The Eagles practiced for one final time this season on Friday afternoon with wide receiver Jordan Matthews on the field. That was an achievement, considering Matthews missed practice the previous two days and is limping into Sunday's season finale against the Dallas Cowboys with an ankle injury.
Matthews is officially listed as questionable. He deferred to the coaching staff about his status for Sunday's game. Coach Doug Pederson indicated Matthews should be good to play, although the Eagles' No. 1 receiver has not been the same player since the Nov. 28 injury.
"Obviously it's well documented that it's been bothering me. But I've been out there," Matthews said. "To be talking about how it affects me, you just get into a round of excuses. Since I was out there, you've just got to push through it."
Matthews is one of four players questionable for Sunday. The others are linebacker Jordan Hicks (ankle), although he's expected to play; Isaac Seumalo (ankle), who is also expected to play; and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (quadriceps), who was a late addition to the injury report.
The player whose status is most in doubt is guard Allen Barbre, who is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Veteran Stefen Wisnewiski will start in Barbre's place, but Seumalo is expected to relieve Wisniewski to get playing time at left guard. Wisniewski's contract expires after this season, and Seumalo is a rookie third-round pick who is part of the Eagles' future.
The Cowboys' injury report is more crowded this weekend. They already announced that seven players are out: Cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, linebacker Justin Durant, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, offensive tackle Tyron Smith, and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton. They also have six players questionable. With home-field advantage already clinched through the NFC playoffs, the Cowboys could also limit the playing time of key starters such as quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott, Tony Romo, and Mark Sanchez will all play quarterback on Sunday, according to reports.
"Anything is possible in this last game," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "It doesn't surprise me knowing where they're heading and going into the postseason, obviously getting [Romo] some snaps would be beneficial. And that would be something that I'd even consider in that situation, if we were in that situation, doing that with our backups."
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said the Eagles would prepare for all three quarterbacks. It helps that there's film on each play. The Eagles played Prescott in October, Romo is a 14-year veteran who has started 16 career games against the Eagles, and Sanchez was with the Eagles the previous two seasons.
"A lot of it goes to the quarterback position," Schwartz said. "Their run game is not going to change regardless of who's getting the ball. But the wide receivers, and how they work through those wide receivers, certainly goes into the game plan. You attack each of those quarterbacks a little bit different. It's a little bit like facing their offense: It's going to spread you thin. Our preparation will spread thin."
The Cowboys' expected Week 17 caution with their starters is why the Eagles are favored in the game. It also gives the Eagles a better chance of finishing the season on a high note. One player who could benefit is Matthews, the No. 1 wide receiver who has only 16 catches for 118 yards in his three games since returning from an ankle injury. The team has kept him out of some practices, but Pederson admitted the injury still "affected" Matthews on the field. Matthews finished with 872 receiving yards as a rookie and 997 receiving yards last season, and he enters his final game of his third year with only 804 receiving yards.
"It's definitely not what I envisioned," Matthews said. "The biggest thing is the great ones can stop the bleeding. Whenever something bad is going on, you can reverse it. That's what I felt I was getting to. It's been difficult, especially with some of the injuries and some of the time out. Just the way I've always kind of trained myself, if I have a game on Sunday, I'd love to be able to practice all week. . . .It's not ideal for my style of play and the type of person I am. It's been hard."
The Eagles promoted running back Terrell Watson from the practice squad to be the No. 3 running back. He will be used in case of an emergency and in select situation. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound rusher is a complement to the smaller Darren Sproles and Byron Marshall. Pederson said he would "love to see [Marshall] quite a bit in this last ball game," so look for the rookie to get an increased workload.
Sunday will be Watson's first NFL game, a fairy tale turn to a life that started when he was left on the doorsteps of his grandparents' home as a baby after his birth mother could not care for him. Those grandparents raised Watson, watching him grow through a reading disability and special education classes, play college football at Azura Pacific, and bounce between NFL practice squads before receiving the promotion with the Eagles on Friday.
"I like to think it's kind of interesting," Watson said of his life story. "I think about my life if I wasn't with my grandparents, and I can't picture my life any other way."