Matthews Still Expected Back for Season-Opener
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles returned to practice Saturday in advance of the all-important third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts set for next weekend.
Veteran receiver Jordan Matthews remains iffy for the dress rehearsal but is on track for Week 1 against Cleveland, according to both coach Doug Pederson and the wideout himself.
Matthews suffered a bone bruise in his knee after taking a hit in practice earlier this month from rookie corner Jalen Mills.
“This is the first time I’ve ever missed a game ever, since I started playing sports,” Matthews said at his locker before practice. “When I got hit I said 'this sucks’ but I had faith, I knew it wasn’t too devastating.”
Pederson continues to describe his best receiver as day-to-day but admitted if he’s not on the field against the Colts, you will not see him until Sept. 11 against Cleveland.
"He is still being evaluated," the coach claimed. "We would love to be able to hopefully get him out here this week; we’ve just got to see, but I’m not going to rush him and I’m not going to push him to get back at it. I want to make sure that he is 100 percent before he hits the field.
“We are not going to rush him. I do expect him opening day.”
Asked if that timetable is accurate, Matthews replied “Sure thing.”
“I played enough football to know obviously I can do that,” Matthews said of the possibility of missing the entire preseason and starting Week 1.
In other news, Pederson confirmed that backup middle linebacker Joe Walker will indeed miss his rookie season with a torn ACL suffered in Thursday’s preseason game against Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, cornerback Aaron Grymes, who was making a strong push to make the final 53-man roster, will miss the rest of the preseason with an AC joint injury in his shoulder.
Whether Grymes has already done enough to lock down the final corner spot remains to be seen but the coach acknowledged other players will not get an opportunity.
“He’s played well,” Pederson admitted when talking about Grymes. “It’s unfortunate. He’s been in that competition (for the final roster spot at the position). Now we will have time to evaluate others like (rookie undrafted free agent) C.J. Smith”
-Matthews absolved Mills of any fault in the hit some have called borderline.
“I’m not the type to get angry,” the veteran receiver said. “It doesn’t help my knee get any better. ...Jalen is an aggressive guy and you have to think about his situation. You have a rookie who was drafted in the seventh round wanting to make an NFL team. This is a full-contact drill. It’s instant.
“Do I think he was trying to hurt me? No.”
-Star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was excused from practice Saturday in the wake of his high school football coach’s passing. Pederson said Cox was very close to the coach.
-Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was a guest at practice and chatted with Pederson, Bennie Logan, Jeff Stoutland and fellow North Dakota guy Carson Wentz among others.
-Weak-side linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Mills, who are both dealing with hamstring issues, were both set to be back at practice.
-When talking about special teams, Pederson mentioned Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman as the core of the units so any assumption they might have issues making the final 53 is probably off base.
"It goes without saying Chris Maragos is a top special teams performer and Bryan Braman, and those guys are doing an outstanding job," Pederson said. "We’re looking at a lot of players right now, but when we get to the regular season, I expect those two to be the core leaders (on ST)."
-Pederson also described Wentz as day-to-day but his ribs will be tested today and the team stills hope to have him back by Week 4 of the preseason.
-Lane Johnson missed practice with a sore back and rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai was working with the second-team offensive line during the offensive install. From left to right the group was Tobin, Josh Andrews, Stefen Wisniewski, Darrell Greene and Vaitai.
-Both kicker Caleb Sturgis and rookie safety Blake Countess are currently in concussion protocol and must be cleared before returning to practice.
-Rookie RB Wendell Smallwood "couldn't hit that fifth gear" and that's why he was held out versus the Steelers. The rookie is set to make his NFL debut against the Colts.
-Pederson continued to mention how rookie slot receiver Paul Turner has caught the coaching staff's eye.
"Paul Turner has really kind of caught our eye here the last couple of weeks and is doing a nice job there," the coach said. "Paul is one that’s stepping up."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen