Eagles Getting Healthier in Time for ‘Skins
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Not much has been going right for the Eagles over the past few weeks but the team did get good news on the injury front Wednesday when both Jordan Matthews and Ryan Mathews returned to the practice field.
The work was indoors due to the persistent rain on Tuesday which made the fields at the NovaCare Complex far too saturated.
Philadelphia does not have a top-tier, skill-position group to begin with obviously and struggled mightily without their top running back and receiver.
Mathews suffered an MCL sprain against Seattle and has missed the last two weeks while Matthews hurt his ankle against the Packers, and was absent during the 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, the first contest he had ever missed dating back to his college days at Vanderbilt.
“He’s good to play,” head coach Doug Pederson said when discussing his oft-injured RB1. “We’ll find out today, but he’s cleared and ready to go.”
In the two games without Mathews in the lineup, the Eagles put together their two worst rushing performances of the 2016 season: 81 yards against Green Bay and only 53 in Cincinnati with rookie Wendell Smallwood sharing the load with Darren Sproles.
“We fell behind so it gets us out of that (running) mode a little bit,” Pederson explained. “But I like where we’re at. I do lean on that offensive line quite a bit. I do talk to them during the week and say hey this might be the week that we need to rush the ball 30-35 times and they’re up for the challenge.
“With the addition of Ryan coming back, it gives us depth and a bigger back there and hopefully we can get back to running the ball like we did a few weeks ago.”
With Matthews out against the Bengals, Philadelphia did get some production in the slot from undrafted rookie Paul Turner, who snared six receptions for 80 yards, and perhaps a role even with the veteran back on the field.
In that case, Matthews would play more on the outside and take time away from either the struggling Nelson Agholor or Dorial Green-Beckham, who missed practice Wednesday with a strained oblique.
The only other Eagles player to miss practice Wednesday was rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who remains out with a sprained MCL in his knee, meaning Allen Barbre is in line to start again at RT.
Meanwhile, Lane Johnson is due back in two weeks and Pederson addressed that on Wednesday as well.
“Listen, he was a big part of our success early in the season,” Pederson said. “So I wouldn’t hesitate to put him back out there.”
Johnson had been the Eagles’ best offensive lineman the first month of the season before being suspended by the NFL for 10 games for his second violation of the PED policy. Vaitai started the first six games after Johnson’s suspension before being injured with Barbre playing the past two.
The concern is that Johnson will be coming back on a short week in advance of the Thursday night game against the New York Giants on Dec. 22.
“He comes back on a short week, too, against the Giants, in a couple weeks,” Pederson said. “Got to see where Big V is at coming off an injury and see where that’s at. We’re beginning the conversations right now. When (Johnson) does return, we’ll have to see. We still have some games. Have to get through these two games.”
The Eagles are 3-1 with Johnson in the lineup this season and just 2-6 without him.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen