Plenty of reasons to be concerned about Tim Jernigan situation

Plenty of reasons to be concerned about Tim Jernigan situation

These days, for an Eagles reporter, seeing Tim Jernigan at the NovaCare Complex is akin to spotting a Sasquatch.

Jernigan is on the Non-football Injury list after having offseason surgery for a herniated disk, so he hasn’t yet been cleared to practice. But after the injury, that reportedly happened during a workout, and the surgery that followed and his agreeing to a significant pay cut that basically wiped out an extension he signed during last season, this entire Tim Jernigan saga is still very much shrouded in mystery. 

And it seems like there’s plenty of reason to be concerned. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson did nothing to alleviate that concern Saturday morning, when he was asked if he’s still counting on Jernigan for this season and gave a less-than-reassuring response. 

“I think so,” Pederson said. “Yeah, again, he's another one that we've just got to be diligent with. Obviously, with the [back] and everything, we've got to be careful.”

If you were listening live to Pederson’s press conference, he actually said “neck” instead of “back,” which would have been news. But a team spokesperson said the head coach simply misspoke. 

Either way, there are serious questions about Jernigan’s status as the season opener looms, less than six weeks away. If Jernigan is transferred from the Active/Non-football Injury list to the real list before the start of the season, he would be forced to miss at least the first six weeks of the season. That definitely doesn’t seem far-fetched. In fact, it seems more likely with every passing day. 

Again, Pederson’s answer about Jernigan’s recent activity left plenty of questions about whether or not Jernigan will be able to avoid that fate:

He's inside. He's rehabbing. He's around in the afternoons in meetings. He's at the walkthroughs. He's with his position. So him and Brandon Graham are both — you don't see Tim out here as much based on we just don't want him getting banged around on accident or something like that. He's doing everything inside with the meetings, he's sticking around with his walkthroughs, and he's getting all the mental reps right now.

That doesn’t seem encouraging. Closing in on five weeks to the start of the season and the Eagles won’t even allow Jernigan outside for fear that someone could bump into him. Hard to imagine Jernigan going from that to bull-rushing offensive guards on Sept. 6 or anytime soon after. 

With Jernigan out during the first four days of training camp, Destiny Vaeao has been lining up next to Fletcher Cox with the starting defensive line. Vaeao, 24, came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent before the 2016 season and seems to be well-liked by the coaching staff. He’s solid, dependable. But he’s not nearly as disruptive as Jernigan has shown he can be. 

Beyond Vaeao, the Eagles also have former All-Pro Haloti Ngata, who has been working with the second-string defensive line so far during camp. Ngata is completely healed from a biceps injury that ended his 2017 season in Detroit early, but it’s fair to wonder if the Eagles can really ask the 34-year-old to be more than a rotational player. 

After Vaeao and Ngata, the Eagles have more questions marks. Elijah Qualls is an unproven second-year player. Aziz Shittu has shown flashes. And the Eagles can sometimes move Michael Bennett or Brandon Graham inside and they probably will in pass-rushing situations. 

Still, the best possible thing is getting Jernigan back on the field as soon as possible. It just seems like it isn’t all that likely. 

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Eagles Mailbag: How much will Jordan Matthews play?

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Eagles Mailbag: How much will Jordan Matthews play?

The Eagles are back at home this weekend and they’ll welcome back their franchise quarterback as Carson Wentz makes his 2018 debut. 

It should be a lot of fun. 

But he’ll be without a few weapons. That’s where we’ll start: 

I lumped these questions together for obvious reasons. First, I think Matthews is going to play a lot. I think he plays more than Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken. I think he actually finishes second in snaps to just Nelson Agholor among the wideouts. He’s healthy, fresh and knows the offense. There’s no reason to not play him. 

But how will they use him? I think we’re going to see more of Matthews in the slot, which does move Agholor outside. That’s not ideal, but that’s what’s going to happen. I think Agholor is much better equipped to play outside now than he was a year ago. His confidence is on a whole different planet. But they will move their receivers around. The Eagles always do. 

1. Carson Wentz 

2. Patrick Mahomes 

3. Deshaun Watson 

4. Baker Mayfield 

5. Sam Darnold

Putting Wentz at the top was easy for me. He was playing at an MVP level in Year 2. Putting Mahomes over Watson was tough because Watson was sooo good last year, but there wasn’t a huge sample size and Mahomes is doing special things right now. I also think Mahomes has a better shot with Andy Reid than Watson has with Bill O’Brien.

And the last two spots weren’t decided by the game Thursday. That would be unfair. I just liked Mayfield slightly more than Darnold in the draft. 

Roob and I are going to get into this more tomorrow. Here’s my basic thought: We might see a slow start, in part because of the lack of weapons. But I’m not worried about Carson Wentz. He’s going to settle in and have a good game. 

I think Sidney Jones is special. I wrote about that this week, that he hasn’t done anything in two games to change that opinion (see story). Eventually, Jones is going to be a starter for the Eagles. I think he’s going to be a Pro Bowler in this league. But Jalen Mills deserves a little bit of a leash. He has been a good player here. But if it’s Week 10 and we’re still wondering about this, I think the Eagles will have to think about a switch. 

The good news for the Eagles is that T.Y. Hilton has been dealing with a quad injury and likely won’t be 100 percent. But you’re right. He’s good and his ability to catch deep balls is something the Eagles have to be aware of. The safety help can’t do what it did last week. No plays over the top. It can be frustrating to see short passes with a big cushion, but it’s worse to see big completions over the top.

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Eagles-Colts NFL Week 3 predictions

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Eagles-Colts NFL Week 3 predictions

The Eagles (1-1) are hosting the Colts (1-1) at Lincoln Financial Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

This will be the return of Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL and LCL on Dec. 10 and has waited 9½ months to return. 

Everyone picked the Eagles last week. Everyone was wrong. 

Here are our (cough) expert predictions: 

Reuben Frank (1-1)
It’s been so long since Carson Wentz has lost a game at the Linc that last time it happened, one of his leading receivers was Jordan Matthews, who has since changed teams three times and is now back with the Eagles. That was 21 months ago and it was 27-22 to the Redskins. Since then, Wentz is 8-0 at home and 13-3 overall, and the Eagles have won 12 straight meaningful home games. Those streaks are not going to end this weekend. Wentz will come back and immediately be the Carson Wentz we’re used to seeing, and this Eagles defense will rebound from a shaky afternoon down in Tampa with a dominating performance against a Colts offense that certainly looks better under new head coach Frank Reich, but has yet to record an offensive play longer than 26 yards this year and has scored only 14 second-half points so far. I like the Eagles to bounce back from that loss in Tampa with a 27-14 win over the Colts Sunday at the Linc.

Eagles 27, Colts 14

Dave Zangaro (0-2)
I need a W. And I’m not about to pick against Carson Wentz and the Eagles at home. I know Wentz might be rusty. I know he has a depleted group of receivers and running backs. And I know the Colts look like an improving team. But the Eagles don’t lose at home. And they’re not going to lose to this team at home. 

It might take Wentz some time to get cooking, but he’s going to get it going in this game. He’s a game-changer. Oh, the defense is going to show up on Sunday too. 

Eagles 24, Colts 13

Derrick Gunn (1-1)
The franchise is back!!! It’s been a long time coming, but Carson Wentz has been given the green light to get back under center. But who is he throwing to? We know Nelson Agholor is one for sure. But how much can recently-signed Jordan Matthews add to the mix if he’s activated? Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken will have to be more productive. The running back situation is also iffy. Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) are out, so Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and recently-activated rookie Josh Adams will have to carry the load. The Eagles’ defense needs to redeem itself after a rough outing in Tampa. 

The Colts come in riding a stunning win at Washington. Andrew Luck has completed 71 percent of his passes but has no completion longer than 26 yards. Keep an eye on Colts rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. He had 18 tackles against the 'Skins and leads the league with 28.

It will be an interesting chess match between Frank Reich and Doug Pederson. Because Pederson is further along into his offense than Reich, I’m giving Doug the home-field advantage.

Eagles 24, Colts 17 

Ray Didinger (1-1)
Frank Reich is already making a difference with the Indianapolis Colts. With the former Eagles coach calling the shots, the Colts’ offense is more imaginative and the quicker tempo suits quarterback Andrew Luck, who is completing 71 percent of his pass attempts. More importantly, Luck is not getting hit as much, which means he may make it through this season in one piece. That hasn't happened in a very long time.

Reich and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz know each other very well so this will be a fascinating chess match. The Eagles’ defensive line, which did a good job pressuring Atlanta's Matt Ryan (four sacks, 13 hits), was a non-factor Sunday in Tampa Bay where Ryan Fitzpatrick was allowed to stand in the pocket and pick them apart. That has to change this week or Luck will pick up where Fitzpatrick left off.

Everyone is expecting Carson Wentz to perform miracles in his first game back but it is more likely he will need a little time to regain his rhythm, especially with so many skill position players on the shelf. It may be a struggle early but the Eagles just don't lose at home.

Eagles 28, Colts 17

Andrew Kulp (1-1)
Amid all this talk about Carson Wentz possibly being rusty in his return, or struggling because of all the injuries to the Eagles offense, I am reminded of his NFL debut. After missing most of the preseason and training camp, with few legitimate weapons around him, Wentz came out in his first game and threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a win. I don't worry about him. He's ready to go, and he's the type of quarterback who elevates the talent around him.

I don't worry about the Eagles' defense at home, either. The Colts still don't have much of a ground attack, which means it should fall on Andrew Luck to move the football. While Luck is more than capable of winning games on his own (or he was at least), I suspect he'll be under quite a bit of duress missing his left tackle (Anthony Costanzo), and possibly his favorite target, too (T.Y. Hilton). Even if Wentz is a little rusty, the D should bail him out.

Eagles 26, Colts 10

Corey Seidman (0-2) 
For you bettors out there, this is a stay-away game for me. Need to first see what Carson Wentz looks like in game action. 

I do, however, expect the Eagles’ defense to roll in this game, forcing multiple turnovers and sacking Andrew Luck at least twice. The Colts have never been able to protect Luck. Indy has one of the league’s weakest ground attacks. 

T.Y. Hilton worries me because he provides everything DeSean Jackson does and a little more. The Eagles couldn’t contain D-Jax last Sunday. But it’ll take more than one deep ball to Hilton to beat this Birds team. 

Eagles 30, Colts 17

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