Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

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Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

It won't be a surprise, but Jordan Hicks is going to get a pretty great Christmas present this year. 

He won't find it under his tree either. 

Hicks, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and surgery, will hit another big milestone in his recovery on Dec. 25. That's the day the walking boot comes off of his right foot. 

"Real good present, right?" Hicks said. 

Hicks, 25, tore his right Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Washington on Oct. 23. Having already torn his left Achilles in college, Hicks knew immediately that his season was over and a long recovery was ahead of him. 

But Hicks has no doubt he'll return to being the same player he was before. He thinks he'll be even better. 

"Oh there's no question about that," Hicks said on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room for the first time since the injury. "There's no question about that. I'll be fine. I did my left Achilles in college and came back better. I know more, the advancements are better. There's no doubt in my mind I'll be a better player when I come back."

Hicks said the normal recovery time from an Achilles rupture is six to nine months. The six-month mark will be April. He expects to be back for training camp and be completely ready for next season. 

Before suffering this Achilles tear, Hicks had been dealing with an ankle injury on his left leg. Hicks, who has been labeled as an injury-prone player since college, was very proud of playing all 16 games in 2016. So when that ankle injury popped up earlier this season, he tried to play through it. That ankle injury led to a calf injury in his right leg and then the Achilles popped. Hicks thinks overcompensating for the initial injury led to a more serious one. 

"I think a couple weeks could have helped me, but it's always easy to look back," Hicks said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I wouldn't change anything just because it's my personality. It's who I am. All I want to do is be there for my teammates. Every time I step out there, the biggest goal for me is to have my teammates know that I'm their leader and I can be accountable. For me to sit here and say I shouldn't have been out there those weeks, it's hard for me to say that because all I want to do is be out there."

Hicks lasted just a couple plays in that Washington game before his Achilles popped, which put him right back on that road to recovery. And initially, it wasn't easy. Jason Peters joined him in the locker room a quarter later with his own season-ending injury and tried to raise his spirits, but that didn't change the fact that Hicks' season was over.

And for the second time in his three-year career, he knew he would end the season on injured reserve. 

"The grief set in," he said. "For the first week or so, it was tough, but man, there's no time for that. There's no time to sit here and sulk. There's no time to think about what could have been. ... All I'm focusing on is making sure I'm better and ready next year for my guys. That's all it is. For me, it's about accountability."

While Hicks made a rare appearance in the Eagles' locker room during media time on Friday, he's been around the building plenty. He and the Eagles' other injured players have remained involved despite their injuries. In fact, every week, Hicks studies opponent film to see how they handle blitzes. And every Friday, he gets in front of the defense to present it. 

After the injury, Jim Schwartz came to him and asked him to do this. 

"It's easy to isolate yourself in situations like this," Hicks said. "For him to come up to me and ask me to do that was big. I try to keep guys' spirits up and share my perspective." 

For the last month and a half, Hicks has been around the team but has been forced to watch games on TV, which he said is really tough. He hopes that's about to end. He'll be in North Jersey this weekend for the Giants game and hopes he'll be back on the sideline. 

"It's tough," Hicks said. "It's never easy to go through something like this. It tests your patience, this tests your character. You learn a lot through these times because it is so difficult. You have to really grind through some hard times. Put your head down and I think your character is really shown through this."

2 inconceivable plays have cost Eagles' defense 2 games

2 inconceivable plays have cost Eagles' defense 2 games

For the second time in four weeks, the Eagles were defeated after blowing a second-half lead on Sunday, this time falling 21-17 to the Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Postgame, Eagles coach Doug Pederson described one major similarity between the two losses.

“4th-and-15, 4th-and-10,” said Pederson. “We’ve just got to go look at those two plays.”

Had the Eagles been able to stop the Titans on 4th-and-15 in overtime Week 4, the game would’ve ended on the spot. Instead, the Titans converted from an improbable down-and-distance, then marched down the field for the winning touchdown.

Once again, had the Eagles been able to get off the field on 4th-and-10 with 2:06 remaining in regulation, the offense would’ve taken over in Carolina territory and, at the very least, forced the Panthers to use their timeouts. Instead, quarterback Cam Newton found wideout Torrey Smith for a 35-yard gain, and six plays later, the Panthers were in the end zone.

Of course, you don’t need to be an NFL coach to understand the importance of finishing off an opponent when it’s 4th-and-desperate. Why aren’t the Eagles landing the knockout blow?

Pederson seemed to point the finger at execution.

“Flat out, this is a players’ game,” said Pederson. “Players have to make plays.

“We try to, as coaches, we put them in position to be successful, so we’ve got to evaluate that and just coach better and play better.”

In Tennessee, Eagles safety Corey Graham left far too much cushion in zone coverage and allowed an easy completion down the sideline.

On Sunday, it was Jalen Mills who was beat in coverage, though Pederson suggested the cornerback may have lost his footing. Newton also got rid of the ball a moment before defensive end Michael Bennett arrived at the quarterback.

“I believe it was Jalen at the time may have slipped, may have fell down and Torrey was standing right there wide open,” said Pederson. “We were real close to getting to Cam and getting him on the ground at the time. We were just a step behind.”

Yet, as much as Pederson tried to boil a pair of losses down to one play in each, a lot more had to go awry than that.

The Eagles carried a 17-3 lead into the second half against the Titans and were up 17-0 on the Panthers at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Those are huge deficits to come back from, especially late.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t make enough plays, offensively and defensively, in the second half,” said Pederson of the Eagles’ loss to the Panthers. “We had opportunities to get off the field, and we didn’t. We had an opportunity to stay on the field offensively, and we didn’t.

“It’s something we’ve just got to take a look at. There were some positive things, obviously, but those are areas that have hurt us in a couple of games this season already.”

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Carson Wentz explains what he saw on Eagles' ugly final drive

Carson Wentz explains what he saw on Eagles' ugly final drive

When he finished getting dressed, Carson Wentz sat at his locker staring at the floor by himself for a few minutes.

"Extremely frustrated about this game," he said later. "Really, just praying just to ease my mind and ease my heart going forward."

Wentz was disconsolate, and you can't blame him.

After a brilliant start, he endured a miserable finish, and the Eagles for only the third time in franchise history blew a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

Much of the blame will go to the defense, and deservedly so.

But Wentz, with a fresh set of downs inside the Panthers' 25-yard-line and 71 seconds left, responded with an almost unbelievably bad stretch of plays.

And this time, there was no miracle comeback. Only a 21-17 loss to the Panthers, a 3-4 record, back-to-back home losses, an eight-hour flight to London in a few days, and Wentz alone staring at the floor.

"Really, offensively, we have to look hard in the mirror — myself included — and late in games we've got to be better," Wentz said. "That's just not a way for us to finish a game. I thought we were moving the ball well early, kind of did some things well that we know we're capable of, and it just seemed we let off the gas as an offense and stopped making plays."

Even after the Panthers scored 21 points in 10½ minutes to turn a 17-0 deficit into a 21-17 lead, a 48-yard pass interference call on Panthers cornerback James Bradberry covering Alshon Jeffery gave the Eagles a 1st-and-10 on the Carolina 22 with 71 seconds left.

It's the kind of game the Eagles would have pulled out last year with either Wentz or Nick Foles at the helm.

Not this time.

1st-and-10: Wentz and Zach Ertz had a miscommunication and Eric Reid appeared to pick off Wentz's pass at the 4-yard-line, although the INT call was reversed. "That was just a miscommunication between Zach and me," Wentz said. We've got to get that ironed out."

2nd-and-10: Wendell Smallwood ran eight yards up the middle, giving the Eagles 3rd-and-2 on the Panthers' 14-yard-line.

3rd-and-2: Wentz threw into the end zone, where Jeffery was blanketed in double coverage: "I was just trying to give him a shot to make a play," Wentz said. "I've got to get the ball higher if I'm going to do that. I have to see the tape — there might have been another guy open. … I just tried to force one in there that I probably shouldn't have."

4th-and-2: With the game on the line, Wentz couldn't even get a pass off. He was sacked by Julius Peppers and fumbled, ending the game. "I saw Alshon open across the middle late and as I stepped up and tried to make the throw I got hit and the ball came out."

What's so crazy is that Wentz was having the game of a lifetime before that ugly final series.

"When you're on the field at the end like that with a shot and the ball's in your hand, it's frustrating," he said.

Wentz finished 30-for-37 for 310 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Over the past month, he's become only the 11th quarterback in NFL history with four straight games of 275 yards, 65 percent completion percentage, two or more TDs and no interceptions.

His numbers for the year are insane: 71 percent, 10 TDs, 1 INT, 108.1 passer rating.

But with the game on the line … he was terrible.

"Very disappointing," he said. "We had chances to win there at the end. Offensively, we had chances to seal the deal with the two drives before and we didn't do it."

The Eagles' last three drives netted 22 yards of offense.

For the sake of comparison, the Panthers' last three drives netted 236 yards of offense.

Wentz's stats are unprecedented.

But he's won only two of five starts since returning from his ACL injury.

"We're at make-or-break time, almost," he said. "It's hard to say exactly what it's going to take. We know what we can do, we do it here. We just have to put it all together.

"We put high expectations on ourselves to go out, and my approach will never change, win or lose."

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