Eagles

With future hanging in balance, Jordan Hicks ready for playoff debut

With future hanging in balance, Jordan Hicks ready for playoff debut

The hardest part came on game days. 

During last year’s playoff run, Jordan Hicks still felt like he was one of the guys during the week. He was around the team, he could shoot hoops with them on the Pop-A-Shot hoop in the Eagles’ locker room, they could go out to dinner, go to meetings and pretty much do most of the things he wanted with his teammates. 

Except on Sundays. 

“When it’s game day, it’s a different animal,” Hicks said Friday. “When you’re not dressing up, you really feel secluded in a way.”

After missing the entire playoff run a year ago and after recovering from a calf injury that kept him out for four games this season, the Eagles’ 26-year-old linebacker is going to make his playoff debut this Sunday in Chicago. And after all he’s been through, he’s not going to take it for granted. 

Adding to the drama is that every game from here on out could be his final game with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2015 draft. 

Hicks is set to become a free agent in March, although he tries his hardest to keep those thoughts from creeping into his head:

Obviously, the focus is on this game, at the end of the day. It’s what it is. It has to be. The moment I start focusing on something else, I’m wrong. There’s times where it tries to trickle in, but I try to block all that out. I owe it to this team to give it everything I have to this game Sunday. 

It was one of the saddest moments of the season to date: I was on the field at the Superdome in New Orleans well after the butt-kicking was over and the locker room had cleared. Hicks was one of the last players to make the long walk across the field to where the Eagles’ team buses were parked. He walked with a pronounced limp and wore a worried expression on his face. 

The doctors gave Hicks a 4-6 week prognosis and Hicks made it his goal to make it four. Despite what he called some “flashback-y” feelings to last year, Hicks missed four games and returned two weeks ago against Houston. 

Since returning a couple weeks ago, Hicks has played in a more limited role. He claims he’s completely bought in to doing whatever the coaching staff wants of him, but said he felt like he really turned a corner from a health standpoint this week. He’s feeling really good going into Wild Card Weekend. 

Hicks made a point to say he was proud of the fact that he played in 641 consecutive defensive snaps to start the season. Injuries have really plagued his young career; he’s played all 16 games just once in four seasons. 

That inability to stay healthy will probably negatively affect his potential earnings when he hits free agency in a few months. It might also affect his likelihood of coming back to Philly if the Eagles feel like they can’t depend on him. 

But at least he doesn’t have to watch these playoffs like last year. 

“It’s a hard position to be in,” Hicks said. “And it’s all about the desire to want to be out there and make a difference in the game.”

He’ll get that chance Sunday. And it might be his last chance as an Eagle.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Can’t keep Boston Scott on the bench now.

After this?

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday that Scott, the Eagles’ speedy 5-foot-6 running back, earned a regular spot in the team’s running back rotation with his electrifying performance against the Giants.

Scott, forced into action in the second half as rookie Miles Sanders battled cramps, was nothing less than brilliant, turning 16 touches into 128 scrimmage yards and the touchdown that started the Eagles’ comeback.

Scott, who entered the game with only 99 career yards from scrimmage and one career catch, ran 10 times for 59 yards and caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 25-yarder down the right sideline in overtime that was one of the Eagles’ biggest plays this year.

His 128 scrimmage yards are the most by any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 156 against the Chargers in 2017.

Asked whether that performance earned Scott playing time even when — or if — the Eagles’ running backs are healthy, Pederson said:

Sure, (because of) where we are right now as a team, an offense (and) his performance and what we've seen in practice, too. Really, it goes all the way back to training camp and some of the preseason games where he played and showed some of that speed and quickness. I think he can really make an impact for us.

The Eagles signed Scott off the Saints’ practice squad late last year, but he didn’t play on offense. He started this year on the Eagles’ practice squad and was signed to the 53 when Corey Clement went on Injured Reserve in mid-October.

But the 24-year-old Scott didn’t play much until Monday night, when Sanders left the game in the third quarter with cramps.

The Eagles trailed 17-3 at halftime, but with Scott making play after play, they scored 20 unanswered points and won 23-17 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

It was good to see Boston get in the game and do the things he did,” Pederson said. “It just gave us as an offense a change of pace. There’s a quickness there, and that's just Boston. It takes nothing away from the other guys. Something we'll continue to implement into our game plan and find ways to utilize him in the offense.

It took four running back injuries — Clement, Sproles, Jordan Howard and Sanders — for Scott to finally get a chance.

Why did it take the Eagles so long to recognize his ability and why did it take four injuries to get him on the field?

Valid questions.

But what’s important now is that Scott continues to have the chance to make plays like he made Monday.

He netted his 128 scrimmage yards on just 16 touches and had 122 of those yards after halftime.

He's the first Eagles running back with 128 yards on 16 or fewer touches since Sproles against the Colts in 2014 and only the eighth to do that in the last 40 years.

He also became the first Eagles running back with 122 scrimmage yards in a half since LeSean McCoy had 170 of his 221 in the second half of the Snow Bowl win over the Lions in 2013.

Pederson said Tuesday that Sanders is fine. His 69 scrimmage yards Monday night gave him 948 this year, which quietly broke McCoy’s franchise record for scrimmage yards by a rookie running back.

But Clement and Sproles are out for the year and Howard remains out indefinitely with a stinger. He hasn’t played since the Bears game on Nov. 3.

As of now, Sanders, Scott and Jay Ajayi are the Eagles’ healthy running backs, although Ajayi has not been productive since his return, with 30 rushing yards on 10 carries in three games. Once Scott started going off Monday night, Ajayi didn’t play.

Looking ahead, Sproles is expected to retire and Howard and Ajayi are due to become free agents.

Sanders is under contract through 2022, and the Eagles control Scott through 2021 and Clement through 2020.

So the reps are there for Scott if he continues to produce. Not just this year, but in the future as well.

After seeing him play Monday night, how can you not play the kid?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

As ESPN’s broadcast came back from a TV timeout in the third quarter on Monday night, it showed a graphic of the previous five Eagles’ drives.

It was ugly.

Each of those previous five drives had lasted just three plays for a total of 31 net yards. All ended in punts.

What the broadcast didn’t show was that in the offensive huddle before the drive that began with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter, 37-year-old future Hall of Famer Jason Peters gave an impassioned speech to his teammates.

“I just told them to empty the tank. Empty the tank,” Peters recalled in the wee hours Tuesday morning to a small group of reporters left in a locker room that had mostly emptied.

“We got two quarters or we’re going home early. The guys answered after I told them that. It’s either win tonight or be at home in three weeks. That was just plain and simple.”

The Eagles them promptly marched down the field 58 yards on 10 plays and punched in their first touchdown of the night. They scored the game’s last 20 points to pull out a win.

Peters said he had “no question” that his teammates would respond.

“I told Doug coming out of halftime, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing. We gonna win the game.’ And he did,” Peters said. “He called a great game. Every play was kind of clicking for us.”

The Eagles were trailing 17-3 at halftime but Peters said he actually felt like they were getting close to making plays. The Eagles were able to move the ball at times in the first half, which gave him confidence that they’d be able to turn things around.

In his 16th NFL season, Peters isn’t the All-Pro he once was. He gets beat occasionally and, although he played every snap on Monday, has had trouble staying healthy. And, yeah, those false starts — he has three this season — can be annoying.

But if there’s one thing we know about Peters, it’s this: When he talks, his teammates listen.

“I always speak up. I ain’t gotta be all in the media or all on TV,” Peters said. “I get our guys, I talk to them every day, in practice, in meetings. I ain’t no big-time rah, rah guy that have to get on television or nothing. I just pull my guys to the side and talk to them individually.”

The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round this spring to be Peters’ replacement. Peters is the second-oldest starting tackle in the NFL and is playing this season on a reworked one-year deal. We all kind of understand the situation.

We could be nearing the end of one of the greatest careers in Eagles history.

Maybe the Eagles have one more run in them before it’s over.

“We’re not in a bad spot,” Peters said. “We’re taking it one week at a time. This wasn’t our best performance. I’m glad we came back and won but we can’t do that against the good teams. We gotta start off hot. Hopefully … we got some people banged up, we get some people to step up. We go from there.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles