Lane Johnson to the rescue.
Also DeSean Jackson to the rescue, but if the Eagles were a California wild fire, the offensive line conflagration would be the bigger of the two, threatening to engulf the town. The wide receiver fire would be still dangerous, but closer to being declared under control.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday that he expects right tackle Johnson and wide receiver Jackson to bolster his injury-ravaged lineup Thursday, when the Giants visit Lincoln Financial Field.
The team also built a firebreak by releasing veteran guard Jamon Brown, who had an Eagles debut for the ages Sunday against the Ravens. Pro Football Focus had Brown down for two sacks, four hits, three hurries and nine pressures. Unclear if they credited Brown with a sack for the time he ran into Wentz and knocked him down.
Johnson missed parts of the San Francisco and Pittsburgh games with a long-standing ankle problem, then sat out Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, in which his replacement, rookie Jack Driscoll, suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him this week. Had Johnson been unable to play Thursday, the Eagles presumably would have been down to Brett Toth, who made his NFL debut after Driscoll went down, Toth playing 17 offensive snaps.
Pederson said he is confident that Johnson can make it through this game, but given everything that has happened on the O-line, “anything is possible, so don’t quote me on that, right?”
The Eagles are missing left tackles Andre Dillard (biceps) and Jason Peters (toe), left guard Isaac Seumalo (knee), right guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles) and right tackle Jack Driscoll (ankle).
Pederson said wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who hasn’t played since undergoing Lisfranc surgery last December, isn’t quite ready, hasn’t had enough practice time to play this week. Pederson acknowledged last week that at the start of the season, when the team made the decision not to stash Jeffery on the PUP list, which would have required a six-week absence before returning to practice or play, the thinking was that Jeffery would be ready sooner than this.
Pederson, who spoke before the team released Brown, wouldn’t say who is going to start at right guard. Against the Ravens, Matt Pryor was on the COVID-19 restricted list, because he had come into contact with someone who tested positive. Pryor will come off the list Thursday, but even with Brown gone, he might not get his starting job back; the Eagles might want to take a look at Sua Opeta there.
“if we get [Pryor] back, it’s hard to get the reps to be ready to be a starter,” Pederson said Monday.
The Eagles will be missing their top running back, Miles Sanders (knee), and both dynamic tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, sidelined with ankle injuries. Pederson said he had no timetable for Goedert, out since Week 3, or rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor, who suffered a thumb injury the previous week.
Pederson said cornerback Avonte Maddox (ankle) and linebacker Duke Riley (ribs) will return to action against the Giants. Later, when the official injury report was released, safety/special teams player Marcus Epps joined the list of returnees.
Nobody knows what to expect from Jackson, whose last true impact game was the 2019 opener against Washington (eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns). Jackson caught 10 passes for 121 yards in 2½ games this season, before sustaining a hamstring injury. He turns 34 Dec. 1, and the team has been cautious with his recovery. Given the development of Travis Fulgham, the steady presence of Greg Ward, Jackson’s return, and the presence of boom-or-bust rookie John Hightower, Carson Wentz ought to have a decent batch of targets.
The 1-4-1 Eagles are favored by about four points against the 1-5 Giants, who are coming off their first victory of the season, over Washington. This game begins a stretch the Eagles have been pointing toward, of three divisional matchups – two Giants games, sandwiched around a visit from the Cowboys. The Eagles' hopes of salvaging a successful season in the torpid NFC East probably rest on this stretch, which includes their bye, before the second Giants game. They play seven games after that, and right now they project as underdogs in at least four, all coming one after the other – Seattle, at the Packers, New Orleans, and at Arizona.
If the Eagles go into Cleveland on Nov. 22 healthier and sitting at 4-4-1, you can certainly envision them winning the NFC East, despite everything that’s happened. But that quest really needs to begin against the Giants, in the first game the Eagles have been favored to win since they tied the Bengals back on Sept. 27.
“It’s a huge stretch for us, man,” defensive end Vinny Curry said this week. “Everything that we want in right in front of us. All we have to do is stick together and play Eagle football, no penalties, everyone just do their job, and I guarantee you everybody will be happy with the result.”
Earlier in the week, Pederson summed up the Eagles' situation: “You just understand the NFC East, right? Everything’s still kind of up for grabs, and we’re just trying to figure out how to win a game, and how to get guys healthy to play.”