Two weeks ago, Miles Sanders said running backs coach Duce Staley praised him for stepping up for the Eagles by playing “big-boy football.”
The rookie running back out of Penn State said at the time how much he enjoyed the high-stakes games the Eagles played to get into the playoffs at the end of the regular season.
Sanders has been battling an ankle injury all week and was a limited participant in practice, but big-boy football is calling his name again as he is expected to play in the Eagles’ wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
“It’s the playoffs,” Sanders said. “Nobody is 100 percent at this point in the season. If I can go, I’m goinh yo go. ... I got a chance to go out and run a little bit [in practice,] just doing warmup stuff this morning and just took it out on the field and I felt good."
Sanders was one of six players who were limited earlier in the week to return to practice Friday as a full participant and ready to play. Jalen Mills (ankle), Avonte Maddox (abdomen), Sidney Jones (back), Fletcher Cox (triceps), and Derek Barnett (ankle) are all expected to go Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Nelson Agholor is the only Eagle on the active roster to be ruled out, with Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson both listed as questionable. Ertz is dealing with a fractured rib and a lacerated kidney suffered in the Eagles’ Week 16 win over the Dallas Cowboys. He finished the game but has been sidelined since.
Ertz has been a limited participant in practice this week, stretching with teammates and participating in position drills Thursday, but he’s not cleared for contact.
Coach Doug Pederson, who gave his players the day off Tuesday and held a walk-through on Wednesday, said the three-time Pro Bowler would undergo further testing Saturday to determine whether he’ll be able to play.
“Zach [is] still not cleared for any contact,” Pederson said. “He will work a little bit on the side again like he’s done this week and stuff like that, but we’re waiting on a few doctor results [Saturday]. If things go favorable, he’ll play. If they don’t, he won’t.”
The Eagles have good reason to hope the 29-year-old can be cleared. Ertz led the team in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown catches in the regular season. His 88 catches were the third highest among tight ends.
Against the Seahawks in Week 12, Ertz had a season-high 12 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
If Ertz can’t go, Dallas Goedert will continue to be the primary option at tight end. With Ertz hobbled against the Cowboys, Goedert had his own 91-yard game, catching nine passes and scoring a touchdown. He followed it up with four catches for 65 yards against the Giants.
Even with Ertz’s solid performance against the Seahawks in the first meeting, the Eagles fell, 17-9, partly thanks to the turmoil on the right side of their offensive line. With Brandon Brooks and Johnson both missing, Andre Dillard played right tackle for the first time in his career and was benched at halftime. Halapoulivaati Vaitai switched from right guard to right tackle in the second half, making way for Matt Pryor at right guard.
For the rematch, the Eagles will have a similar problem. Brooks is on injured reserve and headed for shoulder surgery and Johnson is questionable with a high ankle sprain. The 29-year old right tackle has been sidelined since suffering the injury against the New York Giants on Dec. 9.
Johnson was limited in practice Friday and didn’t participate in position drills Thursday. If he can’t play, Vaitai will stay at right tackle with Pryor at right guard. If he can play, Vaitai would bump down to right guard.