After playing two games in five days, Eagles players and coaches can take a bit of breather before playing again next Sunday when the Carolina Panthers visit Lincoln Financial Field.
Inside the offices of executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and his scouting staff, the action figures to be fast and furious. The trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, and there are rumors swirling that the team will add a running back, even though another position of need could be staring them in the face.
The defensive secondary lost another player to injury during Thursday night’s 34-13 win over the New York Giants, when second-year cornerback Sidney Jones limped off after making it through just eight snaps. Jones has been a solid player in the slot for the Eagles.
When he went out, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had to improvise. He moved rookie Avonte Maddox from safety into the slot. Maddox, who had never played safety while at the University of Pittsburgh, was playing just his third game at his new position, until Jones went out.
At safety, Schwartz inserted second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas, a player the Eagles don’t give many snaps to at safety. They like him better as an outside cornerback.
Douglas ended up playing 42 safety snaps (65 percent) against the Giants, and nearly made his second interception of the season.
The whole juggling act was necessitated when starting safety Rodney McLeod was lost for the season with a knee injury a few weeks back and veteran Corey Graham missed his second game with a hamstring injury.
The only other players with safety experience on the roster are inexperienced Deiondre’ Hall and Tre Sullivan, who was released earlier this season by the Eagles, then brought back to the practice squad and promoted from there earlier in the week.
“With Tre Sullivan is we just kind of brought him up and so wanted to make sure that he was kind of caught up to speed, and then had worked Rasul back there a few times over Deiondre’,” said head coach Doug Pederson, when he held his day-after-game news conference on Friday. “So going forward we’ve got to get everybody prepared. I think one thing, again, goes back to the coaching staff having everybody ready to go, not only on defense but also on special teams.”
Pederson said he, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and safeties coach Tim Hauck will examine the defensive backfield more the next few days.
“We’re going to take a look, and Rasul is capable, obviously, we’ve seen that,” said Pederson. “But we also have guys that now with Tre being active and Deiondre’ Hall and guys that we can begin to really coach up with the amount of time we have before we go back on the practice field.”
Or maybe Roseman adds a safety via a trade.
As for running back, Corey Clement talked to Roseman prior to the game and told him he didn’t think they needed to bring in another, a possibility that increased greatly when the Eagles lost Jay Ajayi to a knee injury in last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Clement may be right.
With veteran Darren Sproles close to returning from missing a month with a hamstring injury, the Eagles could be set with Clement, Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood, as well as Josh Adams, an undrafted rookie free agent from Notre Dame.
Smallwood and Clement combined for 29 carries and 94 yards with one touchdown while combining to make four catches for 26 yards on Thursday night.
“I’ll tell you, both these guys are determined runners,” said Pederson. “They run hard. They run aggressive. They’re really good backs for us. A lot of confidence in both of those guys, and what they do, very versatile, not only can run, but you saw Corey on the screen pass, and Wendell out of the backfield.
“And it’s just two guys that really take their job serious and feel like they have to prove something every single day, and that’s what you want out of your players, that they’re out there proving themselves over and over because it just makes them better and it makes us better as an offense. I’ve been real encouraged by both those guys.”
The Eagles’ offensive line may need fortifying as well after left tackle Jason Peters left the game early with a biceps injury and did not return. Peters, 36, has struggled with injuries this season and was already returning from offseason knee surgery that ended his 2017 season last October.
Pederson said the news on Peters’ biceps was “positive” but he will wait further testing before seeing whether his left tackle can return quickly or have to be shut down. He called the injury “day to day” which, in Pederson-speak, is usually a good thing. He said Jones’ injury was “week to week,” which indicates it could be a couple weeks before Jones sees the field again.
–Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said his second touchdown catch against New York, a 1-yard throw from Carson Wentz, was a play taken from the New England Patriots. It was an easy pitch-and-catch, with Jeffery trotting back toward the line of scrimmage as the ball was snapped and Wentz delivering the throw quickly and efficiently for an easy score.
“Offensively we’re always looking at plays around the league and different things,” said Pederson. “You catch something on TV. I mean, listen, it fits into who we are. It fits into our DNA offensively. Called a very similar play towards the end of the game to Alshon, another receiver screen, and he was able to drag a couple guys for a first down on a big third-down play towards the end. It’s something that a lot of teams are doing it, plus inside the 5-yard line, and it might be one of his easier TD receptions all season.”