For the first time since September, the Eagles offense is close to full strength.
With running back Miles Sanders, right tackle Lane Johnson, and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery all expected to return from injury for this Sunday’s road game against the New York Giants, the group will have more talent in the lineup than it’s had in months.
“It feels good just getting all the guys out there,” Sanders said Friday. “We need as many guys as we can for this last stretch in the second half of the season."
The Eagles dealt with a rash of injuries at the beginning of the season, losing starters at every offensive position group except quarterback for a stretch. Two weeks ago, tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jalen Reagor returned, and tight end Zach Ertz and left guard Isaac Seumalo will possibly be back before season’s end.
Coach Doug Pederson said Friday the team was “close” to a feeling of relief brought on by returned players, pointing out a handful of starters like Seumalo, Ertz, and linebacker Nate Gerry are still sidelined.
“We haven’t felt like this in a long time and that gives you hope, gives you an excitement and enthusiasm around the team,” Pederson said. “I’m looking forward, whenever that day is, to be at full strength. If it’s only for a short time, it’s for a short time. But one day, yeah, you’ll see Isaac back out there and hopefully see Zach back out there and Nate Gerry and [linebacker] Genard Avery and the guys that are nicked up right now.”
Barring any setbacks, this will be just the second time the Eagles will have both Sanders and Reagor, two of their fastest players, available in the same game.
Sanders missed the last two games before last week’s bye with a knee injury suffered in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. Sanders hurt his knee on a 74-yard run that ended with him fumbling and JJ Arcega-Whiteside recovering the loose ball for a touchdown.
He missed most of training camp and the season opener against Washington with a hamstring injury and was dealing with a glute injury in October but didn’t miss a game. The 2019 second-round pick said the injuries have been frustrating but insisted he’d be ready for a full workload against the Giants.
“I feel good. I’ve been doing a great job with my conditioning, rehabbing at the same time,” Sanders said. “I feel like I haven’t missed a step or anything like that.”
Johnson has been dealing with his own string of injuries. The right tackle had ankle surgery in August and has been dealing with swelling and discomfort in the ankle all season. He also suffered a strained MCL that held him out against the Cowboys in Week 8.
Johnson had fluid in his ankle drained for a second time this season during the bye week, but said he’s feeling good enough to play.
“I think the bye week was big for me,” he said. “[The ankle’s] been pretty good this week as far as limited pain and swelling, but yeah, it’s just something we’re probably going to have to deal with the rest of the year. But as long as I’m not feeling as much pain as I was in the beginning, then I’ll be fine. I’ll be able to go through.”
At receiver, the Eagles suddenly have a logjam.
Jeffery is on track to make his season debut after missing nearly a year with foot and calf injuries. He will be one of seven healthy receivers on the active roster, which includes the promising young trio of Travis Fulgham, Reagor, and Greg Ward.
Pederson said the team has a plan to infuse Jeffery into the offense, but he wouldn’t divulge details.
“He’s a veteran player, he’s been one of our starters and we’ve got a plan, if he’s ready to go, to get him in the game,” Pederson said. “He’s a big receiver that can help. He knows the offense and knows what we’re doing.”
The Eagles decided to keep Jeffery, 30, on the active roster instead of putting him on the physically unable to play list going into the season because they felt he’d be ready before Week 6, but Jeffery has yet to play. While he was sidelined, Fulgham has emerged as the team’s No. 1 receiving threat. The 25-year-old has 29 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns in five games since being promoted from the practice squad.
Because Jeffery hasn’t played in almost a year, Pederson said he might need to be eased into his new role.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time for him to get comfortable in the game, to be up to game speed, to kind of get fully integrated back into playing football," the coach said. “It’s just something that we have to, as a staff, we have to be smart. I don’t want to crush Alshon physically and factor in fatigue or factor in more injury, or whatever, so we have to be smart with that.”