Eagles

How will Eagles go about replacing Jordan Hicks?

How will Eagles go about replacing Jordan Hicks?

At this point, the Eagles' defense should be used to playing shorthanded. Now it's the linebackers' turn, and at least for Monday night, the unit rose to the challenge.

The Eagles were already without Mychal Kendricks to begin with. Then, two plays into the game against Washington, Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending Achilles tear.

"We're praying for him and best wishes for him," Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said postgame. "That's a freak injury, and it's going to hurt us to lose one like that."

Hicks' injury had disaster written all over it, especially with Kendricks already out. Once again, the Eagles' depth came through in the 34-24 win.

"It really changed everything," Bradham said. "As you know, me, Jordan and Mychal are really the main three guys that can rotate, but we had guys step up.

"(Najee Goode) stepped in and played well. Joe Walker stepped in and played well, too. We keep plugging guys in and guys keep stepping up for us. They make plays when their opportunity comes."

Bradham was on the field for all 64 defensive snaps, recording three tackles and two quarterback hits (see snap counts). Goode expected to play but saw extensive action after the injury to Hicks, finishing with four tackles in 49 snaps. And Walker lined up for 11 plays, though he did not make his mark in the box score.

The numbers weren't flashy, but collectively, the makeshift trio got the job done.

"The confidence level is boosted tremendously," Bradham said, "when we're able to plug a different guy in who hasn't really seen all the reps all week, hasn't had as many opportunities getting prepared for the game, then comes in the game and shows up.

Goode, in particular, wound up being thrust into an outsized role. A sixth-year veteran who's carved out a niche on special teams, his 49 snaps were by far the most he played since 2013.

It showed initially. Washington went after Goode in coverage in the first half, eventually causing a breakdown on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson.

"I put that all on me," Goode said. "I didn't get out there to cover. They ran a pick route and were able to get me.

"We were able to come back and get it corrected, but I'm a man of my word. I put it on me. We were able to step up and make plays and keep going."

But Goode settled in as the game wore on, and there were no more notable missed assignments the rest of the way.

"The game moves you so fast, you just have to plug and play," Goode said. "The best thing is when it moves that fast, you can't get caught up on the play before."

While their reserves performed valiantly, the Eagles were fortunate to have Bradham healthy. The 28-year-old took over Hicks' responsibilities as the middle linebacker and became much more than somebody who punishes ball carriers.

With Hicks going in and out of the lineup all season, Bradham has become a leader.

"I pretty much take his role," Bradham said. "I get the calls, take control of the defense, make all the calls, make all the checks and just try to keep everyone calm just like he does.

"He's been doing a tremendous job. I actually learned a lot from him being able to do it."

The Eagles confirmed a ruptured Achilles for Hicks on Tuesday, likely cementing Bradham's spot in the middle of the defense for the time being. That may have been of greater concern last season, but in 2017, his teammates are confident he's up to the task.

"He has a chip on his shoulder," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "That's his entire game, that he's going to run to the ball, and when he gets to the ball, he's arriving violently. We've needed that. And the biggest thing that stepped his game up — even last year, he played well, but this year, he's gone to another level with his understanding of the defense, his understanding of read offenses and the flow of the ball.

"He's somebody that's been constantly around the football for us. With the amount of injuries we've had, especially with Jordan Hicks being out, having that steady guy in there is important, and Nigel has really stepped and taken that role. He's been a huge part of the success of the defense."

The other silver lining here is Kendricks (hamstring) isn't expected to be out long term. Eagles coach Doug Pederson expressed optimism about his returning to the lineup next Sunday against the 49ers.

That would leave Bradham and Kendricks as the starting linebackers, with Goode joining them in base personnel and Walker as the first man off the bench. All things considered, there's a lot of talent and experience among that group.

Still, replacing a playmaker of Hicks' caliber is not easy, and on Tuesday, Pederson did not rule out a rotation at middle linebacker to help fill that void.

"It's definitely the next man up," Pederson said. "They rally around the guys that are hurt, number one, support them, but at the same time, the bigger picture is we still have a lot of football left, and we have a game this Sunday. The season's not over."

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.