In a typical mid-week practice, the Eagles shed their shoulder pads after the first team period of the session.
Much to Lane Johnson's delight, they kept them on Thursday for the first time in months.
“[Heck] yeah, don’t be asking me dumb questions, you know I like a physical practice,” Johnson said. “Today was probably one of our best practices. Cold and windy, [shoot], we enjoyed it. It was good.”
Coach Doug Pederson, likely trying to shake things up amid the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, made the decision to have a more physical practice.
Johnson said the pads felt “nice and heavy,” something his offensive-line mate Brandon Brooks agreed with.
“It kind of set the tone, you know. This isn’t a cakewalk, it’s not a walk-through,” Brooks said. “It’s not something where you lose a game and it’s just back to regularly scheduled programming. There’s a sense of urgency that needs to happen. By putting the pads on, I think he set the tone.”
Jordan Howard didn’t get to enjoy the fun of midweek contact in the freezing cold, though. The running back was still waiting to be cleared for contact while dealing with a shoulder stinger. He was a limited participant.
Howard suffered the injury Nov. 3 against the Chicago Bears and has sat out of team drills since. Despite missing the last three games, he still leads the team in rushing yards with 525, although rookie running back Miles Sanders is closing in with 520.
Pederson said the team misses Howard’s running style, but the coaching staff is happy with Sanders’ development.
"Jordan brings a different style, I guess," Pederson said. "He's more of an in-between-the-tackles guy. I think one thing you saw this past week with Miles is he's capable of doing that a little bit. He's a one-cut guy or a jump-cut guy. make the first guy miss and continue on. He had some really good runs that way."
The Miami Dolphins must have been more impressed with the Eagles than Eagles fans were Sunday. The Dolphins claimed wide receiver Mack Hollins on waivers, and offensive lineman Sua Opeta confirmed Thursday that Miami was the team that wanted to sign him from the Eagles’ practice squad. That development led to the waiving of Hollins and Opeta’s move this week onto the Birds’ 53-man roster.
“I chose to stay here for a reason. I came here for a reason -- because I like the atmosphere,” Opeta said after practice Thursday. Opeta is an undrafted free-agent rookie from Weber State.
“It’s the same practice [as when you’re on the practice squad], but I feel I have a bigger role now, being on the roster,” Opeta said. “It’s just me picking it up a notch, working hard in meetings and practice. ... It feels great to be wanted.”
Opeta said left guard is his best position. He said his practice squad work has helped him improve his form in pass protection.
There was a surprise injury revelation Thursday. Starting linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill reported he was having concussion symptoms and was placed in the league protocol. Also missing practice were wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) and defensive end Derek Barnett (ankle).
Grugier-Hill collided with DeVante Parker on the first snap Sunday, leading to a Ronald Darby interception. Grugier-Hill was helped off the field, then returned and finished with 42 defensive snaps.
Wide receiver Marken Michel, a fan favorite in training camp and the preseason, has been brought back to the practice squad. Michel said Thursday that he has been working out in Miami since the Eagles released him. Several teams inquired, but he got no offers.
“I feel a little rusty as far as getting that initial quickness back,” Michael said. “One more practice ought to take care of that.”