The Eagles’ receiving corps will have its depth tested once again Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
Still healing from an injured abdomen, DeSean Jackson will miss the home game. Fellow wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Dallas Goedert are questionable with calf injuries.
Coach Doug Pederson announced Jackson’s status before Friday’s practice. Pederson didn’t rule out the possibility of Jeffery and Goedert being ready for Sunday, though, and the injury report from practice echoed his sentiment.
“DeSean will be out for this game, obviously, but the other two, I’m optimistic,” Pederson said. “We’ll see today, and then obviously, we’ll wait until game day.”
Jackson left in the first quarter of the Eagles’ 24-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night with the abdominal injury. He played only 11 snaps. According to ESPN, Jackson will miss at least the next two games with an abdominal strain.
The Eagles will have a short week after Sunday’s home game, as they will travel to Green Bay to play the Packers on Thursday night. The quick turnaround will make it even more unlikely that players unavailable for Sunday’s game can return against the Packers.
One of the best deep threats in the NFL throughout his career, Jackson had a prominent role in stretching the Washington defense in the Eagles’ Week 1 win. He finished that game with eight catches for 154 yards, including touchdown receptions of 51 and 53 yards.
Jeffery, Goedert, and Jackson have been held out of practice this week. Goedert aggravated a calf injury from training camp during pregame warmups in Atlanta, and Jeffery exited with his injury after playing just six snaps.
Jeffery didn’t practice at all Friday, and Goedert was a limited participant, stretching with the team with his helmet on during the portion of practice open to the media.
Pederson had changed Wednesday’s practice from a full-padded session to a walk-through to give the team’s growing number of injured players a chance to rest and allow them to participate in a lower-intensity practice.
It was also an opportunity to give young receivers Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside a chance to get more reps with the first team while also fulfilling their duties as scout-team players against the defense.
While Hollins insisted every week they practice as if they’re starters, the two wideouts are a week removed from wearing No. 11 jerseys and calling each other “Julio” as scout team receivers impersonating Falcons star Julio Jones.
“I’m prepared to be a starter this week if need be," Hollins said. “I don’t know anybody that prepares like, ‘Hey, I’m not going to play. I don’t need to look at that rep. It’s not going to be me.’ ”
If the Eagles don’t make any roster moves and go into the game without Jeffery, Jackson, or Goedert available, they’d have just three receivers and two tight ends available to them. Asked if the scarce numbers were tenable, Pederson said versatility is a key.
“A lot of players, just like offensive linemen, are versatile, so they can play either X or Z or they can move from outside to inside,” Pederson said. "Then you factor in someone like Darren Sproles, who can play running back and he can also play slot receiver. So there’s some versatility there.
“If you have a minimum ... if you had three skill guys, two tight ends or three tight ends, and a guy like Darren Sproles who can factor in, you can definitely make it work.”
If Goedert can’t go, the Eagles will go into Sunday’s game with just two tight ends: two-time Pro Bowler Zach Ertz and Alex Ellis, who was elevated from the practice squad this week.
Ertz said he is still waiting to see if Goedert will be able to play, but he gave a vote of confidence to Ellis, a 26-year-old from Delmar, Del., who appeared in six games for Jacksonville in 2016 and two with Kansas City last year.
“I think he’s a great player,” Ertz said of Ellis. “The moment he came here, I thought he could be a player in this league. I have a lot of confidence in him to go out there and execute. We’re going to ask a lot of him, not only on offense but special teams as well. ... Everyone has to be ready to play a lot of football."