Darren Sproles has been cleared to return from the concussion that kept him out of Sunday's 27-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and is expected to return Thursday against the New York Giants. However, the Eagles will miss running back Kenjon Barner, who strained his hamstring Sunday. The quick turnaround this week will keep Barner from playing.
The return of Sproles is a welcome addition for the offense and special teams. Sproles was in the league-mandated concussion protocol after enduring a violent hit while trying to field a punt against Washington.
When healthy, Sproles plays the most of any running back in the Eagles offense. Even though Ryan Mathews rushed for a season-high 128 yards Sunday, the Eagles rely on Sproles' pass catching and blocking. Rookie running back Byron Marshall played more offensive snaps than Mathews (39 to 36) because of the team's different needs in passing situations.
With Barner absent, Marshall is expected to be active for the second consecutive week.
Going for two
Pederson stood by his play call on the failed two-point conversion at the end of the loss to Baltimore. He also defended his decision to keep Mathews off the field.
"In my mind, there was zero opportunity to run because what we anticipated is what we got defensively," Pederson said, alluding to Baltimore's blitz. "There was not going to be a lane. It was going to be a one-yard loss if we tried to run the football at that time."
Pederson said the Eagles had a good one-on-one situation for Jordan Matthews in the slot, but Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was able to deflect the pass before it could reach Matthews. The coach emphasized that the problem was not who was playing running back.
"It didn't matter who was in the backfield at the time," Pederson said. "The fact of the matter was we weren't going to run the ball in that situation."
Considering Mathews' success running the ball on Sunday, his presence might have threatened the possibility of a run. The Eagles used Mathews to run on a successful two-point conversion earlier in the game. Pederson said the situation was different - the Eagles went for two then because of the wind, not because of an end-of-game scenario - and that it would not have fooled Baltimore.
"Maybe from layman's terms it might look to appear that way," Pederson said. "When you are in the heat of the battle like that, they are going to do what they do, we're going to do what we do. . . . This was a true, got-to-have-it situation and we had our best play at that time against that defense."
The Eagles did not practice Monday, so there was no formal injury report. Had they practiced, Barner would have been the only player absent. The following players would have practiced: Sproles, offensive lineman Allen Barbre (hamstring), tight end Brent Celek (stinger), wide receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle), offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo (ankle), and offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee).