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Ronald Darby’s injury, Golden Tate’s snaps, playing time vs. Cowboys | Early Birds

Another player is out for the season. Plus, links to all of our coverage, and answers to your questions.

Cornerback Ronald Darby will be the ninth player to go on the Eagles' injured reserve this season.
Cornerback Ronald Darby will be the ninth player to go on the Eagles' injured reserve this season.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning. The Eagles return to the NovaCare Complex today to begin preparing for the New Orleans Saints. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have news conferences beginning at 2 p.m.

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

Can Lane Johnson play on Sunday?

Ronald Darby is out for the season with a torn ACL, making him the latest player the Eagles lost this season due to injury.

Darby will become the ninth player to go on the Eagles' injured reserve. The list also includes Derek Barnett, Jay Ajayi, Mike Wallace, Rodney McLeod, and Mack Hollins. Tim Jernigan is on the non-football injury list, too. And then consider the players the Eagles have missed this year because of injuries, including Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Lane Johnson, Haloti Ngata, Jalen Mills, and Sidney Jones, and it's clear to see why injuries are a major reason for the team's current plight.

Injuries affect every team, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl last year despite injuries. So it can't be used as an excuse. But every team deals with injuries differently, and this year's team doesn't have the same quality of depth or resilience as last year's team. Also, the injuries this year have hit certain positions such as the secondary, wide receiver, and running back, so the Eagles have needed to go farther down the depth chart. That was evident after Darby's injury when the Eagles played without their top three cornerbacks.

Why Golden Tate didn’t play a big role

Golden Tate played only 29 percent of the snaps on Sunday. That's not enough for a 30-year-old Pro Bowler in the final year of his contract that the Eagles traded a third-round pick to acquire. There shouldn't be a long phasing-in process for Tate; it's an eight-game rental. It doesn't help them if he's ready to play in December. The Eagles need major contributions right away.

Doug Pederson said Tate will play more in the coming weeks. The Eagles prepared Tate for plays out of the huddle, so when they went to an up-tempo attack, Tate was on the sideline.

"We had a nice, little plan for him going into this game. And it was all huddle calls," Pederson said. "And, in fairness to Golden, the third series of the game I went straight up-tempo to try to generate some spark. It's all code words and different things, and moving guys around a little bit. So in fairness, I didn't want to put him in a situation where he felt uncomfortable. Going forward, as we go, that will increase for him. You'll see him in there a little bit more."

Playing time vs. Cowboys

What else stood out about the playing time distribution against the Cowboys, other than Tate?

Dallas Goedert also played 29 percent of the snaps with the Eagles using fewer two-tight end sets. They relied on more receivers, with Jordan Matthews playing 60 percent of the offensive snaps. Wendell Smallwood logged the most running back snaps with 34 percent. Josh Adams took 31 percent of the snaps. Corey Clement played 29 percent of the snaps. It was a near-equal distribution, with Smallwood taking only three more offensive snaps than Clement. Going forward, it sounds like the Eagles will use Adams more in the offense.

On defense, Brandon Graham (80 percent), Michael Bennett (72 percent), and Chris Long (67 percent) continue to form a three-man rotation at defensive end. Josh Sweat, who was questionable for the game, only took six total snaps, so he's not yet in that rotation.

Tre Sullivan got more work, logging 32 percent of the snaps. He split with Corey Graham in the nickel; Graham played 41 percent of the defensive snaps in his first game back from injury.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. To add injury to insult, Ronald Darby is out for the year.

  2. Les Bowen looks at the problem with the Eagles' early-game scripts.

  3. What did Jeff McLane learn  in the Eagles' loss?

  4. Paul Domowitch offers five reasons why the Eagles lost. 

  5. The Eagles are underdogs at the SaintsEd Barkowitz writes.

From the mailbag

It's a fair question, but what changes are you looking for them to make? If you expect staff changes, it's not going to happen right now. That will be evaluated after the season, but the Eagles thought they were contenders going into the Dallas game. They had hoped they were turning the season around. As for lineup changes, they've made some this year — you saw the change at left guard, and injuries have forced the Eagles to make adjustments (Avonte Maddox going to safety, for example). They've adjusted playing time at different positions, including running back. But the reality is at this point of the year, this is their roster. The biggest changes they can make are what plays they're calling and perhaps how they structure practice. The challenge there is the Eagles had a formula that won the Super Bowl. It's hard to deviate from what worked. But the lack of early-game scoring should make them take a long look at their offensive script to begin games.

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