The Eagles left 11 players on the COVID-19/reserve list four hours before their regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night.
Of the dozen players added to the list on Monday, only Jason Kelce was activated in time for Saturday’s home game, seemingly signifying the team’s intention to rest its starters for the home game.
Fletcher Cox, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Nate Herbig, Avonte Maddox, Rodney McLeod, Alex Singleton, Marcus Epps, Genard Avery, and Jack Stoll were all left on the list and ruled out Saturday afternoon.
The lack of movement afforded the Eagles 11 COVID replacement spots on the active roster for the game, which they used to elevate mostly developmental players from the practice squad.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was noncommittal all week when asked if he’d rest his starters since the outcome of the game has little impact on the team’s possible playoff scenarios, but the addition of so many young players to the roster should give him a chance to do so.
The players elevated as COVID replacements are offensive lineman Kayode Awosika, linebacker Christian Elliss, defensive back Jared Mayden, defensive back Mac McCain, tight end Richard Rodgers, tight end Noah Togiai, offensive tackle Casey Tucker, and defensive tackle Raequan Williams. The team also elevated running back Jason Huntley and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson from the practice squad for the game.
Kelce will be able to continue his 121-game streak of consecutive starts but will likely be done shortly after he hits the 122-game mark on the first series.
A few players, most notably wide receiver DeVonta Smith said earlier this week that the Eagles weren’t interested in rest. The Birds could improve their playoff seeding with a win against the Cowboys, but they’d need help from other teams to do so. There are also scenarios in which they’d move up the standings even with a loss, and they’re most likely to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers regardless of Saturday’s outcome.
That doesn’t make the game completely meaningless for the players, though. Smith, who is 47 yards away from breaking DeSean Jackson’s franchise record for rookie receiving yards, advocated for playing time to stay in rhythm.
“I feel like I need to be out there,” Smith said. “It’s a momentum thing.”
Sirianni gave credence to the arguments for and against resting, but said he’d be confident in his team’s ability to go into the wild-card round sharp even if the starters got some time off against the Cowboys.
“If the decision is to have to rest a couple guys or whatever it is ... I have so much confidence in our process and the way we go about how we get ready,” Sirianni said. “I know we practice hard. I know we’ve really made this a staple of the way we are here, right, is that we go out and practice hard every day.”
Jay Ajayi, who was a part of the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2017, has retired from football.
The Eagles recognized him Saturday night by making him an honorary captain for their game against the Cowboys.
Ajayi joined the Eagles following a trade from the Miami Dolphins for the final seven games of the regular season and all three playoff games. He rushed for 408 yards on 70 carries with one touchdown and caught 10 passes for 91 yards and one score in those seven games. In the playoffs, he had 184 yards on 42 carries and caught six passes for 70 yards, but scored no touchdowns.