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Miles Sanders, Saquon Barkley not the only college teammates reuniting for Eagles-Giants | Early Birds

The Eagles’ Stanford contingent, made up of Zach Ertz, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Nate Herbig, are all looking forward to seeing Giants TE Kaden Smith.

Stanford wide receiver Trenton Irwin (2) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) and Kaden Smith (82) during a game against UCLA in 2017.
Stanford wide receiver Trenton Irwin (2) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) and Kaden Smith (82) during a game against UCLA in 2017.Read moreMarcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Good morning, Eagles fans. It’s an especially good one, too, because the Eagles have a prime-time game tonight. The long wait for the Eagles to try and get the bad taste of the Dolphins loss out of their mouths is over. We’ve heard a lot about how this week in practice was more intense, how this team is still fully invested in righting the ship and making it to the playoffs. Well, that starts tonight.

You will no doubt already have read plenty of coverage on Miles Sanders and Saquon Barkley preparing for their first game as foes, but there will be one more college reunion taking place this evening. More on that later.

If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here​. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @EJSmith94.

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Catching up with Kaden

Before Nate Herbig was an interior lineman, he was a jumbo tight end for the Stanford Cardinals, meaning he practiced with the other tight ends sometimes during the week.

He’ll never forget the odd noises Kaden Smith made during blocking drills in practice. Herbig did his best to re-create the sound, making a noise similar to a sheep’s “bah," but with more oomph.

The Eagles’ Stanford contingent, made up of Zach Ertz, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Herbig, is looking forward to seeing the tight end, currently with the Giants, on Monday. The former teammate of Arcega-Whiteside and Herbig is starting to find his footing in the NFL after being drafted in the sixth round of last April’s NFL draft.

He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers, but got waived in September. The Giants added him to their roster, and he’s coming off two straight weeks with solid production.

With Giants tight end Evan Engram out with a foot injury, Smith has 11 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown in the last two games.

It’s unclear if Ertz or Herbig was competing for it, but Smith’s jersey has already been claimed by Arcega-Whiteside following Monday night’s game.

“I was texting him this week trying to get a jersey swap,” Arcega-Whiteside said.

Arcega-Whiteside’s role in the Eagles’ offense continues to increase each week, and the wideout should see even more snaps against the Giants. The Eagles waived Mack Hollins earlier this week, and Nelson Agholor is questionable for the game with a knee injury.

Even when Alshon Jeffery and Agholor returned to the lineup against the Dolphins, Arcega-Whiteside still played 39% of the team’s snaps, bumping Agholor into the slot and playing on the outside.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said the 6-foot-2 receiver and Greg Ward have earned more opportunities when explaining why the team moved on from Hollins.

“Some of our young players like J.J. [and] Greg have earned, or at least deserved, an opportunity,” Pederson said Thursday. “You have to make some tough decisions.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Some NFL coaches and executives believe Carson Wentz is being coddled by his coaches, which was not the case during his MVP season, writes Paul Domowitch.

  2. Given the way this season has gone, the Eagles will have quite a few difficult decisions to make this offseason. Bob Ford begins to discuss the possibilities, including parting ways with Jason Kelce.

  3. Doug Pederson decided to have a practice in pads without consulting his leadership council, which didn’t go over well with some players, writes Jeff McLane.

  4. Also from Domo: Former Eagles executive Joe Banner says Jeffrey Lurie still has confidence in Howie Roseman.

  5. The Giants haven’t done too much well this season, but when it comes to defending tight ends, they’re one of the best. I wrote about how that’s happened, and what it means for tonight.

  6. For the first time in their lives, Miles Sanders and Saquon Barkley will be on opposite sides tonight. I wrote about how Sanders could surpass the Giants star in rushing yards with a big game.

  7. I also outlined the team’s injury report, which has three starters in flux for tonight’s game.

  8. What happened to the Eagles? It’s pretty simple, Marcus Hayes writes: They collapsed without Jordan Howard.

  9. Zach Ertz is ready to step up after a forgettabl game against Miami, Domo reports.

  10. Domo has his scouting report for tonight’s game.

  11. Les Bowen looked into the heat the Eagles’ position coaches have been taking this season.

  12. And Domo, Les, Jeff, and I make our predictions for tonight.

From the mailbag

Lamb or Ruggs for us in the draft? — @lball94 via Twitter.

Great question, @lball94, if that’s your real name. I’ve watched a ton of Oklahoma games this season, and have also seen a good amount of Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs, as any college football fan has. To me, and other people who get paid to know these things, the Sooners’ Ceedee Lamb is by far the superior prospect. Ruggs is slightly more athletic, but Lamb is a special player. I don’t really see how Lamb goes outside the top 10 at this point, and Ruggs is probably more likely to be available in the middle of the first round. Still, I think there’s a case to be made that the Eagles should do what it takes to get Lamb, even if it means trading up.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Ruggs a lot. He has 99th percentile speed and is a monster after the catch. He plays in a more competitive conference, too. I just have some reservations about what he’ll look like without that much talent around him. The Alabama receiving corps is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I think everyone there benefits from the depth that group has.

Lamb isn’t exactly playing with scrubs either, but he is the type of guy who has always made a few plays that pop off the screen every time I watch him. Plus, and this may be the most important part, he’s far less of a developmental player than Ruggs. Lamb is already a polished route runner, he’s great after the catch, and he can win on 50/50 balls, which is something the Eagles covet. For a team that has struggled mightily to develop wide receivers, a guy like that could solve a lot of problems.