Eagles Expect Sproles Back vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Just as their division rivals are losing key contributors, the Philadelphia Eagles are gaining some with Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys looming.
Coach Doug Pederson expects both Darren Sproles (hamstring) and Lane Johnson (MCL sprain) to play in the all-important divisional matchup. Veteran safety Corey Graham (hamstring), meanwhile, could also return to the lineup while things could be a bit longer for cornerbacks Jalen Mills (foot) and Sidney Jones (hamstring).
Sproles has been out since Week 1 and will be inserted in the running back mix along with Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Josh Adams while also taking over the punt return duties, something special teams coach Dave Fipp acknowledged would happen whenever Sproles was cleared to return.
When the Eagles waived DeAndre Carter on Tuesday it was a good indication that Sproles would be returning to the lineup.
"We hope to [have him play]," Pederson said. "It'll be day-to-day. He will be a little bit limited but the expectation would be that he does play."
As for Johnson, he left the Week 8 game against Jacksonville early with a knee problem that is typically a multi-week injury.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, however, cautioned reporters on Tuesday to assume Johnson would sit out after getting a week of rest during the bye.
“You’re not counting Lane out, are you,” Stoutland said when asked if he had confidence in swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. “I mean, I think he’s a tough guy. I think that, knowing Lane Johnson, anything he can do to be out on that field, he’ll be [there]."
“I’m not a doctor or anything like that, but I just, I know how he operates.”
Pederson also mentioned Johnson's toughness while confirming that he expects the All-Pro to line up opposite Dallas star pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence on Sunday night.
"Listen, Lane is a tough guy now. He is a tough guy. In his mind, I think he would want to play, and our expectation is that he does play," Pederson said. "But at the same time, I say that, and then I say, hey, I don't want to put somebody out there that might be less than 100 percent, too. We'll get him ready. We'll get all our guys ready, like we do each week. The expectation would be that he plays."
In the defensive backfield, there are expected to be moving parts against the Cowboys with Mills and Jones likely to be sidelined.
Expect Ronald Darby to flop from right corner to the left side with Rasul Douglas taking over at RC. As far as the nickel position goes, Jim Schwartz could put Graham at safety and move rookie Avonte Maddox down to the slot or he could also use newcomer Cre'von LeBlanc who was picked up off waivers from Detroit earlier in the week.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen