Kamar Aiken

Eagles re-sign DT Bruce Hector, release WR Kamar Aiken

Eagles re-sign DT Bruce Hector, release WR Kamar Aiken

With only two healthy defensive tackles on the roster, the Eagles on Friday morning signed undrafted rookie Bruce Hector from the practice squad.

Hector spent the first four weeks of the season on the active roster before being released on Oct. 2 and joining the practice squad two days later. Hector played 18 snaps on defense the first four weeks of the season and 12 more on special teams.

To make room for Hector, the Eagles released wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who played 131 snaps on offense after rejoining the team after the opener but caught only six passes for 53 yards — just 1 for 14 the last four games. 

The Eagles originally signed Aiken on July 25, released him Sept. 1 and re-signed him on Sept. 12.

Veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and has been limited in practice this week.

The only other defensive tackles on the roster before this roster move were all-pro Fletcher Cox and Trayvon Hester, who was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 2 — replacing Hector on the 53.

Whether Hector dresses out Sunday for the Eagles' game against the Panthers depends on whether Ngata will be healthy enough to play.

Hester has played 26 snaps on defense the last two weeks. He was a seventh-round pick of the Raiders last year and averaged 25 snaps per game at defensive tackle in 2017 for the Raiders.

With Aiken gone, the Eagles are down to five wide receivers — starters Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, plus DeAndre Carter, Shelton Gibson and Jordan Matthews. 

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Lack of playing time doesn't bode well for Shelton Gibson

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AP Images

Lack of playing time doesn't bode well for Shelton Gibson

Since Mike Wallace went down with a fractured fibula, the Eagles are noticeably lacking an outside receiver who can stretch the field. 

On Sunday, they trotted out Kamar Aiken and Jordan Matthews to play outside receiver, while Shelton Gibson got just one offensive snap. 

One. 

The Eagles drafted Gibson in the fifth round last year, in large part, because of his speed. And, now, when the Eagles desperately need speed outside, he can’t seem to get on the field. 

Why is that? 

Here was Doug Pederson’s answer from Monday: 

Right now, we're just without getting into a lot of scheme stuff, we just felt better yesterday with some of our 12 personnel, some of our 13 personnel. Kept them in base defense. They did jump into nickel a little bit because then we were in our 12 and 13 personnel being able to run the football.

So just the way the game kind of unfolded just a little bit. Shelton is a young player that's continuing to grow and get better with the offense. We had a package of plays for him yesterday; just didn't get to him.

It just doesn’t bode well for Gibson that the Eagles are desperate enough at receiver to sign Matthews mid-week and play him 30-plus snaps and he still can’t get on the field, especially when he seems to have the one attribute the team is lacking. 

“Coaches know exactly what they’re doing with the game plan and I just let them do that,” he said. “I just go out there and practice as hard as I can.” 

So far, through three games, Gibson has played 40 offensive snaps and has been targeted twice without a catch. He does have a pretty significant role on special teams, but he didn’t even return kicks in Week 3. 

“It’s just that next man up and right now I’m not the next man up,” Gibson said Tuesday. “Whenever I am, I’m going to give them all I got.” 

Gibson had a monster preseason. He caught nine passes for 195 yards (21.7 average) and two touchdowns. He had come so far from a terrible preseason as a rookie and it looked like he was going to carry over the success into the regular season. Hasn’t happened. 

For now, Gibson is serving as a cautionary tale about getting too excited about the preseason. 

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Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

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Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

With a couple injuries in their running back room, the Eagles made a move on Tuesday, promoting Josh Adams from the practice squad to the active roster. That wasn’t much of a surprise. 

But the corresponding move was a little more of an eyebrow-raiser. 

Even though Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) doesn’t appear ready to return, even though Mack Hollins (groin) is on IR, and even though Mike Wallace fractured his fibula on Sunday and is out indefinitely, the Eagles waived DeAndre Carter. 

That leaves them with three healthy receivers just five days from Carson Wentz’s first game back:

Nelson Agholor

Kamar Aiken

Shelton Gibson 

Agholor is very good, so don’t say Wentz has no one to throw to. No. 13 had a breakout season last year and is off to a pretty good start in 2018, even without Jeffery on the field drawing attention. You don’t need to worry about Agholor, but these injuries are forcing him to play outside more than he did last season. 

But Aiken wasn’t even on the original 53-man roster as he healed from a hamstring injury. He played an incredible 62 snaps on Sunday, just a few days after being brought back. He caught five passes, the most he’s caught in a game since the regular season finale back in 2015. Aiken, 29, wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth guy on the depth chart, especially because he plays special teams. But with these three guys left, the 29-year-old is probably going to start against the Colts. 

And while Gibson, a fifth-round pick in 2017, had a great preseason, the Eagles seem hesitant to play him. He barely played in the opener and had 35 snaps without a catch on Sunday. Gibson has just two career catches, which both came at the end of the last regular season. 

So what the heck are the Eagles going to do? 

Head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Jeffery is still “week to week,” which means he isn’t ready to return. Help will eventually come when he’s back, but it won’t be this Sunday against the Colts. 

In Tampa, we saw the Eagles play Josh Perkins an awful lot, which is probably because of his background as a converted receiver. He did an OK job, catching four passes for 57 yards, but he dropped one. And are you really convinced Perkins is the answer? Yeah, probably not. 

The Eagles will likely use a lot more two-tight end sets and better make a more concerted effort to get rookie Dallas Goedert involved. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said they need to find a way. But in the past, we’ve seen that Pederson loves to run 11 personnel (Zebra) with three wideouts. They can’t do that right now, unless you want to see a lot of Aiken and Gibson on the field. 

There are three receivers on the practice squad, including Braxton Miller. But on Monday, Pederson said Miller hasn’t had time to learn the Eagles’ offense because he’s been on the scout team. 

The last possibility — the one fans are clamoring for, and understandably so — is to bring in a free agent receiver or acquire one through a trade. This seems relatively likely, based on numbers alone. It could just be bringing back Markus Wheaton. Or maybe they make a call about Jeremy Maclin or Jordan Matthews, someone who knows the offense. 

But they better act fast. The clock is ticking until the game on Sunday and the Eagles’ receiving corps is now a glaring weak spot. 

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