Ryan Mathews and Brandon Brooks made their 2016 training camp debuts Friday morning after missing the first seven veteran practices with injuries.
The oft-injured Mathews suffered an ankle injury working out in California before camp even began. Brooks was also injured before camp.
The Eagles will rely heavily on both Mathews and Brooks. Mathews spent most of last year backing up DeMarco Murray but inherited the starting job when the Eagles traded Murray to the Titans in March. The Eagles signed Brooks to a five-year, $40 million contract to be their right guard, also in March.
Mathews and Brooks were both on the field for the start of practice Friday but it was not yet clear whether they would be full participants or whether head coach Doug Pederson would bring them along slowly. Their status for the preseason opener Thursday night vs. the Buccaneers at the Linc is also unknown. Pederson is scheduled to speak with the media later Friday morning.
Mathews is a former Pro Bowl tailback and two-time 1,000-yard rusher, but he’s only started more than nine games twice in his career. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry last year but missed three games with a concussion and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in four games after he returned.
Brooks was a three-year starter with the Texans. During his absence, veteran Stefen Wisniewski, another offseason acquisition, handled the reps at right guard.
Pro Bowlers Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins, along with rookie running back Wendell Smallwood, are still out of practice. Smallwood has been out since leaving practice early on Monday with a quad injury. Peters (quad) and Jenkins (hamstring) both left practice early on Thursday.
Jenkins has always been one of the NFL’s most durable players. He led the NFL in defensive snaps over the last two years (thanks, Chip Kelly) and has missed only seven games since becoming a full-time starter with the Saints in 2010.
But Peters is a concern because of his age (he turned 34 in January) and his injury struggles last year. Peters missed two full games in 2015 and left five other games early.
Additionally, veteran safety Rodney McLeod was out of practice Friday because of a death in the family. McLeod is expected back either Saturday or Sunday.
With both starting safeties out — Jenkins and McLeod — defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had Ed Reynolds and Jaylen Watkins working with the first defense at safety.