Examining Eagles' LB depth after Kendricks cut, Worrilow injury

Examining Eagles' LB depth after Kendricks cut, Worrilow injury

One day into their organized team activities and the Eagles are already down two linebackers. 

It’s unclear how the timing of it all went, if Paul Worrilow went down (see story) before or after the Eagles told Mychal Kendricks they were cutting him (see story). But it doesn’t really matter anymore. The Eagles entered Tuesday with 10 linebackers and they left with eight. Not only did they release Kendricks, who was (sort of) a starter, they also lost a veteran depth piece. 

At least we know the top two linebackers are set. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are the two true starters because the Eagles are in their nickel package for about 75 percent of their defensive snaps. 

The releasing of Kendricks, more than anything, might mean the Eagles are very encouraged by the progress of Hicks as he recovers from a torn Achilles. Kendricks’ playing time increased only when Hicks went down in 2017. Bradham’s role increased then too. 

So for now, we know Hicks is at the MIKE, Bradham is at the SAM and … after that? 

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ linebacker depth as it stands now: 

Corey Nelson
Age: 26

When Nelson signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract in March, he said he was told he’d be competing for the starting weakside linebacker position. At the time, that comment rose eyebrows because the WILL was Kendricks’ job (see story). Now, that obviously makes more sense. 

Nelson was a seventh-round draft pick in 2014 but has been a special teamer since entering the league. He viewed coming to the Eagles as an opportunity to show that he can be a defensive force as well. 

Nelson is coming off a torn biceps injury that ended his 2017 season early but was on the practice field for OTAs Tuesday. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Age: 24

In his two seasons with the Eagles, Grugier-Hill hasn’t played much on defense but he has become one of their best special teams players and had a real case to make the Pro Bowl in 2017, even if he didn’t fill in as a kickoff guy early in the season. 

During Tuesday’s OTAs, Grugier-Hill was lined up with the starters but that was without Kendricks and with Hicks still not participating in team drills. Last season, Grugier-Hill played just 85 defensive snaps and 53 of them came in the meaningless regular-season finale. 

Nate Gerry 
Age: 23

The Eagles seem to like Gerry, who was a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska last year, but he’s still a work in progress. Listed at 218 pounds, he’s one of the Eagles’ lightest linebackers and he’s converting from playing safety in college. In fact, that hybrid quality is something that drew the Eagles to Gerry. 

Like Grugier-Hill, Gerry got some run with the first team Tuesday but didn’t see much defensive action as a rookie, playing just 20 total defensive snaps. But he did have a role on special teams and it doesn’t seem like the Eagles are opposed to extending that. 

Joe Walker 
Age: 25

The Eagles used a seventh-round pick on Walker when he came out of Oregon in 2016, but the former Duck suffered an ACL tear that ruined a really good training camp. Walker returned last season but was buried a little on the depth chart. He played in 12 games and got 99 defensive snaps before the Eagles decided to use Dannell Ellerbe heading into the playoffs. 

Then, to make matters worse, Walker landed on IR with a neck injury to end his 2017 season early. There’s some promise there, but Walker has had difficulty staying healthy. He didn’t practice Tuesday. 

LaRoy Reynolds
Age: 27

Reynolds was just added last week, so we haven’t seen much of him so far. But he’s been in the league since 2013, playing for the Jaguars, Bears and for the Falcons in the last two seasons. With Atlanta, he played in 25 games with three starts. He began the 2017 season on IR with a pec injury but was able to play some down the stretch. Like Worrilow, Reynolds played in Super Bowl LI with Atlanta. 

Asantay Brown 
Age: 23

Brown is an undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan. The 6-0, 215-pound linebacker is the lightest listed on the Eagles’ roster. He has a history at safety, having played that position his first two seasons at Western Michigan before moving to linebacker. 

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

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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

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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