Corey Clement

Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement to miss Eagles-Patriots preseason game

Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement to miss Eagles-Patriots preseason game

FOXBORO, Mass. — Topping the list of several Eagles who won’t play in Thursday night's preseason game against the Patriots are Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement.

Both key offensive contributors have missed several practices with lower-body injuries. Earlier this week, head coach Doug Pederson said the team’s goal was to rest them and get them ready for Week 1. 

Clement played in the first preseason game, but hasn’t practiced since and has been seen with a compression sleeve on his leg. Agholor missed the last game too, but seems confident he will be ready for the season opener on Sept. 6. 

Joining Agholor and Clement among the players who aren’t expected to play are Carson Wentz, Jalen MIlls Mack Hollins, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey, Chandon Sullivan, Asantay Brown and Markus Wheaton.

Mills left practice early on Tuesday with an unknown injury. Rasul Douglas is expected to start.  

Of course, Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, Alshon Jeffery and Chris Maragos (all on Active/PUP or Active/NFI) will also miss the game at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. 

Look for the Eagles to rest a few veterans too: 

And for Christian Hackenberg to get in there: 

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Corey Clement, Eagles running backs poised to add dangerous receiving dimension

Corey Clement, Eagles running backs poised to add dangerous receiving dimension

They scored the second-most points in franchise history. They became only the second team in NFL history to score 38 points in both a conference championship game and a Super Bowl. They scored at least 30 points in 10 of their last 15 games.

At times, they were unstoppable.

There was one thing they didn’t do.

Throw to the backs.

The Eagles won a Super Bowl, but one thing missing from the offense — one thing we’re used to seeing around here — was a passing game in which the backs are a weapon.

Can you imagine this offense with this offensive line and these wideouts and tight ends and this running game … with an added dimension?

Start now, because that’s where the Eagles are headed.

LeGarrette Blount was a valuable member of the championship team, but he’s definitely not a pass catcher. His 54 career catches are third fewest in NFL history by anybody with 5,000 or more rushing yards (ahead of only Michael Vick and Steve Van Buren) and he had only eight catches last year, so when he was in the game, opponents knew the Eagles were going to run. 

Jay Ajayi has never been a big receiver either, but by the end of last year, the Eagles were starting to feel pretty comfortable throwing to him, and he had six catches for 70 yards in the postseason. He looks more and more comfortable every day in the passing game, and with his skill set, there’s no reason he can’t be a 30-catch guy.

But the key to all this is Corey Clement. He was pretty much a non-factor last year during the regular season — he had just four catches the first 11 games of the season. But by the playoffs, he had evolved into an incredibly dangerous weapon out of the backfield, and we all know about his legendary and historic 100-yard receiving game in Super Bowl LII.

Take Clement's playoff numbers and extrapolate them over a full season and you have 53 catches for 741 yards. Now, Clement isn’t going to have that many yards, but I really believe he’s going to catch 50 balls for 450 to 500 yards.

With Ajayi growing into a bigger receiver role, Clement picking up where he left off and Darren Sproles back healthy, the Eagles will easily double last year’s total of 53 catches by the backs. 

Heck, they may triple it.

When you watch practice every day, you can see how much Doug Pederson loves to throw to the backs. They work on it a lot, and Clement, in particular, looks flat-out terrific in the passing game.

The Eagles have always had elite pass-catching backs. 

Last year was the first time since 1956 the Eagles didn’t have a single running back with at least 15 receptions.

Keith Byars: Had the second-most catches among running backs from 1988 through 1992 (339).

Herschel Walker: Say what you will about the former Georgia great, he did catch 125 passes in 1993 and 1994, fourth most in the league among running backs.

Ricky Watters: From 1995 through 1997, Watters caught 161 passes, fourth most among NFL running backs.

Duuuuuuuuce: From 1998 through 2002, Duce Staley — now the Eagles’ running backs coach — was ninth among NFL running backs with 237 catches. 

Brian Westbrook: B-West had the most catches in the NFL among running backs during his last seven years with the Eagles (417).

LeSean McCoy: Shady had the fifth-most catches among running backs during his six years here (300). 

Sproles: In his first three years with the Eagles, Sproles caught 147 passes, sixth most in the league.

DeMarco Murray: Even the former Cowboy caught 44 passes in 2015, his one year with the Eagles.

So the Eagles had an elite receiving back on the field every year from 1988 through 2016.

Now they do again. They have two. At least two.

And when you look at this offense … how are defenses going to cover everybody? There are weapons everywhere.  

Dumping the ball off to the backs is such a great weapon because it allows a quarterback to stand tall in the pocket and look down the field but still be able to pick up positive yards if the play isn’t there or protection breaks down.

That the Eagles were able to win a championship last year without a legit receiving back — Wendell Smallwood actually had the most catches by a running back with 13, and he barely played the second half of the season — is a testament to just how brilliant a play-caller Pederson is and how talented both quarterbacks are.

But give Carson Wentz or Nick Foles a big-time pass-catching back out of the backfield? Are you kidding me?

The offense will be more efficient, more dangerous, more productive than ever.

And that’s saying a lot.

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Studs, duds, turning point and more from Eagles-Steelers preseason game

Studs, duds, turning point and more from Eagles-Steelers preseason game

BOX SCORE

With Nick Foles and Carson Wentz watching on, the Eagles played their first game at Lincoln Financial Field since the NFC Championship Game.

This one wasn’t as fun.

Anyway, the Eagles’ first-team defense dominated, Dallas Goedert looked like a stud and Nate Sudfeld threw two touchdown passes, but the Eagles still lost Thursday, 31-14, to the Steelers at the Linc (see observations).

Not that the score matters any. Here are some things that matter more:

The Sudfeld Show
Good and bad from Sudfeld, which is kind of what we’ve seen all camp from him. A little too much inconsistency. He had a couple picks, although one looked like Bryce Treggs deserved the blame. And there are times he simply has to learn to get rid of the ball.

But he does that stuff and then tosses an absolute dime of a deep ball to Shelton Gibson for a long touchdown. Or he rolls right and fires in a touchdown pass to Goedert. The tools are there. And it's easy to see why the Eagles think so much of him. 

Sudfeld completed 10 of 14 passes for 140 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He played the entire first half before Joe Callahan took over.

Goedert looks good
There were a couple little hiccups along the way, but rookie tight end Goedert looks good. He had an uncharacteristic drop and missed a blocking assignment in the first half, but more than made up for it. He caught a touchdown pass in the first half, something we should get used to. He seems to have a knack for making plays in the red zone.

He finished with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Solid NFL debut.

Dominating D
The Eagles’ first-team defense didn’t play long, but it was dominant. The unit got two sacks — one from Fletcher Cox, one from Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham. The group gave up just two yards on six plays.

The next drive, the second-team defense gave up 88 yards on four plays. The big one came when Landry Jones hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 71-yarder down the sideline. Rasul Douglas was in good position but didn’t get a good jump on the ball.

Up and down for Douglas
Douglas redeemed himself later, with a great read and interception late in the second quarter. Just got a great jump and got a pick.

But then a little bit later, he gave up a touchdown to Damoun Patterson on a brilliant throw from Josh Dobbs. The throw was great, but it’s still Douglas’ man.

A scary moment
With just under seven minutes left in the second quarter, there was a scary moment when Nate Gerry ran into Sidney Jones while trying to make a tackle. Jones had trouble getting up before making his way off the field and to the trainer’s table. Jones got his left foot checked out before getting it re-taped and rejoining his teammates on the sideline. He didn’t return, but that was probably just a precaution. Phew.

Speed kills
Gibson simply beat his man on that 63-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He showed his ability to separate from a corner. Gibson was so bad last year, but made the team after being a fifth-round draft pick. That patience is paying off. It seems like he’s going to earn his spot on the team this year.

Crazy defensive line
On third downs, we saw Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Cox and Derek Barnett on the field together. That’s scary. And they will eventually get Brandon Graham back. On one particular play, Cox simply walked back his interior lineman. Unfair.

New helmet rule
We saw our first lowering the helmet call and it was probably a pretty fair one. Jones came in when a Steeler was already wrapped up and lowered his helmet to tackle him. Flag immediately. It extended a touchdown drive for the Steelers. Richard Rodgers was called for one that crushed the Eagles on a crazy long punt. The Eagles have to be aware of this new rule.

WOAHHHH
Honest to God, the most amazing thing I saw all night was Cameron Johnston’s 81-yard punt that didn’t even count thanks to that penalty on Rodgers.

Johnston has been wildly inconsistent all training camp and even in this game, but he booted a freakin’ ball 81 yards on a punt. The returner looked amazed as it soared over his head.

Pump the brakes
Donnel Pumphrey, desperately trying to not be known as a draft bust, didn’t play for unknown reasons. Pump hadn’t missed practice time, so his being out is a surprise. After a terrible preseason as a rookie (he averaged 1.9 yards per carry), Pumphrey missed a chance to show something in a preseason game.

Turning some heads
With Pump out, undrafted rookie Josh Adams had a good showing. It’s worth remembering he was going against deep reserves, but gotta like what we saw. He broke off some good ones. He’s in the race for that fourth RB job.

Missing in action
Along with Pumphrey, Foles (neck spasms), Mike Wallace (tendinitis), Nelson Agholor, Markus Wheaton, Matt Jones, Ian Park and Asantay Brown all didn’t play. Neither did the guys on NFI/PUP: Graham, Alshon Jeffery, Chris Maragos, Tim Jernigan.

Up next
The Eagles are on the road next Thursday for a Super Bowl LII rematch against the Patriots in Foxboro. They kick off the regular season in four weeks at home against the Falcons. 

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