Nate Herbig is among the four guys blocking for Carson Wentz who just a few months ago weren’t projected to get anywhere near a starting role in 2020.
On Tuesday, Herbig was asked what it’s like helping Wentz up off the ground on a six-sack, 16-hit afternoon, such as the one the Eagles' quarterback endured Sunday in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“He just acts like nothing happened because he’s the man, you know?” said Herbig, the starting left guard who played all of three offensive snaps last season as a rookie. “Just gotta block better, so he doesn’t get hit. Because he’s the man.”
There was a smidgen of encouraging news in that realm Tuesday when the Eagles listed veteran right tackle Lane Johnson as a limited practice participant. The practice was actually a walk-through, and the listing was an estimate. But it seemed to give at least a flicker of hope that Johnson and his ailing ankle might find their way onto the field Thursday night when the Giants visit.
If Johnson can’t play, that would seem to leave right tackle to Brett Toth. He’s the former Army offensive lineman who played his first 17 NFL snaps Sunday after rookie Jack Driscoll suffered an ankle injury that reportedly will keep him out this week. The Eagles have allowed an NFL-high 25 sacks.
For Wentz, the most important Tuesday task was “trying to convince my body that it’s Friday.”
Wentz and center Jason Kelce are the offense’s only projected starters from the preseason who definitely are playing against the Giants. Wentz was asked Tuesday how he deals with the constant change, how he gets all the new faces integrated into the unit. Tight end Jason Croom, who joined the practice squad Sept. 29, was called up and caught his first Wentz pass Sunday for a touchdown.
“I just try and build them up,” Wentz said. "I try and build them up, and let them know that I believe in them, and really talk through it.
“Obviously … on a short week we don’t get the physical reps. It’s a lot of walk-throughs, so a lot of it is just conversation, understanding ‘this is what I’m looking for on these routes.’ … In a perfect world, we’d have all sorts of banked reps, and we’d have a whole offseason, and all those things. But it’s the hand we’re dealt, and there’s no excuse.”
Wentz’s arsenal Thursday could include wide receivers DeSean Jackson (hamsting) and Alshon Jeffery (foot). Jackson hasn’t played since the first half of the Sept. 27 Cincinnati game. Jeffery would be making his season debut after undergoing Lis Franc foot surgery last December.
Asked how he thinks that will go, if he has enough recent practice reps with Jackson and Jeffery to make them effective weapons against the Giants, Wentz once again invoked the unattainability of the “perfect world.” He added that with Jackson and Jeffery, he has “banked reps from even last year, from offseasons before.”
It isn’t clear that timing really works like a savings account, but Wentz declared that he was “confident in those guys,” that “we’ve played a lot of football together, whether it’s in practice or in a game over the years.”
Wentz and Doug Pederson are 5-0 on Thursday night. Both have talked about how taking a back-to-basics approach to offensive planning helps, given the time constraints.
"I think you kind of go back to, ‘What do we do best? … What’s our DNA?’ " Wentz said. “Maybe you’re not adding as much stuff situationally.” Wentz said the lack of time works both ways. The opposing defense can’t make things real complicated, either.
“They usually don’t have a whole lot of new stuff, so you can really just watch the tape and go play, and let your guys make plays, and play fast,” he said.
Wentz won’t have his most dynamic running back, Miles Sanders (knee), or his all-time favorite target, tight end Zach Ertz (ankle). Richard Rodgers will highlight a tight end corps that presumably will include Croom and Hakeem Butler.
Backup running back Boston Scott’s best performances last season came against the Giants. In two must-win December games, he rushed 29 times for 113 yards and four touchdowns, and caught 10 passes for 153 yards.
Scott hasn’t had much of an offensive role this season. He’s mainly been the kick returner. His touches from scrimmage went from three to two to one in the weeks leading up to the Ravens game, when Sanders went down, and Scott ended up with two carries for four yards and two catches for 19 more. Scott has watched as Wentz has MacGyvered the offense through the last two weeks against top defenses, the unit scoring 28 points against the Steelers and 30 against the Ravens.
“That’s credit to the coaching staff that’s putting the plan in place. Credit to 11 for making it work,” Scott said. “I think that has been incredible, with the tenacity and the fight of the guys that have been in. A lot of guys ... are getting their first opportunities.”
Some of those first opportunities have come at Wentz’s expense. Asked about bruises, he said that “you notice them a little more on Thursday night games,” but “I’ll be just fine when we get out there.”