Injury-plagued Eagles facing roster ‘chess match'


Update, 4:21 p.m.: The Eagles signed TE Alex Ellis off their practice squad and waived cornerback Craig James.

The Eagles are facing some challenging roster decisions this week as they deal with a rash of injuries that are potentially serious enough to sideline players but not serious enough to land them on Injured Reserve.

What that means is Howie Roseman may have to find some temporary space on the 53-man roster.

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (broken foot), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin), tight end Dallas Goedert (calf) and running back Corey Clement (shoulder) all either got hurt in Atlanta Sunday or in Goedert’s case aggravated an existing injury.

Making this more complicated is nobody knows exactly when any of these guys will be back.

The Eagles play two games in the next nine days — the Lions home Sunday and the Packers a week from Thursday at Lambeau Field — and they need healthy bodies.

Even if, for instance, Jackson is found to be healthy enough to play Sunday, can the Eagles risk going into the game with only Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, knowing that Jackson could potentially aggravate the injury?

The Eagles found themselves in that bind Sunday in Atlanta when they went into the Falcons game with only two tight ends active — Zach Ertz and Goedert — even though Goedert had missed most of training camp with that same calf injury.

So what happens if the Eagles want to add two healthy receivers, a defensive tackle and a tight end?

Let’s say they want to sign Jordan Matthews and promote Greg Ward from the practice squad, promote one of the practice squad tight ends — Alex Ellis or Josh Perkins — and add a healthy defensive tackle — perhaps Bruce Hector from the practice squad — they could potentially have to clear out four spots on the 53.

Which isn’t as easy as it seems.

You can start releasing bottom-of-the-roster guys, but some of those guys are players the Eagles feel strongly about as contributors in the future, and the Eagles could risk losing them if they try to waive them onto the practice squad or land them on the street for a few weeks.

It’s a risk they just may have to take.

“That's the chess match we have to find out in the next couple days,” Doug Pederson said. “We have a couple games here now in 11 or 12 days. We'll make it work. That's just what we do. We find a way, we make it work, we coach the guys up that are going to play, and we go play.”

Here’s a look at some possible moves the Eagles could make, depending on how many healthy players they feel like they need to add going into Sunday.

Place Jordan Mailata on injured reserve 

Mailata has been dealing with a back injury and the chances of him playing this year are minimal. The problem with IR’ing him is that he won’t be able to practice, and even the scout team reps he gets are valuable.

Release Nate Herbig

The 21-year-old undraftred rookie guard was a surprise on the 53 after final cuts, and the Eagles like his potential as a future interior offensive lineman. I would think there’s a decent chance he would clear waivers at this point in the season, but you never know. Is a team really going to cut a guy from its 53 a couple weeks into the season to claim Nate Herbig?

Release Matt Pryor

Pryor, a massive offensive lineman, was a 2018 sixth-round draft pick. He’s been inactive for 19 of his 20 career games and didn’t play in the other one. He didn’t have a particularly strong preseason but the Eagles see something in the kid and I’m sure they don’t want to cut him, but they may have to.

Release Rudy Ford

Ford is the guy the Eagles acquired from the Cards in a summer trade for Hector, who the Cards wound up releasing. He may be a no-name guy, but he’s been a valuable special teamer so far, with 35 snaps in the Eagles’ first two games, fourth-most on the team. 

Release one of the defensive ends

The Eagles are heavy at defensive end with Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller and Daeshon Hall backing up Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. Six defensive ends is a luxury they may not be able to afford. Miller is last on the depth chart, but he’s a rookie fourth-round pick and could well be claimed if the Eagles put him on the street. Hall has been inactive but had such a strong preseason it’s hard to imagine the Eagles cutting ties with him. And Sweat has emerged as the third end, getting more snaps Sunday than even Curry. Tough call.

Place Tim Jernigan on IR

This is a last resort. If the Eagles IR Jernigan he would miss a minimum of eight weeks. If he’s only going to be out a month, you’d have a healthy Tim Jernigan on IR for several weeks. If the Eagles project the injury to be closer to a six-week situation, IR could be a viable option.

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