Cornerback Craig James played 57 of a possible 59 snaps Sunday for the Eagles, in James’ first NFL start, and the Eagles survived.
A cornerback trio of Rasul Douglas, James, and the resurrected Orlando Scandrick probably is not a recipe for long-term success, though, so it was good news Monday when Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he expected Sidney Jones will actually be able to play at Minnesota this week, after Jones was activated but did not play against the Jets, with a healing hamstring.
“We should integrate him more into practice this week. He missed last week, as far as practice reps go,” Pederson said. “So we should get him into practice this week, and expect him next Sunday.”
Jones has shown only flashes of the promise that led the Eagles to draft him in the second round in 2017, despite knowing he would miss his rookie year with an Achilles tear. The last two seasons, he has been dogged by soft-tissue injuries.
Secondary coach Cory Undlin was asked last week how he sees Jones, at this point.
“I would say just like everybody else in the room right now – everybody – some good and some not so good. … We’ve played some good ball and we’ve had some lapses. I would put Sidney in the same category as I would everybody else in the room.”
No one else in the room was touted as a high first-round pick before tearing his Achilles. When healthy, is Jones the player he was supposed to be by now?
“You can be the judge of that,” said Undlin, who added that “I could show you 10 plays where the kid’s outstanding. And I could show you a handful of other plays that we’d like better. No different than anybody else for me.”
If James, meanwhile, really was capable of being a starting corner for a contending team, you’d think the Vikings would have recognized that and not waived him in their preseason cut-down to 53. That allowed the Eagles to sign James, first to the practice squad, then to the roster, as their cornerback injury woes mounted.
James was a hero of the Green Bay win, stepping in for Avonte Maddox and tipping an Aaron Rodgers pass to Nigel Bradham in the final minute.
The Eagles coasted Sunday against the Jets mainly because the opposing quarterback was Luke Falk, who had no business starting an NFL game. It helped that the same could be said of several of Falk’s offensive linemen.
This Sunday against James’ former team, in the stadium where the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, figures to be a bit different. Kirk Cousins quarterbacks the Vikings. He is 5-3 lifetime against the Eagles, including a 23-21 Vikings victory last year at the Linc.
If Cousins, 31, could face the Eagles every week, he might actually be worth that three-year, $84 million contract Minnesota gave him when he left the Redskins. He’s thrown for 300-plus yards four times against them, has 17 touchdown passes and just five interceptions, and a 101.2 passer when facing the Eagles.
After this game, heading into a trip to Dallas, the Eagles are scheduled to get back corner Jalen Mills from the physically unable to perform list. But Mills has been out since last Oct. 28 with a foot injury, so it is unlikely he will be ready to jump right in and make a difference.
Pederson also updated the status of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose big-play ability definitely was missed against the Jets, and will be missed until he returns – the team just doesn’t have a comparable weapon.
Pederson said the plan is for Jackson to ramp up his activity this week and get some running in, see how that goes with Jackson’s abdominal strain, suffered Week 2 in Atlanta. Pederson made it sound as if it’s possible Jackson plays this week, but that seems unlikely.
“We'll see. He's getting close. Day-by-day and we'll see here [Tuesday] and Wednesday and the next day where he's at,” Pederson said.
“You miss his explosiveness, obviously, the threat to stretch a defense. His ability to get open,” Pederson said. “Yeah, you miss that, yet at the same time, though, we can't make excuses for it. We have to help him get healthy and get back on the field and then play with the guys we have.”
Pederson denied that Jackson’s Week 2 abdominal injury is a sports hernia, or that surgery might be needed.
“It’s a strain, as far as I know. You might want to ask our doctors,” Pederson said. The Eagles medical staff is not allowed to speak with reporters.
On Nelson Agholor’s only catch Sunday, the ball was stripped at the sideline for a fumble, which bounced out of bounds.
Mack Hollins had two catches negated by Eagles penalties and finished the game catchless. Agholor (61) and Hollins (31) combined for 92 snaps and one catch that counted. Hollins, who is valued for his special-teams play, had no special-teams snaps.
We saw a lot more of linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill in his second game back from an MCL injury (20 defensive snaps, up from 13 at Green Bay), and he seemed to play well.
Given Pederson’s assessment of Darren Sproles as “week-to-week” with a quad injury, the Eagles are going to need more from Corey Clement, so it makes sense that instead of burying Clement in his Monday news conference, Pederson talked of getting him enough practice punt-return reps so that something like Sunday’s muff of a bouncing punt doesn’t happen. “He’s missed some time, obviously [with a shoulder injury], but he hasn’t done enough of it in practice because he’s been working special teams and other areas,” Pederson said. “But yeah, I’m confident in him.” Clement has no rushing attempts this season.
Odd fact: When the Vikings put Andrew Sendejo on injured reserve last season, after he suffered a groin injury against the Eagles, the guy they added to the roster was (drum roll) Craig James.
That through five weeks, the top rusher against the Eagles would be Aaron Rodgers? (five carries, 46 yards).
Miles Sanders’ three 30-plus-yard receptions are the most by an NFL rookie running back in the first five games since at least 1991.
Pederson sort of tiptoed into it rather than hitting the line crisply and maximizing his yardage, but the coach seemed to say Monday that Jordan Howard is on his way to becoming the team’s lead back.
Pederson’s running-back-by-committee approach took a hit Sunday with Sproles’ quad injury, which left Sproles week to week, Pederson said. The committee now consists of Howard and rookie Miles Sanders, and though Sanders is more explosive, Howard seems to have a better north-south compass.
Howard is the Eagles’ leading rusher, with 248 yards on 53 carries, 4.7 yards per carry. He was the only consistently effective runner against the Jets, with 62 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Sanders rushed nine times for just 15 yards against the Jets, and he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry for the season, 193 yards on 54 attempts. Sanders did gain 36 receiving yards, the team’s longest gain of the day, on a wheel route.
“I think as we go, Jordan has been kind of the lead back the last couple of games, for sure. Miles is coming and learning,” Pederson said, after lauding Sanders’ contribution to the passing game.
“I think moving forward it’s kind of going that way,” Pederson said when asked if this meant he expects Howard to get a higher percentage of the carries as the season goes on. “I can’t sit here and say that if Miles has the hot hand one day that [Howard] gets more touches, but that’s kind of the trend.”