Eagles practice squad depth invaluable as injury bug bites

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The Eagles fell just short of the mark against the Redskins on Sunday in what was a physically grueling contest. The effects of which are now haunting Doug Pederson and the 53-man roster.

Pederson met with the media today and confirmed that numerous players may well be heading to injured reserve, ending their season. Wendell Smallwood, Jaylen Watkins, Matt Tobin and Jon Dorenbos are the four who are unlikely to see another snap this season, but if that wasn’t damaging enough..the short-term injuries continue.

Brandon Brooks missed a second consecutive game due to an unknown “illness”, Darren Sproles is in concussion protocol after suffering vicious hit, Brent Celek has a mild stinger injury and both Allen Barbre and Dorial Green-Beckham could also be limited in practice this week. Jordan Matthews is also still recovering from his ankle injury.

While Brooks, DGB and Jordan Matthews are likely to play this weekend, the injuries sting the Eagles more than they have all season.

Without Halapoulivaati Vaitai and still waiting for the return of Lane Johnson, the Eagles Offensive Line is on its last legs. Tobin was the 4th string RT before suffering an injury and if the team were to lineup today, there’s a possibility that three of the five starters would be backups..which does not bode well for Carson Wentz.

The effects of Dorenbos’ injury has already been felt by the Eagles, who appeared to be holding tryouts on the sideline during yesterday’s game. Trey Burton snapped a field goal late on to send the Eagles up by a point after Celek injured his wrist. A botched kick just minutes beforehand sent some unnerving signals down the spines of Eagles fans for the rest of the game, who were anxious to see if the team would be forced into going for two or converting on 4th down way more often.

The good news is that the team are reportedly looking to bring in John DePalma for a workout, who spent time with the team throughout Training camp. This would not only bring a sense of familiarity, but make the week ahead much easier to prepare for.

With Smallwood absent and Sproles injured, the Eagles backfield is down to just two. Ryan Mathews who has yet again struggled with injury, and Kenjon Barner who hasn’t carried the ball more than four times since the win over the Steelers, amassing no carries at all against the Redskins. Pederson did allude to the option of activating Byron Marshall from the practice squad..but that’s the area that will really be tested. The ten man unit currently looks like this:

Don Cherry LB
Darrell Greene G
Aaron Grymes CB
Marcel Jensen TE
Marcus Johnson WR
Byron Marshall RB  UPDATE: Byron Marshall has officially been called up from the practice squad 
Aaron Murray QB
Aaron Neary C
Aziz Shittu DT
David Watford WR

Of the ten players on the squad, as many as five could potentially be activated for this weekend’s clash with Baltimore. If DGB is unable to play or the ankle injury of Jordan Matthews lingers, Marcus Johnson could well receive a call up after he turned heads during a Training Camp limited by injury.

The most intimidating dual-threat CFB back in recent years, Byron Marshall has now also been activated. The durability of Ryan Mathews is often called into question and without Sproles, the Eagles lose a vital part of their offense, passes out of the backfield. Turning to a more committee effort and utilizing the skill set of Marshall makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly, Jalen Mills played much of yesterday’s game in the slot. With Watkins out, Mills carried the load in the most difficult CB position on the field. Carroll and McKelvin have also fallen victim to injury numerous times this year and if that bug were to hit again, CFL standout Aaron Grymes or preseason hero C.J Smith could be given their first taste of Defensive NFL action.

The Offensive Line is a conundrum in itself. If Brooks continues to suffer with his mysterious illness, the unit would be without Brooks, Vaitai, Johnson, Barbre and Tobin. It’s at the point where you could out a plug-n-play line out of purely inactive players. Luckily, the birds still have Dillon Gordon and Josh Andrews on the roster as well as Greene and Neary on the practice squad.

Celek’s injury certainly hurts the Eagles in terms of a blocking tight end and someone like Marcel Jensen could fill that role, allowing Burton and Ertz to flourish as prime receiving targets.

The Eagles practice squad is filled with borderline roster level talent and surprisingly, nobody has been poached of note this season. Grymes and Marshall were among the most exciting undrafted rookies during preseason and now could be set to make their NFL debuts.

It’s times like this where the roster depth is truly tested, but the Eagles strong practice squad could become a vital lifeline when it comes to getting through the remaining games.

 

Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

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