The opening sequence was unintentionally hilarious and perfectly symbolized the laughable state of the Philadelphia Eagles as the 2018 stretch run looms.
Thursday’s press conference with coach Doug Pederson started with The Inquirer’s Zach Berman asking, “The statuses of your injured players: [Jalen] Mills, [Sidney] Jones, [Avonte] Maddox, [Rasul] Douglas, [Jordan] Hicks, Chandon Sullivan, Darren Sproles ...”
The question was interrupted by laughter around the auditorium, including Pederson.
“I can go on,” Berman said.
“I know,” Pederson said. “It’s a long list.
“I’ll tell you this, Jalen Mills, Maddox, Jordan Hicks — those three are probably the furthest away, even though Mills and Maddox are probably a little bit closer. The other guys will actually do some stuff today at practice, Sproles included, and we’ll just see. They’re day to day, we don’t want to rush them back, obviously, or set anybody back, so we’ll mix them in and see where we’re at at the end of the day.”
The revelation about Sproles was interesting. He hasn’t played since injuring a hamstring in Week 1. When it looked like he was ready to make his return against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, they released returner DeAndre Carter.
But Sproles then experienced a setback and still hasn’t been able to play in a game. Though he had his helmet on to start Thursday’s practice, the plan is to limit him and see how he responds. He could well be a game-time decision.
“He wants to be on the field so bad that it will be exciting to get him out there today just in a limited capacity,” Pederson said. “… He’s such a competitor and a leader of this football team, and he wants to be out there, really, really bad.”
As for the names already mentioned, they don’t even include everyone who’s dealing with an injury. Linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill each have broken thumbs that have so far not limited their availability.
The Eagles will release their first injury report of the week after Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday night’s game with Washington.
A little while after Pederson was done, it was quarterback Carson Wentz’s turn at the podium.
Among the questions he was asked was why there have been so few completed passes deep down the field. Although the Eagles rank ninth in the league in plays of 20 or more yards, most of them have come on rushes or yards after short or intermediate passes.
“It’s really hard to say,” Wentz replied. “I feel like we do have some downfield shots and we’ve connected on some and had some big plays. I think part of it would just be how teams are playing us. I think earlier in the year we were getting more softer zone coverage and things like that to try to take away some of those downfield shots.
“… Other than that, it’s really hard to put a finger on it exactly why.”
Pederson addressed the deep-ball issue as well.
“I think one of the things, you have to look at protection and how well we’re protecting up front,” he said. “Any time you take a shot down the field, it’s usually a seven-step drop or a deep, play-action pass. And so we've taken our shots and we’re going to continue to do that.
“I try to build it in where at least we’re trying to do one a quarter or more. So it’s a good way, too, to kind of back the defenders up, so we don't see as much eight-man boxes or seven-man boxes, and kind of open up the run game. But we’ll continue to work it and try to get some more shots down the field.”
Finally, Pederson confirmed that undrafted rookie Josh Adams, from Central Bucks South and Notre Dame, is their lead back.
“I think Josh is the one that's kind of taken that lead approach. The other two, Corey [Clement] and Wendell [Smallwood], have done an outstanding job on special teams, so their role is obviously bigger from the game-plan standpoint. So Josh goes in as the starter. There’s no hiding that. And we continue to mix the guys in there.
You saw Corey last week, a little change of pace, whether it be a screen or a nice run on third down. He’s got some burst and the we’ll continue to game-plan for all our guys.”
Meanwhile, Wentz bristled at recent speculation that he doesn’t plant his left foot hard enough on throws, most likely the result of him coming off surgery last December to repair his left ACL and LCL.