Good morning. The Eagles were at work on Monday, but players are off today before returning to practice on Wednesday to begin preparing for this Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. I want to know what you think and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm.

— Zach Berman

Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan flaps his arms during the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings in January.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan flaps his arms during the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings in January.

High-profile newcomers at walk-through

The Eagles had two new additions at their walk-through on Monday: wide receiver Golden Tate and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan.

Tate will join the Eagles' lineup this weekend, which has been well documented. It's not yet known when Jernigan will return to the lineup — the Eagles started his 21-day window to return on Monday — but it was nonetheless a positive sign for the team that Jernigan is back on the field. His status has been shrouded in mystery ever since offseason back surgery.

It remains to be seen what kind of shape Jernigan is in or how he was affected by the injury. If the Eagles can get the player they had last year, it will be a major boon for the team — akin to a midseason trade. Jernigan was a core player on the Eagles' defensive line last season, even if he often came off the field on third down. He could win one-on-ones next to Fletcher Cox, was a key cog in the run defense, and was a bona fide starter for the team. They haven't had that this year, especially while Haloti Ngata nursed an injury. Ngata is an accomplished player, but he's better suited for the Beau Allen role as the No. 3 defensive tackle. Jernigan is the player the Eagles needed back. And if he's up for it, he might have greater use in the passing game this season because the Eagles' defensive end rotation has shortened after Derek Barnett's injury.

"That's why we liked him. That's why we traded for him. That's why we re-signed him last year," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He was a big part of our success last year. He didn't rush a lot on third down, had some in there, but he was a guy that could win a one-on-one away from Fletch, which means an awful lot. And he's also a guy that's really stout against the run, but he also has a good enough lateral ability that he can make a sideline-to-sideline play and make some tackles for losses. I think he's also a guy that brings energy to us on defense. He just loves to play, gets out there, he plays tough, plays with some personality, and would be nice to — when we're able to get him back, that will be as welcome as his physical talents."

A new nickel

The Eagles also added cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc off waivers and waived Dexter McDougle on Monday evening. This was not a minor move — at least not until Sidney Jones returns — considering McDougle was on the field for 91 percent of the defensive snaps during the Eagles' last game. It was not a good showing for McDougle, and the Eagles sought to upgrade that spot.

Jones has missed two games with a hamstring injury. The Eagles practice again on Wednesday, so there will be a better sense of his status then. Jalen Mills also has a foot injury, so the Eagles continue to need secondary help. (They added De'Vante Bausby to the practice squad on Monday, too.) Rasul Douglas would start on the outside if Mills is out, but LeBlanc might be pressed into immediate action in the slot. It's going to be interesting to pay attention to how he progresses this week and what the lineup is on Sunday. The Cowboys use Cole Beasley as their slot receiver.

Pass instead of run?

There are many Eagles fans who want the team to run more. But the addition of Golden Tate could mean the Eagles use more short passes instead of the run. It would be a good idea, too, considering Tate's run-after-catch ability. Other teams have used the short passing game instead of the run. The Eagles aren't going to eliminate the run, but they can view those short passes to Tate as an extension of the running game. And considering they have a committee approach at running back, they might trust the ball more in Carson Wentz's hands than in Wendell Smallwood's. Plus, the short-passing game could create more empty backfields and put pressure on the opposing defense.

"If you're kicking the ball out on time and the defense is retreating and getting those guys to separate in space, you can," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said when asked if the short-passing game can be used instead of the run in certain situations. "Obviously, the West Coast offense was born that way. So, yeah, absolutely, I think there's a place for that, but it certainly doesn't replace the physicality of a run game."

With the Lions, Golden Tate catches the ball between the Eagles’ Jalen Mills (left) and Jordan Hicks in 2016.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
With the Lions, Golden Tate catches the ball between the Eagles’ Jalen Mills (left) and Jordan Hicks in 2016.

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From the mailbag

My guess is Jordan Matthews and Dallas Goedert are the two players that are most affected. They're both coming off good games against Jacksonville, too. Tate will be a top-three receiver with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, so he'll likely get work in three-receiver sets over Matthews. And if the Eagles play more three-receiver sets, that means there are fewer two-tight end sets — unless the Eagles don't play with a running back. Goedert will still have a role and Matthews will still mix in, but my guess is they're the two players whose target share will most likely be affected by Tate's arrival. I know there's a belief  that Agholor will be most affected, but he'll still have a big role in the offense.

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