In the NFL, veterans often aren't excited about preseason games, but Eagles running back Matt Jones is very much looking forward to Thursday's visit to the New England Patriots.
"I should play a lot. I need to. I'm happy about it — it doesn't matter if I play the whole game," Jones said Tuesday.
Running backs Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams missed Tuesday's practice and are unlikely to play Thursday. That leaves Jay Ajayi, who almost certainly will not be exposed to injury for more than a quarter or so, then Jones and Wendell Smallwood. Expect to see a lot of Jones and Smallwood.
After two years and three training camps, the coaching staff probably has a pretty good handle on Smallwood, a fifth-round pick in 2016 who can't seem to stay healthy for very long. Jones, 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds, was a third-round pick by Washington in 2015 who was a significant contributor there before suffering a knee injury. In the game before his 2016 season ended with that injury, Jones gained a career-high 135 yards on 16 carries against the Eagles.
Since then he has been cut by the Redskins, and signed and waived three times by the Colts. He came to the Eagles looking to rekindle his promise, having only turned 25 in March, but a hip pointer in an early live practice set Jones back. He did not play in last Thursday's preseason opener, in which undrafted rookie Adams opened some eyes with 30 yards on just six carries.
Jones was eager to come here, having grown up in Florida as a fan of Duce Staley's running style. Now Staley is the Eagles running backs coach.
"Amazing coach. I think one of the best, by far, I've ever been around," Jones said. He said Staley "will coach you hard" but at heart is "a players' coach" who understands the obstacles his charges face.
Alshon Jeffery worked out Tuesday a few fields away from where his teammates practiced, running and catching passes. He was not available for comment about an NFL Network report Monday that speculated Jeffery could continue on the physically unable to perform list when the regular season starts — which would mean he couldn't practice or play for six weeks. Jeffery had shoulder surgery in February.
"I'm not going to comment on it," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "We're monitoring his progress. It's day-to-day. We're happy where he's at. We'll continue to do that. I'm not sure where that [report] came from."
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No Agholor this month?
Pederson indicated that wideout Nelson Agholor, who has missed five days of practice and last week's preseason opener, might not play in the preseason.
"Nelson has got a little lower body [injury], needs rest on it," Pederson said. "We're going to give him that rest … and get him ready for Week 1."
Pederson classified Clement, who seems to have a leg injury, as "day-to-day."
Asked about Pederson's timetable, Agholor said: "It's Coach's call."