The most immediate Eagles question all training camp and preseason has been this: Among the recovering injured, who will be ready come Week 1?
Week 1 has arrived. And Doug Pederson indicated he expects right guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles), cornerback Ronald Darby (knee), linebacker Nigel Bradham (foot), and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot) to play in Sunday’s opener against visiting Washington.
Pederson stopped short of saying that all four will handle a normal workload, and none of them were available to talk when reporters were allowed into the NovaCare locker room Monday afternoon, after most players had left for the day.
“Right now, they all practiced [Monday]. Looking good. So, obviously, we haven't made any official announcements on who is in, who is out, but we're going to take it day-by-day. We fully expect those guys … to get time on Sunday,” Pederson said.
Pederson also indicated that Darby and Sidney Jones are the Eagles’ top two corners if Darby is healthy, something defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz specifically avoided saying last week. Jones had an excellent camp and preseason, but Darby did not play in preseason games and practiced with a heavy knee brace.
“Well, obviously going in, we’ll see where Darby is at, at the end of the week. But Darby and Sidney obviously could be the top two,” Pederson said. "Rasul [Douglas] is going to play quite a bit and Avonte [Maddox] is going to be in the mix at nickel, so all four guys are going to play.”
The top four corners were unavailable in the locker room.
Pederson, who called this his deepest roster in four seasons with the Eagles, reiterated that third-year defensive end Derek Barnett, held out of preseason games as he recovered from shoulder surgery, will be full-go for Sunday’s encounter with Washington. The Eagles are counting on Barnett’s ascension to stardom -- that was one reason they parted with Michael Bennett and Chris Long, and didn’t get seriously involved in the bidding last week for Jadeveon Clowney.
“I feel really, really good about Derek,” Pederson said. “He's been probably the one [among the recovering] that's been practicing the most during training camp, with getting more reps each and every week. So he's in a really good spot, so I have no issues with him not playing or being there.”
Barnett also was unavailable in the locker room.
Later Monday, Rudy Ford, the safety/special teams guy the Eagles acquired from Arizona, said he, too, expects to be ready for the opener. Ford arrived in an Aug. 22 trade with Arizona for defensive tackle Bruce Hector, who ended up getting waived by the Cards and signing with the Eagles’ practice squad. Ford missed the preseason finale -- his only chance to get on the field with his new team before the opener -- with an unspecified injury that he declined to clarify Monday.
“Speed, versatility,” Ford said, when asked what he can contribute to special teams, as he continues to learn Schwartz’s defense. Ford said Arizona’s special teams concepts are similar to what the Eagles stress.
So, hear, hear, the gang’s all more or less here, with the exceptions of linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) and two corners, Jalen Mills (foot), who is designated physically unable to perform until Week 7, and Cre’Von LeBlanc (also foot), who went on injured reserve Monday with the expectation that he can return at midseason. To make LeBlanc feel better about missing half of a contract year, the Eagles signed him to a one-year extension Monday, which makes sense for both sides.
Grugier-Hill indicated Monday that he won’t be a full practice participant this week, but he expects to be soon. The Eagles did not place him on IR, so they must expect him to be able to play within the next month or so.
“I’m feeling really good … I’m excited about what’s going to happen this year,” said Grugier-Hill, who suffered a Grade 3 MCL sprain in practice on Aug. 3. “I’ve been running and all that kind of stuff.”
Mills will be eligible to play again about a calendar year after he injured his foot, last Oct. 28, which seems downright odd. Pederson was asked about this on Monday and offered little illumination, other than that Mills “hurt his foot.”