Though Doug Pederson says Eagles will be better when injuries heal, they need trade deadline help
It's a tricky calculation for a roster that also needs a lot of draft help next spring.
The Eagles aren’t going to solve all their problems with a series of spectacular moves before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. But they also aren’t going to be A-OK when a few more guys get back from injury, as Doug Pederson seemed to suggest in his Monday press conference, after Sunday’s clutch 31-13 victory at Buffalo.
“We have to do what's right for the Philadelphia Eagles … Making sure that if it happens, the player coming in here is somebody that can help us. But at the same time, I look at our roster, where we are, and the guys that are on the horizon as far as coming back and helping us out, too, that's a part of this, as well,” Pederson said. “If it happens, great, we'll welcome that.”
Asked later in the session if he goes to general manager Howie Roseman and tells Roseman he needs help at a certain position, the Eagles’ coach again talked about getting injured players back.
“It’s a little bit of fine line," Pederson said. "Again, I look at our injury situation and who is coming back and where we are.”
Pederson probably was just trying to control expectations in a market where expectations can get a bit weighty for those tasked with fulfilling them. There is a case to be made that a team with just five draft picks each of the past two years can’t afford to go crazy to try to further its push for a playoff berth, when that team is 4-4 and might need to add several dominant players to match the NFC’s top teams.
Pederson reluctantly agreed that defensive tackle might be a position where he would want to talk to the GM, which wasn’t a revelation, given that the Eagles brought Bruce Hector up from the practice squad and started him next to Fletcher Cox on Sunday. They also played Anthony Rush a dozen DT snaps, and Albert Huggins nine snaps; those players, acquired last week from the Raiders and Texans practice squads, respectively, made their NFL debuts. Pederson called this group “a work in progress.”
The Eagles waived Hector (presumably to put him back on the practice squad) Monday, leaving them with just three defensive tackles, after they traded for Cleveland hybrid edge rusher Genard Avery. At 6-feet, 250 pounds, Avery isn’t going to be playing much defensive tackle.
“But honestly, it's a little tricky because whoever -- if there's a move to be made, a person has to be the right fit,” Pederson said. “Has to be the right timing. Has to be able to come in here and help us win and just add to our culture and add to the roster.”
You could probably infer from that, Pederson hasn’t felt that everyone brought in this year has added to the culture and/or the roster, for example, say, since-discarded veterans Zach Brown and Orlando Scandrick.
Even if the Eagles aren’t really going to sit out the deadline because they hope to get some injured players back, there was decent injury news Monday. Pederson said rookie running back Miles Sanders’ shoulder tests showed nothing alarming, and that Sanders would be “day-to-day.” He reiterated that corner Avonte Maddox, sidelined since the Green Bay game with a concussion and a neck injury, is expected to practice this week, and presumably, to play Sunday against the Bears.
Pederson said running back Darren Sproles (quad) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson will see “a little bit” of practice time Wednesday, Jackson trying to come back from an abdominal injury suffered in Week 2. That characterization sounded encouraging, but certainly did not translate into “they’re playing against the Bears.”
Pederson indicated that left tackle Jason Peters (knee) and linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) will not be back this week, and he said that cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot), eligible to come off injured reserve, will stay there for the time being. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan remains sidelined with a foot injury.
Avery, the new edge rusher, would seem to be a depth player, but it’s interesting that his chief attribute is speed (4.59 40), something the Eagles lack across their roster, and something that might factor into whatever they try to do Tuesday, especially at wide receiver.
Monday’s big name linked to the Eagles was Detroit corner Darius Slay. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said Roseman was “taking a shot” at Slay, but that Detroit would want a lot back. Slay turns 29 in January, and is a two-time Pro Bowl corner, under contract through next season, at a $13.4 million cap number. He played with Fletcher Cox at Mississippi State. The price is probably at least a second-round pick, maybe more.
Former Eagles player personnel vice president Joe Douglas, now the Jets’ GM, did something Monday no other Jets exec has ever done – he traded underperforming defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the sixth overall draft pick in 2015, to the Giants. The Jets and the Giants, who sent a third-round pick this coming year and a fifth-rounder in 2021 across Met Life Stadium for Williams, had never before completed a trade.
Eagles fans were interested in Williams, but his performance hasn’t matched the $14.2 million he’s making this season, and he can become a free agent in the spring.
Defensive tackle and wide receiver probably are the biggest positions of need, if the team feels Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are going to stay healthy now at cornerback. A linebacker, a corner, or a safety could also help.
An NFL personnel source recently guessed that Roseman would be active at the deadline if he felt his team was in the running, saying that Roseman’s nature is to be aggressive.
Rewatching Sunday’s game, just the broadcast version, it sure seemed to me that the Eagles only had 10 players on the field when the Bills converted third-and-14 on Buffalo’s final touchdown drive.
On that drive, the Bills also converted third-and-8, then scored on third-and-13 from the Eagles’ 28, on a screen pass to rookie running back Devin Singletary, partly thanks to an egregious missed tackle by Rodney McLeod.
On the Eagles’ 83-yard, 14-play, 8-minute, 17-second touchdown drive that set the final score, they converted third down three times. The first two were Carson Wentz runs, of 13 and 11 yards. The last was the 18-yard pass to Zach Ertz, on which Ertz did a great job of faking Micah Hyde to the inside. That play set up the TD.
This week’s opponent, the Bears, have lost three in a row, the last two at home. Without Jordan Howard, they rank 25th in NFL rushing, and are averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Howard is averaging 4.4 with the Eagles (100 carries, 443 yards, five rushing touchdowns).
That Jeff Stoutland could design plays? Doug Pederson credited Stoutland, his offensive line coach and running game coordinator, with the play that Miles Sanders popped for 65 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Sanders and Jordan Howard flanked Carson Wentz, with Howard lead-blocking Bills linebacker Matt Milano, who finished the day with 10 unassisted tackles.
The Bears are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t completed a pass of 40 or more yards this season. The Eagles have given up eight such passes, the second-highest total in the league coming out of the weekend.
With Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills finally healthy, Rasul Douglas got just six cornerback snaps Sunday, 14 more on special teams. Douglas had played at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps four weeks in a row.
Sidney Jones, active in Dallas but never inserted into the game, was the nickel corner at Buffalo and played 45 defensive snaps, 73 percent of the total. So last week’s non-appearance apparently was about Jones’ hamstring, and not about any benching.
Doug Pederson said that after watching the game tape, he felt “it was great to have really, our full secondary out there, minus Cre’Von [LeBlanc, on IR with a foot injury]. I thought Darby and Jalen both played well. Played aggressive.
“Sidney did some really good things in the slot. Held up nice in there. Safeties played well. So it was good to see those guys get in there, and then Rasul came in a couple times when Jalen stepped out for a breather. Having a full complement of guys now in the back end has really helped us.”