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Jay Ajayi's first practice and Ronald Darby's status | Early Birds

Ronald Darby still isn't a full participant at practice, plus Jalen Mills wins an award and Nate Sudfeld earns a promotion.

Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills reacts after a stop with teammates strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (right) and defensive end Derek Barnett (left) against the San Fransisco 49ers on Sunday, October 29, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills reacts after a stop with teammates strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (right) and defensive end Derek Barnett (left) against the San Fransisco 49ers on Sunday, October 29, 2017 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

Good morning, Eagles fans. This is a Thursday edition of Early Birds, with the Eagles practicing at 12:45 this afternoon to continue preparing for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. The big story on Wednesday was Jay Ajayi's first day practicing with the Eagles, but there was other news, too.

  1. Cornerback Ronald Darby was the only player limited at practice on Wednesday. The other 52 players were full participants. Coach Doug Pederson continues to say Darby is getting closer, but the Eagles are taking their time with him after he dislocated his ankle in Week 1. If he's not a full participant in Thursday's practice session, it would seem unlikely he'll be back for Sunday. Considering the Eagles have a bye following the Broncos game, it might make sense to hold Darby out to get him healthy for the Nov. 18 game against the Dallas Cowboys and hope to have him for the final seven-game stretch.

  2. Cornerback Jalen Mills was named NFC defensive player of the week after he had an interception return for a touchdown in Sunday's win over San Francisco. Mills became the first player on the Eagles to win the award since safety Malcolm Jenkins last December. The last Eagles cornerback to win the award was Lito Sheppard in 2007. Mills gave credit to the other players on the defense – the defensive line for applying pressure along with Jenkins and Rodney McLeod for helping him with film study. The Eagles are pleased with the development of Mills, who has been their No. 1 cornerback since Darby's Week 1 injury. He's proving this season that he's a starting-caliber cornerback in the NFL.

  3. The Eagles promoted quarterback Nate Sudfeld from the practice squad to the active roster. The decision was made to keep another team from signing Sudfeld, but it also shows that the Eagles think highly of the quarterback. This is the first time since Pederson's been the head coach that the Eagles have kept three quarterbacks on the active roster. (Of course, that was the plan when they were supposed to have Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, and Carson Wentz entering last season.) Sudfeld will be inactive for the rest of the season as long as Wentz and Nick Foles are healthy, but it's worth wondering if he could become a post-Foles backup quarterback or a potential trade chip for the Eagles. Foles has a salary-cap hit of $7.6 million next season, although there would be $5.4 million in dead money if they released him. So it's likely Foles is in Philadelphia in 2018. Sudfeld will be an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, a restricted free agent next season, and won't be an unrestricted free agent until after the 2019 season.

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— Zach Berman

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Jay Ajayi practiced for the first time, wearing No. 36, and spoke after practice about a fresh start.

  2. Patrick Robinson is out of the concussion protocol and back at practice, Les Bowen writes.

  3. What did the film reveal about Mychal Kendricks' performance? Jeff McLane breaks down the tape.

  4. Paul Domowitch offers his take on the Ajayi trade and what it means for LeGarrette Blount.

  5. What does Ajayi's arrival have to do with Andre Rison? Marcus Hayes tells you.

  6. Doug Pederson is taking a wait-and-see approach with Ajayi, but he says Blount's role won't change.

  7. Carson Wentz thinks Ajayi will be a good fit with the Eagles, Bowen writes.

  8. The Broncos made a quarterback change for Sunday's game against the Eagles, going with Brock Osweiler.

  9. Domo offers his Eagles-Broncos scouting report.

From the mailbag

The Eagles placed Jordan Hicks on injured reserve after acquiring Jay Ajayi, so they didn't need to cut anyone to open a roster spot. Your second question is an interesting one because the Eagles have five running backs on the 53-man roster and I can't see them keeping all five running backs active on game day. And my guess is Wendell Smallwood will be the odd man out. Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount will be the top two running backs. Corey Clement is a valuable special teams player who will continue to play on Sundays. Kenjon Barner is their top punt returner. So that could leave Smallwood inactive unless the Eagles changed punt returners. My guess is Smallwood will be most affected by Ajayi's arrival. Even before the Ajayi trade, he only had one carry in Sunday's win over the 49ers.