What does the future hold for Eagles who ended their season on injured reserve?

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39 players. 39. That’s how many Eagles suffered an injury at some stage during the 2018 season. Not all of these were season-ending and not every player ended up on injured reserve…but many of them did. By the end of the season, 12 players were still listed on the team’s official Injured Reserve list. While it’s easy to look ahead to the offseason and all of the excitement that follows, for these select players, there has to be a feeling of anxiety. What does the future hold for each?

 

Jay Ajayi

2018 was supposed to be a game-changing year for the former Miami Dolphin, who signed with notable agent, Drew Rosenhaus, in preparation for a free agency payday. It was game-changing for other reasons, however, with Ajayi suffering a torn ACL after appearing in just four games following a rocky offseason where injuries again ruled the day. That’s been the story so far for the Brit, who has battled the ‘injury-prone’ label throughout his short career. On one side of the coin, there’s an explosive player who is only growing in versatility and production and on the other, a back who is yet to prove himself as someone worth hanging your hat on for an entire season.

The Eagles, who are already $14M over the cap, could, however, have a realistic shot at re-signing Ajayi due to the injury. His value would have decreased and the Birds have plenty of draft capital to invest in the backfield. If the market isn’t as populated as Rosenhaus and Ajayi had hoped, an incentivized contract could be on the cards as Ajayi seeks a long-term future. However, the most likely scenario is a team will outbid the Eagles, who have limited resources to lure him back.

Prediction: Free agency

 

Derek Barnett

Barnett isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The main question here is, what will his role be entering year three? He was drafted in the first round for this very reason. There’s a good chance that both Graham and Long may not return and if that’s the case, Barnett will be heading a very young defensive end group.

In the 6 games he did play, Barnett amassed 2.5 sacks and 16 tackles as he was exposed to a much higher number of defensive snaps. Barnett will undoubtedly continue to see that production rise, but will he now be seen as the Eagles’ premier pass-rusher? Is it time he simply has to be?

Prediction: Starter

 

Elie Bouka

Signed to a futures deal one year ago, Bouka came into a scenario where there was plenty of competition at cornerback, however, he was placed on IR back in April. He had intriguing size and reportedly ran a 4.3 40-yard dash prior to a brief stint in the CFL, but the Eagles, through some perilous trials in the season that followed, have found a strong group of corners to make up the depth outside of the starters.

Prediction: Free agency

 

Corey Clement

After his stunning Super Bowl performance, many expected big things from the former undrafted free agent, but Clement was hampered by injury all year long.

Carrying the ball 68 times for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Clement just looked a step slower. That explosiveness seemed to burn out and it didn’t take long for the weakened backfield to seek production elsewhere. Clement was later placed on IR toward the tail end of the season and while information is minimal, some have suggested it may hinder his offseason workout plan.

The Eagles backfield is in need of a complete restructure and it remains to be seen whether or not Clement is in those plans. He’s cheap, and when healthy, a very explosive back between the tackles who offers some versatility as well. I think the Eagles keep him around one more year, but he’s going to have to scrap for his share.

Prediction: Rotational role with the team

 

Ronald Darby

In the two year’s Darby has been a Philadelphia Eagle, he’s missed close to a full season with two separate injuries. It’s been a real shame as when he’s finally back on the field and settled in, he can be an absolute menace defending breaking routes and forcing incompletions. But when he’s not, his tackling is often sporadic and he has the complete opposite skill set to that of Jalen Mills, which often allows quarterbacks to pick their own poison.

Darby is still really young (at Age 25) and has a high ceiling if he can stay on the field. The Eagles found some strange solidarity at the position after his injury however and if it’s a big payday that the pending free-agent wants, the cap-strapped Eagles may be unable to deliver, instead, putting all their chips on their current crop of corners.

Prediction: Free agency

 

Mack Hollins

One of the biggest disappointments of 2018 was being unable to see Mack Hollins return to the field. His injury was kept very ‘hush hush’ and somehow a groin injury suffered in week one ended up with the wideout missing an entire year. The issue here is that Hollins was poised to be such a big part of the offense. He wreaked havoc from the slot in his rookie year as well as the WR2 spot and in a season where the Eagles needed a deep-threat, the one man who could’ve provided just that was suspiciously sidelined with a groin injury.

Hollins returns in 2019, but to what end? Are the Eagles going to finally find their long-term deep-threat in the draft? Will Mike Wallace return? Does Hollins even have a spot on the 53? It’s going to be a very intriguing offseason, to say the least.

Prediction: Sticks onto the roster

 

Jordan Mailata

Everyone’s favorite offensive lineman is now entering his second full NFL and American football season. Having never played the sport before, the way Jeff Stoutland was able to so quickly get him into a preseason game where he shined was just remarkable. The former Rugby star is glowing with potential and while I don’t think he miraculously starts in 2019, expect him to compete for a backup role.

Prediction: Training Camp fight for backup OT

 

Rodney McLeod

McLeod has been such an underrated player since arriving in Philadelphia and fans only realized this once his season-ending injury left Corey Graham and company to fill the void. His value may now be at its highest to a team craving consistency at Safety, but his $8M cap hit certainly detracts from that. There’s a good chance McLeod’s injury has forced the hand of a front office in need of cap relief here. Whether or not that’s a restructure or something a little more deadening to his stint in Philadelphia, don’t be surprised to see some movement where McLeod is concerned.

Prediction: Contract restructure

 

Jalen Mills

One of the most reliable tacklers on the team, Mills has his place in the Eagles defense. The former seventh-round pick may struggle when tasked with defending deep routes, but as a willing run defender, his heart and tackling technique are invaluable. Mills should still keep a starting role in 2019, although don’t be surprised if one of the players who stepped in relief of the Green Goblin gives him a Training Camp battle to win first.

Prediction: Starter

 

Josh Perkins

Perkins was kept aboard due to the injury to Richard Rodgers and when Perkins himself fell injured, it forced the Eagles to use 12-personnel a little more frequently to get the most out of Ertz and Goedert. There’s a good chance Perkins stays around, but his presence as a receiving tight end was drastically underwhelming during the offensive snaps he did see. He’s going to need to come a long way as a blocker this offseason to secure his future.

Prediction: Training Camp battle for TE3

 

Josh Sweat

When Derek Barnett went down with injury, the ‘Josh Sweat is the ultimate sleeper’ stans rose up viciously. That didn’t last long. The rookie was invisible during his time on the field in week 8 and was placed on IR in December. He played in a total of 68 snaps and much like the preseason, struggled to show any of the promise he displayed as a schematic misfit in College. He doesn’t seem strong enough right now to blow past tackles in the same way he did for Florida and he needs a lot of work this offseason.

Prediction: crucial offseason/ training camp battle

 

Paul Worrilow

Worrilow suffered a torn ACL during the early stages of the offseason, just a heartbeat before the team parted ways with Mychal Kendricks. However, while the veteran linebacker is scheduled to be a free agent, NJ.Com’s Mike Kaye has cited that the team intend to bring him back on a one-year deal. This makes sense. Depth is minimal and veteran presence goes hand in hand with that at this stage.

Prediction: His season that never was

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

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