IF PAUL TURNER finally takes the field for a regular-season game Monday night, fans can expect "competitiveness," Jordan Matthews said.
"He definitely brings the element of surprise, because when you look at him, he doesn't look too assuming. But he can go out there and make plays . . . He can go out there and make some spectacular catches," the Eagles' leading receiver said.
Turner is a 5-10, 193-pound undrafted rookie who was not Louisiana Tech's No. 1 receiver last season, but he was the Eagles' top pass-catcher in the preseason, which earned him a spot on the practice squad. The Eagles promoted him Monday in the wake of Nelson Agholor's Seattle meltdown, the culmination of a long-term struggle for Agholor, the team's 2015 first-round pick.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday he is unsure whether Turner, Agholor or both will be active against the Packers. He said this is a "big week" of practice for Agholor, but it's equally big for Turner, who gets his first non-scout team work of the season. Though Carson Wentz recalled that he and Turner were preseason third-team buddies, Wentz hasn't thrown to Turner in quite a while.
Pederson said one reason for the promotion, which meant a trip back to the practice squad for cornerback Aaron Grymes, is that we're getting into the time of year when teams poach prospects from practice squad rosters. Ian Rapoport, of the NFL Network, reported that the Eagles have been paying Turner his full $450,000 salary this season, instead of the $6,900 a week practice squad minimum, just to guard against such a thing. Rapoport said San Diego tried to sign Turner before he was promoted.
Pederson said he sees Turner as an inside, or slot, receiver, which Matthews hopes might free him to play more outside.
Turner, who will wear No. 19, professed to be more or less unaware of the fact that Eagles fans who watched him in the preseason have made Turner their standard-bearer against the drops and disappointments of the current wide receiving corps.
"Honestly, I try to stay away from it as much as I possibly can," he said. "I really don't try to get into the social media and all those other things. I just try to keep my head down and keep working."
He said practicing in the slot against Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod all season has taught him "to be more aggressive getting in and out of my routes . . . They really work you, and they make you perfect your craft."
Pederson said his meeting with Agholor went well, after Agholor said he was pressing and was too deep inside his own head following his catchless Seattle game.
Pederson seemed concerned about fan reaction if Agholor should struggle again Monday night; he was derisively cheered after making a short catch in the Atlanta game.
"I don't want to expose him to anything that will hurt him there as an individual, as a human being, because I know this is also about life, and it's about him as a person, and it's not so much about football anymore," Pederson said, when asked whether Agholor might play but with a reduced workload.
"I've just gotta see, from his standpoint, how he handles - this'll be a big week for him - how he handles it mentally, how he handles it with his teammates, how he reacts on the practice field with the things that have sort of fallen in his lap. Just how well he responds, and can he handle a little adversity in his career," Pederson said.
Matthews said Agholor's girlfriend is in town and they went with him to dinner at Carson Wentz's house Monday night, and to couples Bible study at Chase Daniel's house on Tuesday.
Allen Barbre seems likely to spend the next month or so at right tackle, following the MCL injury suffered by Halapoulivaati Vaitai Sunday at Seattle.
Barbre has played well at left guard this season, but as a ninth-year vet at age 32, he is versatile. Barbre started seven games at right tackle for the Packers, Monday night's opponent, in 2009, and one game there for the Eagles in 2014. He spent much of the preseason preparing to play right tackle, when the team thought Lane Johnson might have to start serving that 10-game suspension at the start of the season, instead of after the fourth game.
By the time Johnson's appeal was denied, coaches thought rookie Vaitai was ready to play, and they liked the idea of making one o-line move instead of two. But with Vaitai down, they have little choice.
"Footwork and communication. Kind of getting everything where it's just second nature," Barbre said, when asked the biggest challenge of making such a switch. "Getting the timing down and getting work with the guy (right guard Brandon Brooks)."
He said having made the switch for a while in the preseason helps.
Barbre was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth round in 2007. He left there after three seasons as a disappointment, wandered through stints with Seattle, Miami, then Seattle again. He sat out the 2012 season when the Seahawks released him after he was suspended four games for PED use, then reclaimed his career in 2013 with the Eagles.
"I've got a lot of respect for the organization, I know a lot of people back there," Barbre said of Green Bay. "I guess it's kind of like playing your big brother or your sibling - you're always competitive, you always want to play well against 'em."
Teammates had no comment on Johnson's National Labor Relations Board filing against the NFL and the NFL Players Association over the suspension process. They have been in touch with Johnson, who is allowed to talk to teammates, but not coaches. Reserve guard/tackle Matt Tobin said Johnson remains in his native Oklahoma, "living the good life."