Doug Pederson acknowledged Monday that some delicate roster-juggling lies in store, as the Eagles try to finesse their way through the aftermath of a series of injuries suffered in Atlanta that apparently won’t require any of the players involved to go on injured reserve.
Not going on injured reserve is good, of course, but if you’re not on IR, you’re on the 53-man roster. Somehow the Eagles are going to need to add a defensive tackle, a tight end, and maybe a wide receiver there, in the wake of a brutal loss that left them 1-1 and looking at a date this Sunday with visiting Detroit.
The game after that is four days later at Green Bay, How many players who miss Sunday’s game are going to be able to play as quickly as the ensuing Thursday?
Reports indicate defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could miss four to six weeks with a foot injury. Jernigan went down in his first game as the starter replacing Malik Jackson, who was lost for the season to a foot injury last week.
Pederson – who offered no injury updates Monday -- said it was his feeling that Jernigan’s might be the most serious setback of the bunch, but he didn’t know for sure, pending tests. Jernigan left Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a walking boot after the Eagles’ 24-20 loss to the host Atlanta Falcons.
Second-year tight end Dallas Goedert started feeling pain from his preseason calf injury during pregame warmups and did not take the field Sunday night, leaving the Eagles with one healthy tight end, Zach Ertz, who played all 81 offensive snaps.
The Eagles fielded three tight ends for the opener but waived Alex Ellis and sent him back to the practice squad last week. Pederson said Sunday night and Monday that the Eagles wanted to run the ball out of 12-personnel — one running back, two tight ends — a lot in Atlanta.
Asked Monday why he would go into a game with only two tight ends if using both a lot was his plan, he said he had confidence in Goedert and Ertz, which didn’t really answer the question.
After Goedert went down, wideout Alshon Jeffery played just six snaps before coming out, also with a calf injury. The other starting wideout, DeSean Jackson, left after 11 snaps with a groin injury; an ESPN report Monday said that Jackson’s problem “doesn’t appear to be a long-term injury.”
Still, if Jeffery and Jackson both miss this week’s game, the Eagles would seem to need to add a wide receiver to the 53, as well.
“That's the chess match we have to find out in the next couple days,” Pederson said. “We have a couple games here now in 11 or 12 days. We'll make it work. That's just what we do. We find a way, we make it work, we coach the guys up that are going to play, and we go play.”
Sunday night, Carson Wentz, Sidney Jones, Nelson Agholor, and Jason Kelce all had to go inside the sideline blue injury tent to be checked for concussions, but all passed and returned to action. Wentz was not pleased to miss six snaps at the behest of the press box concussion spotter, who buzzed down as he was about to take the field after sitting through a Falcons offensive series.
Running back Corey Clement suffered a shoulder injury while fumbling away the second-half kickoff. Clement had an arm in a sling after the game. Miles Sanders took over kickoff return duties. An NFL Network report Monday said that Clement would miss “a week or two.”
With Jordan Howard, Sanders and Darren Sproles still healthy, the Eagles probably will not add a running back during Clement’s absence.
They have a defensive tackle, Bruce Hector, on the practice squad, who played in eight games for them last season. The practice squad has Ellis and also Josh Perkins, a tight end who appeared in nine Eagles games last season.
Practice squad wide receivers are training camp standout Greg Ward and Marcus Green, a sixth-round Falcons draft choice this year who was released in the cut-down.
Developing story lines
So much for those fears about Doug Pederson’s overusing Darren Sproles. After getting 16 official touches, not including his two-point conversion run, against Washington, Sproles was targeted three times in the passing game Sunday night, catching two, for just 5 yards. He had a bad drop, with a minute, 43 seconds left. Carries? Zero. As in, none. One punt return, for 8 yards.
This one-sack-a-week business from the defense really isn’t going to cut it. The lone sack came late in the game this time, on a blitz from Andrew Sendejo.
The Eagles converted 9 of 18 third downs, the Falcons just 3 of 10. Strange game.
Fletcher Cox played 49 snaps, managed one tackle. Akeem Spence, signed after Malik Jackson went down for the season in the opener, played 21 defensive snaps in his first game as an Eagle.
Josh McCown went a very respectable 3-for-5 for 24 yards and a pair of first downs while Carson Wentz was being evaluated for a concussion.
First-round rookie tackle Andre Dillard took the field for just one offensive snap, after Jason Peters got dinged on that final-minutes 43-yard fourth-down throw to Nelson Agholor
You could intercept Matt Ryan three times in four possessions and still lose?
The Eagles’ leading rusher after Week 2, Jordan Howard, has 62 yards (on 14 carries), tying him for 41st in NFL rushing with Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew.
Other than the Eagles’ injuries, the biggest surprise Sunday night might have been how poorly the Eagles’ proud offensive line fared against a tough Falcons defensive front.
Carson Wentz took some brutal hits, one of them, courtesy of Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones, giving birth to apparently erroneous NBC broadcast speculation about Wentz having suffered a rib injury.
Granted, some of the hits came because the quarterback was holding the ball, waiting for unfamiliar receivers to come open, and sometimes they just didn’t. And granted, the defensive front has an advantage at home in a loud stadium.
But five of the seven accepted penalties on the Eagles were charged to the offensive line, including three holding calls on left guard Isaac Seumalo. Halapoulivaati Vaitai came in as an extra blocker and managed to get flagged for illegal formation and holding on the same play. This was not a crisp effort in any respect.
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett dominated the game inside, powering through double teams. The Eagles were supposed to have this greatly improved 2019 running game. Running backs Miles Sanders (10 carries, 28 yards) and Jordan Howard (eight carries, 18 yards) combined for 18 runs that gained 46 yards.
After so many Eagles passing game weapons went down, the Falcons might have loaded up a bit against the run. This Eagles line prides itself on still being able to grind out yardage in those situations. It sure didn’t Sunday night.
Asked if crowd noise was what kept his blockers off kilter, Doug Pederson said: “It was a little bit of the noise. It was an active front, a little more than what we had seen.
“We know Grady Jarrett is a really good player from the standpoint of getting off the ball and increasing the gap, and a couple times we just overset [a blocker giving up too much room inside while trying to not get beat outside]. We just set too wide and they penetrated the A or B gap. Again, these are corrections that we can make and learn from and be better.”
Another problem might be that Sanders, the second-round rookie, so far is averse to sticking his foot in the ground and powering forward. He seems to think a pot of gold awaits at the sideline. And Howard so far looks solid, but not at all special, without the flash or punishing finish of Jay Ajayi.
It would be tempting to advocate for more Corey Clement snaps if he hadn’t injured his shoulder while fumbling away the second-half kickoff.