Slowly but surely, most of the Eagles players coming off major injuries are returning to the field.
Safety Rodney McLeod (ACL) returned to practice last week. Defensive end Derek Barnett (torn rotator cuff) came back Saturday.
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For the second straight day Sunday, cornerback Ronald Darby, who, like McLeod, is coming off an ACL tear, participated in seven-on-seven work.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot surgery) is “very close" to returning to team drills, head coach Doug Pederson has said.
That would leave guard Brandon Brooks (torn Achilles), linebacker Nigel Bradham (torn ligaments, big toe) and cornerback Jalen Mills (foot). Brooks has said he hopes to be ready for Week 1. Bradham also should be back by then.
Mills was placed on the team’s physically unable to perform list at the beginning of training camp, which suggests his return isn’t quite as imminent.
Darby, who wore a brace on his right knee during practice, said he feels great and remains optimistic that he’ll play in the Sept. 8 season opener against Washington.
“That’s the plan," he said. “We’re taking it week by week, but that’s the plan."
Darby said he expects to start participating in 11-on-11 drills “maybe in a couple of weeks."
With Darby and Mills out, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, and Avonte Maddox have been taking the first-team reps at the three corner spots.
Douglas figures to be the odd man out when Darby returns. Jones and Maddox have been rotating between the slot and the outside. When the season starts, Jones likely will stay outside, with Maddox manning the nickel corner spot.
Darby said he will not be wearing the knee brace in games. “It kind of restricts you a good amount," he said. “I’m not going to wear it [in games]."
As with many of his Eagles teammates, defensive end Brandon Graham is looking forward to Thursday’s reunion with quarterback Nick Foles when the Eagles visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second preseason game for both teams.
Foles, of course, replaced an injured Carson Wentz in each of the two previous years, leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl title in the 2017 season and a playoff win over the Chicago Bears last season.
He then signed a free agent contract with the Jags for $88 million over four years, with $50.125 million reportedly guaranteed.
“Hopefully we get out there and get to touch him a little bit, let him know we miss him,” Graham said while laughing after Sunday’s practice.
The key question is whether Graham will get the chance to meet up with Foles in the course of action. Graham was among many veterans who coach Doug Pederson decided wouldn’t play in last week’s 27-10 preseason loss to the visiting Tennessee Titans.
There is no word on how or if those veterans will see time in the preseason.
“I think Doug will get us some reps,” Graham said. “I don’t know if it is this week or next week, but I know he wants us to get out there and set some of those game-like reps.”
Rookie running back Miles Sanders of Penn State has been one of the hits of training camp, but he saw limited time in the preseason opener. He played only six snaps, getting three carries for 3 yards. Sanders also played three special-teams plays.
After the game he said he expected to play more. Now Sanders is hoping to see more action against Jacksonville.
“Hopefully, that is my goal,” he said. “My mind-set is to play every week and get ready every week, whether it is preseason or the regular season.”
Sanders says any reps are important, especially during game action.
“I am trying to get used to the speed of the game, playing against another team, and trying to get ready for Week 1,” he said.
Thursday night’s game isn’t just another preseason game for defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Jackson played for the Jaguars the last three years.
The first two were great, particularly 2017, when he had eight sacks and helped the Jags make it to the AFC championship game.
But neither he nor the Jaguars played nearly as well last season. Jacksonville finished 5-11. Jackson, meanwhile, was benched in mid-November, ending a personal 57-game starting streak. He finished with 3½ sacks, which were his fewest since his third season in the league in 2014 with Denver.
“I’m very much looking forward to going down there," he said Sunday. “The coaches have said I don’t have to play. But I’m planning on going out there and getting a few snaps. I really want to show them that I’ve still got it."
Defensive end Vinny Curry was sick Sunday and missed the team’s practice. He is expected to be back for Monday’s workout.