Among the early injuries reported by the Eagles as they began practicing with pads this week were two that seemed most concerning — the pectoral muscle strain that apparently will keep new defensive tackle Javon Hargrave off the field for at least a few weeks, and the “lower body” injury to defensive end Derek Barnett, which the NFL Network has said is an ankle sprain.
Hargrave assured fans Monday evening via social media that he will be ready for the start of the season, Sept. 13 at Washington. And, as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz noted in a Tuesday Zoom session with reporters, Hargrave plays a fairly uncomplicated position, and he isn’t going to be at a loss in the Eagles’ scheme, even if he hasn’t practiced much when the season starts.
To fans, Barnett’s injury might be more concerning. The Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick has played reasonably well, and he just turned 24 in June, but he hasn’t had the breakthrough season that seemed pending when he flashed in limited playing time as a rookie. Barnett missed 10 games in 2018 because of shoulder surgery, and he was bothered much of last season by leg problems, though he compiled 6 1/2 sacks and missed only two games.
Teammates have lauded his dedication this offseason; Brandon Graham warned reporters to “watch out” for Barnett. But when the pads went on, he was off the field and “week-to-week.”
The Eagles need for Barnett to be not just pretty good, but a star. Graham and Vinny Curry, brought back one more time on Aug. 7, are both 32 years old. There are no other high-profile, first- or second-round D-ends on the roster.
Schwartz told reporters he isn’t concerned.
“There’s a toll that comes [with such a physical position]. Derek plays so hard and so wide open,” Schwartz said. “He doesn’t take any plays off. I still am very pleased with where Derek is. And I think he’s going to have an outstanding year this year.”
When Graham spoke with reporters after Tuesday’s practice, he said he told Barnett, “Don’t worry about none of that stuff” — speculation that he is injury-prone. “Stuff happens in life that you don’t know why it happened, but I know that his attitude is positive, and he can’t wait to get back out there. ... I know he’s going to be ready when that time comes.”
Schwartz said something unrelated that fans might want to tuck away for later: “Linebacker and safety are two of the most-difficult positions to get up to speed with. That’s including having a full offseason program for rookies, OTAs, minicamp, and a full preseason schedule. So their learning has to be accelerated.”
The Eagles’ linebacking group is the team’s least-experienced unit, and they are hoping for a contribution at safety from rookie K’Von Wallace. Jalen Mills is projected as a starting safety, as he transitions from cornerback.
It may only be the early days of training camp, but the Eagles elected to lessen the workload of some 30-and-older veterans, giving Jason Kelce, DeSean Jackson, and Malik Jackson Tuesday’s practice off.
The team called them “maintenance days.” All three players were on the field in shorts watching practice. Kelce was replaced by Isaac Seumalo on the first-team offense, moving over from left guard. Matt Pryor filled in for Seumalo.
With Malik Jackson resting and Hargrave hurt, Hassan Ridgeway got extra playing time alongside Fletcher Cox on the first-team defense.
Jason Peters, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Duke Riley returned to practice after missing Monday’s session. Peters and Arcega-Whiteside were in uniform but didn’t participate in team drills. Both players are recovering from “lower-body injuries,” according to the team’s injury report. Peters did some individual work, while Arcega-Whiteside mainly watched from the sideline, wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg.
Riley, who missed Monday with an illness, wore a mask during the team’s stretching period and took some snaps in the team portion of practice.
Asked what he has seen from the Eagles’ young offensive linemen he has gone against in camp, Graham mentioned Jack Driscoll, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound tackle from Auburn, drafted in the fourth round. . Or, he meant to mention Driscoll, anyway.