Derek Barnett

Eagles still without Lane Johnson, Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor at practice

Eagles still without Lane Johnson, Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor at practice

As the Eagles held their first real practice in their short week before Sunday’s game in Washington, they were without several key starters.

Lane Johnson (ankle), Derek Barnett (ankle) and Nelson Agholor (knee) were all absent Thursday. 

All three are in serious danger of missing the upcoming game. 

Meanwhile, Jalen Mills (elbow) and Jordan Howard (shoulder) were back on the field after being listed as limited in Wednesday’s estimation. Howard still hasn’t been cleared for contact and can’t play until he is. 

• Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain in the win over the Giants and is fully expected to miss this upcoming game. Fourth-year offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai took first-team reps at right tackle next to Brandon Brooks on Thursday. Despite an offer to move sides earlier in the season from Jason Peters, the Eagles are sticking with Big V at right tackle. This way, they don’t weaken two spots. 

• Agholor revealed on Wednesday that he actually hurt his knee in Week 6 against Minnesota and what happened late in the fourth quarter against New England just aggravated the existing injury. He is in danger of missing his second straight game and his third in four weeks with a knee injury he hopes won’t eventually need surgery. 

While the Eagles had six receivers at practice on Thursday, three of them were on the practice squad. Robert Davis was bumped up from the practice squad Thursday morning and will need to play on Sunday in Washington against his former team. 

The Eagles went into last week’s game with just three active receivers and it was a disaster. Alshon Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside both got hurt and the Eagles finished the game with Greg Ward as their only healthy receiver, although Josh Perkins was able to take snaps there. 

• Barnett injured his ankle in the Miami game and still somehow managed to finish the game and play 50 snaps. Think about that; he was able to finish a game with an injury that will probably force him out for at least two full games. That’s impressive. 

Without Barnett last week, Vinny Curry started and played well. Josh Sweat rotated in and also made some plays. 

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In redshirt season, defensive end Shareef Miller convinced he’s improving

In redshirt season, defensive end Shareef Miller convinced he’s improving

It would be understandable if, three quarters into what looks like a redshirt season, Eagles rookie Shareef Miller was running low on confidence. 

Instead, the opposite has happened. 

Because, sure, Miller hasn’t played a single defensive snap all season. But the fourth-round pick is absolutely convinced he’s a better player now than when he came in the league. And he thought he was pretty good before. 

“If I can get some snaps, they gonna know,” Miller said. “They definitely gonna know. There’s a lot of people out there talking. But I understand it, so stuff don’t bother me. I know what kind of player I am.”

Through 12 games, Miller has been inactive 10 times. In those other two games, he’s played a total of two special teams snaps. 

This isn’t what the 22-year-old expected from his rookie NFL season, but he’s trying to take it in stride, he’s trying to be patient. He has accepted and thrown himself into his role, which means giving the best possible look for the Eagles’ offensive line as a scout team player. 

The Philly native has heard some of his detractors. There are some folks ready to call him a bust, which is probably more indicative of society in 2019 than it is of Eagles fans or any fans, for that matter. Miller tries to not pay any attention to the noise. 

“It really ain’t my fault,” Miller said. “It ain’t got nothing to do with my ability or talent at all. It’s a numbers game. That I learned. I just gotta wait my time.” 

Starting defensive end Derek Barnett is coming into Monday’s game with an ankle injury, so perhaps there might be a small role for Miller in this game. But the Eagles still have Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall and Genard Avery. It would be nice to see the fourth-round pick contribute, but there are a lot of bodies in front of him. 

As a scout team player, Miller has been rushing from the left side of the defensive line in each practice. That means going against Lane Johnson daily. 

Miller thinks all those reps against one of the best tackles in the game has really helped him. 

“Hell yeah,” Miller said. “Lane’s the best tackle in the league, so I go against him and get better. I talk to him about rush angles and get his feedback from what he’s seeing from me and stuff.” 

From the time the Eagles used the last pick in the fourth round on Miller, he wasn’t expected to play a very big role this season. This has basically become a redshirt season for the Penn State product. 

At times, it can be hard to stay patient. But Miller doesn’t have much of a choice. 

“I’m good,” Miller said. “I’m young, I’m a rookie, I’m only 22. Still got a lot of time. My time’s gonna come. When my opportunity comes, I’m going to make the most of it.”

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Personnel disasters and more in Roob's random Eagles points

Personnel disasters and more in Roob's random Eagles points

Taking stock of Derek Barnett, the Eagles’ MVP, a long-range prediction and lots more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s random Eagles points! 

1. When the Eagles needed defensive end depth, they didn’t hesitate to sign Vinny Curry, who had 11½ sacks in his previous four seasons. When they needed a running back, they signed Jay Ajayi off a one-year layoff. When they needed a wide receiver, it was 32-year-old DeSean Jackson and then when they needed another one, it was Jordan Matthews, who had been released three times in the past year.

Maybe this isn’t entirely true, but the impression these moves give is that the Eagles’ scouting department is bringing back guys it’s familiar with — guys the team has already cut ties with at least once — instead of really doing its due diligence to find the most talented and most promising players available at those positions. Need an Eagle? Find an old Eagle!

Jackson got hurt. Curry’s done nothing. Ajayi’s been here only a couple weeks but looks slow. Matthews lasted two weeks. There’ve been several other lesser guys they’ve recycled. I can’t help but wonder if the Eagles’ scouting department is basing way too much on familiarity and not enough on ability.

2. Barnett hasn’t been awful this year. He’s shown some flashes. Plays hard. But 4½ sacks is 4½ sacks. And 12 sacks in 33 NFL games is mediocre production. Barnett’s only 23 so there’s still time for him to figure it out, but he’s in Year 3 now, and I don’t see signs of him becoming a special player. He’s still trailing Mike Mamula’s pace (13½ sacks in his first 33 games). Not good enough.

3. Incredible that Miles Sanders already has the fourth-most scrimmage yards ever by a Penn State player in his rookie year: Saquon Barkley (2,028), Curt Warner (1,774), Franco Harris (1,235), Miles Sanders (879). Pretty good company. 

4. With Jordan Howard out (as well as Corey Clement and Darren Sproles), Doug Pederson can’t be afraid to give Sanders 22 or 23 carries in a game. He’s by far the most productive running back available right now, and the Eagles can’t simply go 69-31 pass-run ratio like they have the last three weeks just to protect Sanders. If the other backs on the roster aren’t good enough to produce, go find better running backs.

5. I’m not sure how this is possible, but Sanders has only six third-down carries all year. He’s averaging 5.8 yards on third down.

6. This is fascinating: The average third down Eagles opponents are facing is a 3rd-and-8, which is the fifth-longest third-down average by any defense this year. That’s really good. But opposing teams are converting 37 percent on third down, which is 13th best. The second figure should be much lower based on the first figure. Why the discrepency? Because the Eagles are allowing opposing teams to convert an incredible 25.5 percent on 3rd-and-10 or longer. That’s fourth worst in the league. 

7. My colleague Dave Zangaro and I were trying to figure out who the Eagles’ 2019 MVP is, and we were kind of stumped. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have been really good for the most part. Fletcher Cox has been his usual self after a slow start. Zach Ertz has big numbers again. Jake Elliott and Cameron Johnston have been terrific. Rodney McLeod has been the most consistent guy on defense. Sanders keeps getting better. But do any of them deserve the title of MVP? Nope. The reality is with four games to go? This team doesn’t doesn’t have one.

8. Ertz has 507 career catches. He needs 17 in the last four games for the most ever by a tight end in his first seven seasons. Jason Witten caught 523 from 2003 through 2009.

9. Ajayi is only 26, but he looks like he’s 36. That’s understandable to an extent. He didn’t have OTAs, didn’t have a training camp. Didn’t practice in over a year before Seattle week. He’s going to look rusty. But that raises the question … if you knew Ajayi had missed a year and wasn’t immediately going to be the same guy he used to be and you needed a running back to contribute now, why did you sign him?

10. Crazy prediction: If the Eagles find a way to beat the Cowboys and if they win the NFC East and if they host a wild-card weekend game, they’re not losing that game.

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