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No Excuses For Prime-Time Eagles

Posted Oct 11, 2017

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan doesn’t want to hear about all the pitfalls of playing on the road Thursday night. All he sees is an opportunity for the Eagles to play in a prime-time game and show the country what kind of team the Eagles have in 2017 ...

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan doesn’t want to hear about all the pitfalls of playing on the road Thursday night. All he sees is an opportunity for the Eagles to play in a prime-time game and show the country what kind of team the Eagles have in 2017.

“I love playing in prime time. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Jernigan said. “We can’t worry about all that other stuff. The next game on our schedule says Thursday night at Carolina, so let’s go out and play our best game.”

There are no complaints. There are no excuses. The Eagles have prepared to beat Carolina with three days of walk-through-level practices. A lack of rest and the short week aren’t the issues. Finding a way to slow Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and executing to beat the Panthers’ terrific defense are what the Eagles have in mind.

“Cam does it all, whether he’s back there in the pocket throwing the football or whether he’s keeping it and doing it with his legs,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “He’s tough to defend. You have to be really disciplined and stay with your assignment and trust what we’re doing as a total defense. Cam isn’t going to do the same thing all game. He is trying to keep the defense guessing.”

The Eagles land in Carolina late in the afternoon on Wednesday and then get into their day-before-a-game routine that extends all the way through the afternoon on Thursday: off-and-on meetings, treatments, downtime. It can be an agonizing wait for all of us.

Blocking out all the distractions and all the built-in excuses are crucial.

“We’ve all gone through this before and you just have to handle the situation,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “It’s a great opportunity to go out and play football against a 4-1 team that we respect. We know what a win can do for us. We know that it’s not going to be easy. Carolina has the same amount of rest that we have, so there is no sense talking about it or dwelling on it. We’ve taken care of our bodies and we’re doing the right things.

“I’m excited to play. I think we all are.”

Indeed, the attitude in the Eagles’ locker room this week has been nothing but positive. A win on Thursday night on the road against an NFC opponent would be huge with a long rest on the back end before the Eagles host Washington on October 23. This game has been on the schedule for months. Plans have been in the works for a long time. Now it’s nearly “go” time.

"I've seen really good focus," head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday. "Coming in on a half a day's rest on Monday, had a really good walk-through-type workout Monday afternoon, and then again yesterday. The way they moved around yesterday, even though they were extremely sore, their focus and attention to detail has been extremely high this week. The energy level has been there. And, listen, this has been, it's been a successful couple of games for us and you can ride that emotion as well. So all that's a positive going into a short week."

At the end of the day, even with the short week and less-than-ideal conditions, the Eagles are playing another 4-1 team with a chance to show the entire country the kind of team it is.

“We’re going there to win a football game,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “That’s what it comes down to. My focus has been on taking care of my body and getting right for this game. We’re the only game in the league on Thursday night. Everybody is going to be watching – all of our friends and family and players around the league. You want to go out there and play your best game.”

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NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is questionable for this game and whether he plays will come down to a game-time decision, but it’s really encouraging that he’s in this position. Calf injuries are tricky and they can devastate a season. Knowing that Cox will play at Carolina or, at the very least, return against Washington is a big boost for the defense.

How far away for cornerback Ronald Darby? It’s a good question. There is the matter of the injured ankle healing and a second matter of Darby regaining his quickness, his ability to stick his foot in the ground and change direction, and making sure the injured area can hold up to repeated punishment. There is no need to rush Darby back into action.

The concern about Wendell Smallwood is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy and remain on the field. Smallwood is questionable for Carolina after missing the win over Arizona. Hopefully, Smallwood will be ready to go against Carolina. If not, Washington it is. His energy and burst help this Eagles offense in a lot of ways.

Carolina’s injury report is interesting to digest: The Panthers remain without starting center Ryan Kalil and starting safety Kurt Coleman, along with depth safety Demetrius Cox. Cornerbacks Daryl Worley and James Bradbury participated in Wednesday’s practice and will play, although both are nicked up. Ditto wide receiver Devin Funchess. Let’s see who makes it through the game and plays at a high level. Carolina plans to replace Coleman with a rotation of special teams standout Colin Jones and recent signee Jairus Byrd.

Finally, a note about Cam Newton: He’s coming off back-to-back 300-yard, three-touchdown passing games for the first time in his career. So, he’s as hot as he has ever been. Carson Wentz is playing his best football. Get set for a great football game.

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