The countdown to the regular season kickoff began on Monday when the Eagles held their first practice after cutting their roster to 53 players plus nine practice squad members.
There was some good news, too, with four starters returning to practice after a training camp where they spent more time rehabbing and getting reps off to the side than they did actually playing or competing in team drills.
Those four - right guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, linebacker Nigel Bradham, and cornerback Ronald Darby – all practiced.
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“Looking good,” said head coach Doug Pederson following the practice. “So obviously we haven't made any official announcements on who is in, who is out, but we're going to take it day-by-day. We fully expect those guys you mentioned to get time on Sunday.”
Another starting member of the defense, end Derek Barnett, also appears ready to play.
“I feel really, really good about Derek,” said Pederson. “He's been probably the one that's been practicing the most during training camp with getting more reps each and every week. So he's in a really good spot, so I have no issues with him not playing or being there.”
If Darby is a full-go, Pederson said Darby would start at cornerback opposite Sidney Jones, but added that Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox at the nickel corner would also see action on Sunday when the Washington Redskins visit Lincoln Financial Field.
“They are all going to play,” said Pederson. “They are all going to have to play and I feel like that's one of the areas that we got better this off-season and through training camp. The addition of Darby coming back is really going to give a shot in the arm to the defense and the cornerback position. So they are all going to play. And that's kind of how we look at it.”
Pederson said that top to bottom his roster is the best he’s had from a depth standpoint since he arrived in 2016.
“Obviously, there's talent at a lot of positions,” said the coach. “A lot of the same guys are back that have been with me now for four years. But you know, hey, you still have to go play and still have to execute your offense, defense and special teams. But I do feel like it's our deepest roster that we've had, yes.”
No sign of Lauletta
When the locker room opened following Pederson’s presser, there was no sign of practice squad quarterback Kyle Lauletta, who was signed on Sunday after clearing waivers when he was waived by the New York Giants on Saturday.
There wasn’t any locker designated yet for Lauletta, either.
Pederson was asked about the miss on Clayton Thorson, who was waived despite being taken in the fifth-round of the last spring’s draft. The coach said that they wanted to bring Thorson back, but the Dallas Cowboys got to him first and put him on their practice squad.
“The process of us having a quarterback, we wanted a quarterback, and just not being able to get him back at the time we had to find, and wanted to find, another guy that we could develop and grow,” said Pederson.
Smallwood and Hester
Wendell Smallwood and Treyvon Hester were both claimed by the Washington Redskins and could have a role on Sunday.
The former Eagles were waived on Saturday.
Pederson said that there is something to picking up a player who has spent time with another then trying to learn about that other team.
“I think it's a real thing,” said the coach. “I don't know how much it plays into the game planning part of that week. It happens. It happens a lot. But I'm sure coaches will pick the brain and see what they know and see what they can use. And probably it just kind of confirms anything that they have seen on tape that they have been able to prepare for.”
Smallwood certainly has a wealth of knowledge of the Eagles, having spent his entire career with them after being drafted in the fifth round back in 2016.
As for Hester, the Eagles need to hope that the game doesn’t come down to having making a field goal or PAT to win because Hester is known blocking kicks. His famous one was last year in Chicago during the playoffs when he got a fingernail on Cody Parkey’s ill-fated game-winner. Hester blocked a PAT during the preseason this summer.
Dillard looking like 3rd tight end
There seemed to be plenty of angst about the Eagles keeping just two tight ends, but as I wrote this past weekend about the possibility of the Eagles using rookie Andre Dillard in blocking situations as a third tight end and getting him on the field was confirmed by Pederson.
“It could be Andre,” said Pederson. “But yeah, it's something, too, when we look at our personnel on offense, having our three starters and J.J. (Arcega-Whiteside) sitting there and then you factor in the two tight ends, getting a third tight end actually in a football game is hard. Unless you're in a short-yardage-and-goal-line situation, and yet, we feel like that we're going to spend most of our time in our 11- and 12-personnel on offense, and go that route.”
LeBlanc signed, then put on IR
Cornerback Cre/Von LeBlanc, who missed most of training camp after an early injury, was signed to a one-year contract extension. Shortly after annoucning the deal, the Eagles put him on Injured Reserve.
An injury update
Offensive tackle Jordan Mailata could miss some time with a back injury. Pederson said he was week-to-week.