The Eagles made a bevy of savvy moves to get better this spring. They restocked their offensive weapons and added talent to their defense; soundly improving on both sides of the football. A team that was a few quarters away from a rematch with the New England Patriots for Super Bowl LIII may also be the team that improved the most this offseason.
Whether you’re of the opinion that the Eagles were held back because they didn’t have a big play weapon in the passing game, a solid rotation of running backs, or enough help alongside Fletcher Cox on the interior front — Howie Roseman should have done enough to ease your frustrations. All of these areas, along with others, contributed to a rollercoaster regular season and a playoff run that was shorter than fans had hoped for. None of them, however, played as big a role as injuries did in determining the outcome of last season.
Philadelphia had a total of 39 players appear on the injury report last season. Nicks, bumps, and bruises are bound to happen over the course of the year, but the team suffered through a number of significant injuries that hampered them all season. Twenty, yes twenty, players found themselves on IR at one point or another — seventeen of these cases were season-ending. The injury bug plays no favorites and it could be that luck was not on Philly’s side in 2018.
Nevertheless, the amount of confusing, odd or uncommon injuries shed its light on what is perhaps a deeper seeded issue than luck — the Eagles medical staff. Just a few years removed from being one of the better recognized medical staffs in the league, questions and concerns surrounding the 2018 iteration began swirling before the season even started. It is fair to question the decision to let head physician Peter DeLuca and head internist Gary Dorshimer leave and fire head trainer Chris Peduzzi after all three had been with the team for almost two decades. DeLuca is an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in ACL reconstruction and shoulder labral repair and Dorshimer has been recognized by America’s Top Doctors on multiple occasions.
The new medical team, headed by Stephen Stache inherited a team with some ongoing injuries. The Eagles were still without players like Chris Maragos who was fighting to return from a knee injury he suffered in 2017. It wasn’t before long that injuries began pilling up for key role players and specialists.
In the offseason, new acquisition Paul Worrilow was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Young hopefuls Bryce Treggs and Elie Bouka were sent to the IR after relatively minor injuries to keep them off the free agent talent pool. Richard Rodgers was lost for half the season following a knee injury suffered in a preseason game. Setbacks as such cannot be blamed on the medical staff. It’s football, and a clean bill of health is rare at any stage.
However, the offseason struggles were not without some red flags raised. Promising young receiver Mack Hollins was gearing up for a strong second season before suffering a mysterious groin injury in the offseason that has yet to be explained. The shroud of misdirection and reticence was put up even before the media had time to ask questions. It is thought to have something to do with offseason sports hernia surgery, but Hollins himself thought he would be good to go for week one. It’s great to hear he was out and practicing for the first time at OTA’s, but the truth of the matter is, we still don’t know what went wrong.
Timmy Jernigan was diagnosed with a herniated disk and was given an estimated four to six month recovery period. From early reports, it sounded as if it would be closer to four. When it was all said and done, he wouldn’t make it off the injured reserve list until 11 weeks into the season before re-aggravating the injury. He wouldn’t make his full return until after week 15 — nearly a month after the estimated six. Chris Maragos never returned to the field.
The grievances don’t stop there.
Mike Wallace, who hadn’t missed more than one game in a season his entire career, was lost for the season after fracturing his fibula in week two. A torn MCL put Rodney McLeod on the sidelines for the rest of 2018. Jay Ajayi missed time early on with some back pain and then found himself on IR with a torn ACL. He actually finished the game wearing a brace on his knee. Derek Barnett, after injuring his shoulder in week five, was placed on injured reserve for the same injury (torn rotator cuff) three weeks later.
A knee injury that plagued Corey Clement last season was mysterious as well. Was it a torn ACL, was it not? Clement has only recently confirmed that he did not tear his ACL, but that news comes long after the realization that his season was over. Jalen Mills was tagged with a minor foot injury before eventually winding up in a walking boot.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the team as a whole suffered a 57% increase in players lost for the season in 2018. They also allude to the strange recovery times and processes. Darren Sproles’ on-again-off-again bout with the injury list was well documented. Every week it seemed that there was a chance he would play, only to be yanked at the last second. Sidney Jones also suffered through reoccurring hamstring pain.
This is not to overlook the misdiagnoses surrounding Carson Wentz’ back injury. Wentz appeared on the injury report in October, supposedly after injuring his back against the New York Giants in Week 6. It wasn’t until a full two months later that he was put on the shelf for the rest of the season. Several players mentioned it appeared as if the quarterback was playing through pain.
According to reports, players began losing faith in the medical staff, preferring to seek advice from former staff like Dorshimer. This is despite select players and GM Howie Roseman stating the team had every confidence in the medical team. Even after the season was over, more and more reports of medical mishandling surfaced.
Fletcher Cox played through a foot injury that required offseason surgery. Jason Kelce admitted he was dealing with multiple serious upper body injuries throughout the season. Josh Adams underwent shoulder surgery to repair an injury suffered late last year. Finally, the Eagles brass had had enough.
The team parted ways with Stephen Stache and announced this week that they have hired former medical director of non-operative sports medicine at Penn Medicine Arsh Dhanota. He will assume a newly created role as the Chief Medical Officer and oversee the newly reconstructed medical staff. The Eagles have yet to replace Stache. Philadelphia was quick to recognize a glaring problem with their staff and change is coming. A healthy team would be a huge step forward to recapturing the Lombardi for the City of Brotherly Love.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports