Several Eagles who saw limited or no action during the preseason played significant roles in Sunday’s opening 32-27 win over the Washington Redskins.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham, who didn’t play in the preseason while recovering from a foot injury suffered in the Eagles’ 20-14 playoff loss at New Orleans on Jan. 13, was one of three defensive players to appear in 100 percent of the snaps against the Redskins.
Bradham played on all 67 snaps, joining Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, and had a team-high seven tackles.
“Nigel, getting back into the rhythm, controlling the defense and making the calls, really settled in all those guys and did some nice things,” coach Doug Pederson said during Monday’s press conference.
All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox also suffered a foot injury in the New Orleans game, didn’t play in the preseason, and didn’t have his first hard practices until the week before the Redskins game. Cox played 44 defensive snaps (66%) and contributed two tackles, including one tackle for loss, and a two quarterback hits.
Defensive end Derek Barnett also didn’t play in the preseason and missed a lot of practice while recovering from shoulder surgery. The injury limited him to just six games a year ago. He appeared in 55 plays (82%), and had four tackles and three quarterback hits.
“Early in the game you saw the explosiveness [of Cox], the explosion off the ball,” Pederson said. “Quick, the quick trigger he has. The same with even Derek Barnett in that group, he was that way throughout the game.”
McLeod, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game last season, played 13 snaps in the preseason and as mentioned, went all 67 against the Redskins. He was not credited with any tackles.
Cornerback Ronald Darby, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Nov. 11 against Dallas, and didn’t play in the preseason, had five tackles against the Redskins and appeared in 48 defensive snaps (72%).
On the other side of the ball, Pederson had his highest praise for guard Brandon Brooks, who suffered an Achilles tear in that playoff loss at New Orleans. Brooks didn’t play in the preseason games but started on Sunday. Pederson said the team had a certain number of plays it wanted him to participate in and didn’t want to push him too far in his first game back. Brooks appeared in 55 of the offensive plays (73%).
“He was explosive, being able to come off the ball and change direction,” Pederson said. “It was like he picked up where he left off.”
Right tackle Lane Johnson, who didn’t play in the preseason after being sidelined with a knee injury during training camp, appeared in all 75 offensive plays on Sunday.
And, of course, quarterback Carson Wentz didn’t play a single preseason snap, Wentz missed the final five games, including both playoffs, last season with a back injury. In his return, he threw for 313 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.0 passer rating.