Alex Ellis watched the Eagles play Sunday night from the Washington, D.C. area, while visiting his brother. This Sunday, Ellis will be back on the field, as one of a number of players filling in for injured regulars, when the Eagles host the Detroit Lions.
“Just the name of the game. That’s the business,” Ellis said Thursday, after practicing as the No. 2 tight end, in the wake of the calf injury that probably will sideline Dallas Goedert for the next few games. “Just another day. … Any time you get to play football is a good day.”
Ellis played 22 special-teams snaps and a couple more as a third tight end in the Eagles’ season-opening victory over Washington. But the team decided it wanted practice-squad cornerback Craig James on the roster for the Atlanta game, so Ellis was waived for the second time as an Eagle and the sixth time in an NFL career that began when he signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted rookie in 2016.
“I always have a bag packed, you know, just in case,” Ellis said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen to you in this league.”
He passed through waivers and went back to the practice squad, which doesn’t travel to away games, so Ellis was able to visit his brother. Early in the broadcast, the announcers mentioned that Goedert wasn’t playing after suffering a setback from his preseason injury in pregame warmups.
If Ellis had been active, that would have been a great opportunity. The Eagles planned to run a lot from 12 personnel – two tight ends, one running back – and Zach Ertz was the only other tight end. Instead, the game plan had to be adjusted, as Ellis watched from more than 600 miles away.
Asked why he would go into a game with only two tight ends, knowing that his game plan involved using both of them a lot, Eagles coach Doug Pederson talked about the confidence he had in Ertz and Goedert. “We just felt comfortable with both guys,” said Pederson, who also mentioned wanting to see James on special teams.
So far, returning Ellis to the 53-man roster and James to the practice squad are the only personnel moves in response to Sunday’s flurry of injuries. The team is down to three healthy defensive tackles and three healthy wide receivers. Moves might be pending; players waived on Friday are less likely to get picked up, since teams have set their rosters for the weekend.
Ellis showed good hands in the preseason, catching a Josh McCown touchdown pass against the Ravens. Like most tight ends these days, at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, he is more of a receiver than a blocker. But, blocking might be what the Eagles need if they plan to run the ball Sunday.
“I try to take pride in both areas of the game, but I’ve got a lot to learn,” said Ellis, 26, who grew up in Delmar, Del., before playing at Tennessee. “I’m lucky to be with [tight ends coach Justin Peelle], he did it for a long time in this league,” as a tight end for the Chargers, Dolphins, Falcons, and 49ers.
Ellis said that when he realized Goedert was injured, he wasn’t thinking, “I’m back,” though that quickly became the case.
“Dallas is one of the better tight ends in the league, let’s be honest, you can’t replace that,” Ellis said. “When something like that goes down, you’re just worrying about, ‘Is he OK?’ ”
Goedert did not practice Thursday, as was the case with wide receivers DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf), running back Corey Clement (shoulder), safety Johnathan Cyprien (knee), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), and offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (back).
Safety Rudy Ford (hamstring) and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) were listed as partial participants. Grugier-Hill has said he wants to play Thursday at Green Bay.