s something to just how exhausting the Super Bowl run can be. Guys don’t get their normal offseason and that can be a problem. That was a problem. 

3. Fletcher Cox is even better than we thought  

He isn’t going to win the Defensive Player of the Year. He’ll fall short of that goal, but he made his first All-Pro team and raised his level of play to a zone where only a few select players can get to. Cox had 10½ sacks, but he was even more disruptive. He’s going to go down as an all-time great Eagle and they’ll have him in his prime for the next few years. It’s going to be fun to watch. 

4. 3rd-and-longs can be killers 

One of the themes of this season came back to bite the Eagles in their loss to the Saints. The Eagles gave up first downs on 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-16 and 3rd-and-13. The Eagles did that a ton this season. The Eagles gave up 19 first downs on 3rd- or 4th-down-and-10+ this season. That was second in the NFL behind just the Houston Texans, who gave up 22. The one that really stands out still was the 4th-and-15 against the Titans. If Corey Graham doesn’t have a momentary lapse, the Eagles win that game. All things considered, the defense was actually pretty good this season, but there were more than a few brutal plays. 

5. Injuries really can kill a season 

The Eagles overcame so many injuries during their Super Bowl run last season, we probably all got a little false sense of confidence. Injuries can absolutely destroy a season and this year, it seemed like it was a lot harder to overcome them without momentum already running downhill. Just look at the list of players who were on IR this season: Mike Wallace, Rodney McLeod, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, Derek Barnett, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Josh Sweat, Jordan Mailata. 

And then think about all the guys who didn’t hit IR but missed significant time: Carson Wentz, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Tim Jernigan, Haloti Ngata, Jordan Hicks, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, etc. It was hard to overcome all that. 

6. Scouts work during the season too

Because of all the injuries, the Eagles kept adding players throughout the season. Some didn’t work. There was Dexter McDougle and T.Y. McGill. But there was also Cre’Von LeBlanc, Treyvon Hester, B.J. Bello. Every NFL team has pro scouts who are charged with scouring the bottom of NFL rosters and practice squads to find talent that might be available. It’s a mostly thankless job, but they might have found a gem in LeBlanc and a real role player in Hester. Good work from them. 

7. Zach Ertz is a baller 

We knew Ertz was a good player, but he just went out and had one of the best seasons a tight end has had in NFL history. It’s a shame he got snubbed by the All-Pro voters, but there happened to be two other tight ends who had great seasons too. Ertz finished his season with an NFL record for tight ends in catches with 116, for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. He was already a consistently great tight end, but he took his game to a new level this season. 

8. We couldn't avoid a QB debate 

The Eagles drafted Wentz at No. 2 to be their franchise guy, but couldn’t get through this season without a serious quarterback controversy. That’s really a credit to Nick Foles and how well he played in Wentz’s absence. People in this town love the backup quarterback; they love him even more when he’s the Super Bowl MVP. Unfortunately, it seems like Foles’ time in Philly is done, but he’ll be a legend here forever. The Eagles are sticking with Wentz, who played OK this season. They’re expecting more as he gets further away from his ACL recovery. 

9. The lines are key 

Howie Roseman always harps on it and we realized why this season. The Eagles need to build on their offensive and defensive lines. When the offensive line got healthy late in the season, the whole offense started to go. When the defensive line got consistent pressure, it hid the decimated secondary. The Eagles have some questions to answer about their lines but will bring back talent on both of them too. Aside from the quarterback position, building in the trenches is the hallmark of this team. 

10. Don't count out Darren Sproles 

We don’t know yet if Sproles will change his mind about retiring and come back for another season. What we do know is we counted him out just a tad too early. It was a real shame that hamstring injury lingered for so long, but once he came back, he was a catalyst for the Eagles’ late-season run. How much can they rely on him if he does come back? Not sure. But he can probably be a nice complementary player if he doesn’t decide to hang ‘em up.

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Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins rightfully added to Pro Bowl roster

Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins rightfully added to Pro Bowl roster

For the third time in his career, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is a Pro Bowler. 

He definitely deserves it. 

Jenkins, who was initially a first-alternate, will replace Giants safety Landon Collins, who finished the 2018 season on IR with a shoulder injury. 

Jenkins, 31, has become one of the greatest free-agent acquisitions in Eagles history. He might be the greatest in franchise history. Since signing with the Eagles in 2014, he has turned himself into one of the best safeties in the league and has now been a Pro Bowler in three of his five years with the Birds, including the last two. 

This season, Jenkins had one interception, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a sack. 

But the most impressive part of Jenkins’ season was just how much he meant to a secondary that was ravaged by injuries. He was the only member of the secondary to stay healthy this season; the other five starters weren’t around during the playoffs. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod ended up on IR and Sidney Jones dealt with a hamstring injury for much of the season. 

Not only did Jenkins start every game, he didn’t leave the field. Including the playoffs, he played all 1,180 defensive snaps this season and also chipped in a significant amount of special teams snaps (158). He’s really become the Eagles’ iron man. 

Aside from just playing every snap, Jenkins means a ton to the Eagles in terms of versatility and leadership. He was the guy who would often speak to the team and break down huddles. 

Jenkins joins the Eagles’ first three Pro Bowlers, who made the initial list: Fletcher Cox, Brandon Brooks and Zach Ertz. 

Brooks will definitely miss the exhibition game on Jan. 27 because he tore his Achilles on Sunday in New Orleans. It also seems very likely Cox will miss the game because of a turf toe injury he suffered on Sunday; he was in a walking boot at locker clean-out day. Ertz told reporters he was undecided about whether or not he’ll play in the game. 

While Jenkins can’t play forever, he’s still playing at an extremely high level at age 31. He takes care of his body and is under contract for two more seasons. 

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