Key Eagles injury updates on Jordan Howard, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor

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Key Eagles injury updates on Jordan Howard, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor

As the Eagles get back on the practice field this week, they’ll have a few key offensive players back, but they’ll still be missing one. 

Here were some important updates from Doug Pederson on Wednesday morning:

Lane Johnson: The Eagles’ right tackle has been cleared to return to practice, but hasn’t gotten all the way through the NFL’s concussion protocol. 

“It’s part of the protocol,” Pederson said. “But he’s cleared to practice today.”

Johnson suffered that concussion early in the Patriots game and was out against Seattle. On Sunday, the Eagles started Andre Dillard at right tackle but had to bench him at halftime. Halapoulivaati Vaitai took over. Getting Johnson back this week would be a huge boost for the offense, especially Carson Wentz.  

Alshon Jeffery & Nelson Agholor: Jeffery (ankle) and Agholor (knee) missed the game against the Seahawks on Sunday. Both are expected to be full participants in Wednesday’s practice, according to Pederson. 

Pederson also mentioned that with Jordan Matthews gone (he was cut this week), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will have an expanded role as the receiver opposite Jeffery. So it looks like the Eagles’ top three wideouts going into Week 13 are Jeffery, Agholor and Arcega-Whiteside. 

Jordan Howard: It’s now been over three weeks since Jordan Howard suffered a stinger against the Bears and he still hasn’t been cleared for contact, according to Pederson. Howard has missed the two games since the bye week and is in danger of missing another one this weekend. He won’t be allowed to play until he’s cleared for contact. 

Howard will again be limited in practice to start this week. 

“It’s day to day. It is progressing,” Pederson said. “It’s trending, obviously, in the right way. We just gotta make sure that he gets his strength back (in his shoulder) before we put him back out there.”

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Why this year's Eagles longshots actually have a chance

Why this year's Eagles longshots actually have a chance

Conventional wisdom says you don’t want to be a late-round rookie this summer. Or worse, an undrafted rookie.

How are you supposed to impress the coaches without preseason games? How are you supposed to learn the offense or defense without spring practice? How are you supposed to prove you belong in what amounts to a few weeks of stripped-down training camp?

For the higher draft picks, the team is committed to you because of your signing bonus. 

The late-round picks and undrafted players have a tough enough time during a normal summer making the team. This year? You would think it’s going to be virtually impossible. 

Not necessarily, Doug Pederson said.

On the contrary.

“When you have an opportunity like this … of coaching everybody up, it’s not just about the starters and getting them prepared, which we do every year, but now more importantly it's about getting these young guys [prepared],” Pederson said Monday. “Because we truly feel these young guys are going to be the ones who are going to have to help us throughout the entire season.”

Pederson seemed to be saying that because the team anticipates temporarily losing players to the COVID list — which is both for players who’ve tested positive and those who've had close contact with them — they’ll need a deeper bench.

Which means they’ll be relying on some of these camp long shots.

Maybe several of them.

Because of the risk to players, practice squads were increased for 2020 from 10 to 16, and six of those spots are available for players with any level of experience. So you could conceivably see someone like Jordan Matthews — a six-year veteran with close to 300 career catches — on the practice squad. 

Last year, the Eagles’ injuries were so extreme they wound with four practice squad wide receivers on their roster by the end of the season, and some 73 players got on the field at some point during the season.

Now add the COVID risk, which could strike any position group at any time, and you see why the Eagles want to get as many people as possible ready to play.

“We're going to get some really good opportunities here in these next coming weeks,” Pederson said. “They are going to learn a lot from the veterans. The way I have the schedule set up is for them to learn and to be successful. Then once we get into the padded portion of training camp is where we really get to see where these guys are. 

“I think that this is actually a good time to be a late-round pick and possibly a free agent.”

If the roster is at 80 and the regular-season roster is 53 plus 16 on the practice squad, you see why it’s important for the coaches to get everybody ready.

Because just about everybody is going to have a chance to be a part of the 2020 Eagles. 

If there is a 2020 Eagles.

For guys like undrafted running backs Michael Warren and Adrian Killins, 6th-round receiver Quez Watkins, undrafted defensive tackle Raequan Williams and undrafted safety Grayland Arnold, this is very good news.

They don’t have a lot of time. But they have a chance.

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Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

As we prepare to enter an unprecedented 2020 NFL season in a little over a month, one thing is become clearer as training camp continues: 

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback. 

The big news in Philadelphia as the weekend came to a close was that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, but that wasn’t the only important NFL news over the weekend. Because two starting NFL quarterbacks — Matt Stafford in Detroit and Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville — were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and will have to clear protocols before returning. 

With that in mind, the Eagles can’t open themselves up to the possibility of not having a quarterback ready to play each Sunday during the season. What if Carson Wentz contracts the virus? Worse, what if the coronavirus spreads through the quarterback room? It’s one thing to lose a running back or an offensive lineman or even a head coach. But every team needs a quarterback to be competitive. 

Every team needs a plan. 

Earlier in the offseason, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was on Chris Long’s Green Light podcast and said he might quarantine a quarterback. Pederson in June said it’s something they would consider. 

On Monday, I asked Pederson if he had given any more thought to the possibility of doing that. 

It's unfortunate that that happens,” Pederson said on a Zoom call. “I think we know that these things are going to happen probably throughout the course of the season.

“If it happens, and you hope it happens early enough to where you don't get to the regular season, but conversations that are ongoing still with my staff and the offensive guys on staff, Press [Taylor] and Rich [Scangarello], Marty [Mornhinweg], those guys, and haven't decided anything yet on that, obviously, but it is something to consider as we move forward.

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback as an insurance policy and the obvious choice is Nate Sudfeld. 

Wentz is the starter and needs practice time. Hopefully for the Eagles, Wentz stays healthy and is able to play an entire season. If that happens, he’ll need to be game planning each week for the upcoming opponent and getting in reps with the first-string offense. And third-string quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to be at practice and in the quarterback room too. As a rookie, the 2nd-round pick is playing catch-up after an unusual offseason. In-person practices and meeting time are both really important for him.  

They won’t be as important for Sudfeld, who is entering his fourth season with the Eagles and fourth season in Pederson’s offense. 

Sudfeld, 26, hasn’t played much in the NFL. He has attempted just 25 career passes. But he’s the Eagles’ backup quarterback for this upcoming season and there’s a good chance he’s going to have to play at some point. 

What I’m proposing is that the Eagles allow Sudfeld to practice and participate normally at training camp for now but remove him and begin quarantining him two weeks before the season. He would still be able to participate virtually in the meeting rooms and while he’d miss practice time, he’d still be able to work out and stay in shape on his own. 

The phrase “quarantine” might be a little too strong. Really, what I’m proposing here is that the Eagles take extra precautions with Sudfeld and don’t expose him any more than they have to. 

Will all that guarantee that he doesn’t contract the virus? No, it won’t. But it will minimize the chance and give the Eagles an insurance policy at the most important position in the sport. 

If this 2020 season happens, players are going to test positive. Coaches are going to test positive. Guys are going to miss games. 

What the Eagles absolutely can’t afford is to go into any Sunday without a legitimate quarterback and expect to have a chance to win. The best way to avoid that scenario is to exercise extreme caution with their backup and hope it was all for naught. 

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