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Eagles defense ready for an Adrian Peterson who ‘still can explode’ | Early Birds

The veteran, in his 13th NFL season, is set to replace the Washington Redskins' dynamic young running back Derrius Guice, who's out for the rest of the season with an MCL sprain.

Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham stops Washington running back Adrian Peterson on Sunday, December 30, 2018 in Landover, MD.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham stops Washington running back Adrian Peterson on Sunday, December 30, 2018 in Landover, MD.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans, and happy (almost) weekend.

The Eagles are just two days away from facing the 3-10 Redskins on the road. Yesterday, Carson Wentz spoke to reporters for the first time since Monday night’s comeback win and said he in no way feels like he must put this struggling team on his back. Then he and his teammates took to the NovaCare Complex practice field for the first practice of a short week.

As for all those pesky injuries, wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee), right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), and defensive end Derek Barnett (ankle) did not practice, while running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) and cornerback Jalen Mills (elbow) remained limited. But good news: linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill has cleared the concussion protocol and is ready to play.

And so is Rob Davis, who was promoted from the Eagles’ practice squad yesterday, bringing the grand total number of healthy wide receivers on the team’s 53-man roster to ... three.

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Defense preps for Peterson, who ‘can still get things done’ despite his age

The Eagles’ most experienced defensive linemen aren’t changing up their preparation for fellow veteran Adrian Peterson, whom they’ll face Sunday instead of injured second-year running back Derrius Guice.

“They’re similar," defensive end Brandon Graham said of the two Washington backs. “Guice is just younger, but they’re both power backs, downhill runners.”

Graham added: “AP can still get things done."

For the Redskins, he’s had to.

If you recall, Washington signed Peterson in August 2018 after Guice tore his ACL and ended his rookie season before it even began. For Peterson, the move resurrected his career. He went on to rush for more than 1,000 yards, finishing the season ranked as the eighth most productive runner in the league.

The Redskins re-signed the 34-year-old this summer.

After Guice tore his meniscus against the Eagles in Week 1, Peterson was called upon again, stepping up in the nine games Guice was sidelined.

The 22-year-old former LSU standout (who, by the way, also battled a leg injury in his final college season) returned for five games, during which he logged 42 carries for 245 yards and two touchdowns, as well as seven catches for 79 yards and a score.

Then last week, Guice went down on a 23-yard run in Washington’s 20-15 loss to the Packers. Further testing this week determined the injury was an MCL sprain, and the dynamic dual threat was once again placed on injured reserve. His season is over.

Which means the Eagles defense is now preparing for Peterson, the seven-time Pro Bowler who’s averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

While he may not have the speed he once did, he’s still a workhorse back who can exploit holes.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox echoed Graham’s respect for Peterson, and indicated the Eagles can’t underestimate what he can do despite his age and the wear and tear that comes with 13 NFL seasons.

“I mean, we’ve just got to play physical football,” Cox said. “We know he runs hard. He still can explode. For us, we’ve just got to tackle him."

While the Redskins are out of the playoff race, Peterson still has personal milestones to motivate him. Last week against Green Bay, he surpassed 14,000 career rushing yards. And if he can tack on another 232 yards in the final three games, he’ll log his ninth 1,000-yard season.

But if Cox and the rest of the Eagles’ defense have their way, Peterson won’t make a big dent in those yardage goals this week. Containing Peterson, Cox said, is doable.

“Get all 11 guys to the ball, wrapping up," he said, "and I think we’ll be good.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Columnist Mike Sielski’s talking about the U-word. Yes, underdog, a role that Carson Wentz stepped into for the first time on Monday night when he orchestrated a comeback win without many of his veteran teammates, Sielski writes.

  2. Wondering how the Eagles and Redskins match up ahead of Sunday’s game? As always, Paul Domowitch has you covered with the complete scouting report.

  3. If you’re curious about practice-squad call-up Rob Davis (he just joined the injury-depleted receiving corps, so you’re forgiven if you don’t know his name), read EJ Smith’s latest update on the wide receivers.

  4. Kamu Grugier-Hill has been cleared from concussion protocol, and the linebacker revealed Thursday he initially lied to medical staff after the hit that caused his head injury. Les Bowen and EJ Smith have more in the daily notes.

  5. Four years ago, offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai made his first NFL start in place of Lane Johnson at the Redskins. This Sunday, Vaitai is set to make his first start of the season Sunday, again at the Redskins and in place of Johnson. Jeff McLane writes about the up-and-down journey of “Big V.”

  6. Paul Domowitch talked with Brian Westbrook, who has high praise for young running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. And yes, he also wishes the Eagles would run the ball more.

  7. Our beat writers are anticipating the Eagles and Redskins will keep the game close on Sunday. Read more in their weekly predictions.

From the mailbag

Should we expect to see more tempo and roll outs vs Washington to mitigate their top 5 pass rush? @x_drumheller via Twitter

Hey, drum. As I promised on Twitter, you now have my eternal appreciation because you answered my mailbag plea.

As for your question, I sure hope so, particularly because it worked so well for the Eagles in the second half against the Giants, especially on that 14-play, 85-yard game-tying drive. It also worked so well for the Green Bay Packers when they got up on the Redskins 14-0. In fact, Green Bay slowing down the offense was what allowed the Redskins to turn last week’s matchup into a close game.

For his part, Carson Wentz said Thursday he thinks tempo was the key “at times" in the Eagles comeback win over the Giants, but he trusts the coaching staff to make in-game adjustments depending on how a game is going.

“Sometimes we do tempo early,” Wentz said. “Sometimes we get to it later in the game. Some games we don’t even use it.”

If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on more tempo. Hopefully coach Doug Pederson will have more to say on this topic in his Friday press conference.