The Eagles have released their final status report ahead of this Sunday’s clash with the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys. In a game where the season is on the line against a heated rival, the team will need as many weapons as they can muster.
#PHIvsDAL Status Report
Out: LB Hicks (calf), CB Mills (foot)
Questionable: DE Bennett (foot), DT Jernigan (back), CB Maddox (ankle, knee)
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 7, 2018
The good news is that things are beginning to trend in the right direction. Doug Pederson spoke about the situation in his press conference on Friday.
‘’ll start with [DE] Michael Bennett, he’ll practice today.’ He said. ‘We’re just being cautious with his injury. Guys like [CB] Rasul [Douglas] obviously is going to practice. [CB] Avonte Maddox is getting close, but we’ll see where he’s at again after today, but don’t really expect him much today. [LB] Jordan Hicks is still a little ways away. [CB] Jalen Mills is still a ways away.
‘Jernigan, the spasms, are still there, so we’re making sure it’s calmed down before we put him back on the field. We have today, tomorrow, and we’ll see where he’s at the end of the next couple days.’
Jason Peters missed practice for non-injury related reasons and is also expected to play on Sunday.
Riding the wave of caution is certainly the smartest move the team could make at this stage. With Jalen Mills still sidelined, it likely means that we will see a combination of Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc at cornerback against the Cowboys, with names like De’Vante Bausby still able to contribute. That would give the Birds’ their strongest secondary lineup, but the wildcard to note is Avonte Maddox.
Drafted as a slot corner, he wasn’t only pushed to safety at a moments noticed, but elevated to a starter in a time of dire need. After performing admirably, he was given the honor of being named captain and began to really shine in his unexpected new role. With Corey Graham and Tre Sullivan the names holding down the backend, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles keep Maddox over the top, or instead have a trio of Douglas, Jones and Maddox, who would play in the nickel with the two aforementioned names playing outside.
The Cowboys have a shifty wide receiver group and we all know the damage Amari Cooper can do. It makes sense to have a reliable and hard-hitting safety, but you also want to ensure that a willing run contributor can come down and stop Zeke on CB blitzes and such. Maddox ticks both boxes so could end up seeing a very hybrid role upon his return.
The absence of Jernigan will absolutely hurt this defense, who face the powerful Ezekiel Elliott without their franchise run-stuffer. However, Haloti Ngata has performed well thus far and with a reduced workload since Jernigan’s return, could be subject to some extended reps after some rest. The DT depth isn’t exactly deep, but Ngata may be able to hold the fort for one week at least.
Losing Jordan Hicks in this game, who has earned a reputation as a Cowboy killer, is going to sting. The Cowboys love to rinse the middle of the field and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill (who I’m sure will be circled in red after his comments) and Nate Gerry, who picked off his first pass last week.
It’s encouraging to see the Eagles healing up on the backend, but there’s still a way to go before this defense is anywhere close to full strength. Can the Cowboys exploit this? That’s another question…
AP Photo/Matt Rourke