Returns of Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles a great sign for Eagles

Returns of Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles a great sign for Eagles

The Eagles kicked off their 2018 season Thursday night against the Falcons with a big 18-12 win and they did it without starting quarterback Carson Wentz. 

While they’re obviously missing Wentz, the Eagles did get back three big pieces of their team Thursday night. 

Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles all returned and had really good games. 

That’s a great sign for the 2018 Eagles. 

Jason Peters 

Peters played 71 of 72 snaps, leaving for one play at the very end of the game. He might be 36 but Peters certainly didn’t look like it against the Falcons. And it also didn’t look like he was coming off a season that ended with an ACL tear. 

He was really good Thursday night. If he keeps this up all season, he’ll be on his way back to the Pro Bowl for the 10th time in his Hall of Fame career. 

Yeah, that’s pretty good. 

No matter who is starting at quarterback, the guy protecting the blindside is a big deal. Even though Halapoulivaati Vaitai did a nice job filling in last year, the offense isn’t the same without Peters. That’s why I considered him the third-most important player on the team for the 2018 season. 

He’s off to a good start. Just check out what Doug Pederson said about him: 

“Really good. Really good. He obviously prepared himself for that day and for opening day and did some really nice things. It was hot and it was humid out there, and for him to battle like he did, he did some — he was quick off the ball. He was right on track there. Pass protection was good. Run game was good. You know, it was good to get him back out there and get him going with the offense again and get him in the mix.” 

Jordan Hicks 

That injury-prone label probably won’t go away even if Hicks stays healthy all season. He’s going to have to prove that he can stay healthy over the course of a few seasons. But when Hicks is on the field, he’s hugely important to the Eagles’ defense. 

One game into the 2018 season, Hicks is already proving it. He filled up the stat sheet Thursday night. 

He played all 70 snaps in his return. Hicks had seven tackles, 1½ sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits and one pass defensed. Coming into the game, Hicks had just two career sacks, so he almost doubled his career number. 

While Hicks has dealt with several injuries during his short career, whenever he’s on the field, he’s been a dynamic playmaker. This is a contract year for him, so he stands to make a lot of money with a big season. 

Darren Sproles 

Is this guy really 35? It seems impossible. 

No, Sproles didn’t have huge offensive numbers against the Falcons — five carries for 10 yards and four catches for 22. But he had a couple nice punt returns and will eventually get cooking on offense. Pederson might have overused him on offense, but Sproles is going to have an important role even if Pederson dials him back. 

Sproles is ageless just like Peters. Their teammates always call them “freaks” in a good way. That’s fitting. Age and injuries don’t seem to be slowing down either of them. 

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Eagles injury report: Avonte Maddox finally returns to practice

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Eagles injury report: Avonte Maddox finally returns to practice

The biggest injury news of the day is obviously the absence of Carson Wentz from practice because of back soreness and the subsequent report from NFL Network that his 2018 season might be over (see story). 

So Wentz wasn’t at practice on Wednesday afternoon and Nick Foles was preparing to take first-team reps. 

While that was obviously the biggest news of the day, there are some other bits of injury news that we can’t leave out completely: 

• Avonte Maddox (knee, ankle) returned to practice today for the first time since getting hurt in the Saints game on Nov. 18. It looked like he was a limited participant and wasn’t doing a ton, but it’s a good sign he’s back anyway. Doug Pederson said Maddox is day to day. 

“See where he is again after today and tomorrow with a couple of workouts,” Pederson said. 

• There were some key players missing from practice: Jordan Hicks (calf), Tim Jernigan (back), Isaac Seumalo (pec) and Sidney Jones (hamstring). Pederson said most of those guys are day-to-day. 

If Seumalo can’t play this week, Stefen Wisniewski would take over at left guard. 

• Corey Clement was put on the IR on Tuesday with a knee injury and while Pederson wouldn’t specifically say what the injury was, he said it’s possible Clement might not be ready for spring workouts. 

“Again, without getting a full doctor's report on the long-term effects, I think it will probably hinder the start of OTAs probably in April,” Pederson said. “Again, we'll see when we evaluate him at the end of the year and give him a time frame after that.”

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Despite injuries, Carson Wentz needs to become one of NFL's highest-paid QBs

Despite injuries, Carson Wentz needs to become one of NFL's highest-paid QBs

I’ve seen enough.

Yes, Carson Wentz tore up his knee last year. Yes, he’s now dealing with back soreness and may miss the last few games of the season. Yes, he missed an open receiver here and there. Yes, he was inconsistent this year, especially early in games. Yeah, he got sacked and fumbled.  

He’s not perfect.

But he’s the Eagles’ best hope for the future, and as soon as the season ends and the Eagles are allowed under terms of the CBA, they should make Wentz one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in NFL history.

This is a no-brainer.

NFL rules allow teams to re-do a player’s rookie contract after his third season, and we’re just weeks away from that.

The Eagles don’t have to sign Wentz yet. He won’t become a free agent until 2021.

But as the salary cap keeps rising, so do salaries. The longer they wait, the more they risk having to pay him millions and millions of dollars more.

So you want him under contract ASAP.

There’s an element of risk involved for everybody with these things (see story). The risk for the Eagles: What if Wentz is never as good as he was in 2017? The risk for Wentz: What if he signs now and outplays his deal?

What makes the most sense for both of them is if the Eagles and Wentz agree on a deal this spring.

I don’t care about his knee. I don’t care about his back. These are temporary things.

His talent. His ability. His skill. These are not temporary. They’re not going away.

Carson Wentz has shown enough in his first 40 NFL games for me to strongly believe he’s going to be an elite quarterback for the next decade.

You have to take the long view on these things.

Wentz is going to be winning football games and I think Super Bowls for this franchise long after his knee injury and this back injury are forgotten.

I want him to spend his entire career here, and the best way to make sure that happens is to pay him fair market value.

For him, that’s somewhere between $26 and $30 million per year.

The 10 highest-paid QBs based on annual salary according to Spotrac are currently:

$33.5 million … Aaron Rodgers
$30 million … Matt Ryan
$28 million … Kirk Cousins
$27.5 million … Jimmy Garoppolo
$27 million … Matt Stafford
$25 million … Derek Carr
$25 million … Drew Brees
$24.6 million … Andrew Luck
$23.5 million … Alex Smith
$22.1 million … Andrew Luck

When you look at that list and ponder where Wentz fitz in, the answer is clear.

Top 5.

He’s that good. More importantly, he's 25, and he'll continue to be that good for years.

And remember you’re getting paid for what you’re projected to do the next five years. And other than Pat Mahomes I can’t think of a quarterback I’d rather build around than Wentz.

I get that he’s been hurt and he hasn’t won a Super Bowl. But look at that list. It’s full of quarterbacks who’ve been hurt and haven’t won a Super Bowl. They got paid because of their potential. And very few quarterbacks on the planet have more potential than Wentz.

Think about his first three years. Even if he doesn’t play another snap this year.

Despite everything that’s happened, Wentz will be the first QB in NFL history to throw for 10,000 yards in his first three seasons with at least 70 touchdowns and fewer than 30 interceptions.

And he’s only going to get smarter, he’s only going to get healthier, he’s only going to get better.

For me, the number is right around $27 ½ million per year over five years.

He’s earned it. He deserves it.

You can harp all you want on how he held onto the ball too long here or missed a wide-open Nelson Agholor there.

I’m telling you there’s something special in Carson Wentz. Better days are ahead, and he’s going to prove in time that he’s worth every penny of the massive contract he’s about to get.

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