It doesn’t matter the opponent. Or the location. Or that it’s December and it’s “go” time with a very narrow margin for error. All that matters to the 5-6 Philadelphia Eagles is that they get a win this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, a 2-9 team that has shown some improvement in winning two of its last four games.
The past is the past. The Eagles need a win.
“We just need to get a win,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “For us, we’re on the road and this team has lost two weeks in a row, so I know the guys in this locker room will be more focused than ever and we’ve got to go on the road. It’s hard to win in this league. We can’t take anything for granted. We know that they’re professionals. We’re professionals. We know we’re going to get their best ball.”
The rise of the defense has been encouraging as the Eagles have allowed 17 or fewer points in four consecutive games and permitted fewer than 225 passing yards in five straight outings.
“We’ve been playing well, but not good enough to win,” Cox said. “Winning is all that matters. We’ve improved and that’s good to see, though. Getting all of our guys back has helped and Jim (Schwartz, defensive coordinator) has done a great job. We just need to keep it going and win on Sunday.”
WR Nelson Agholor: “It’s getting better. I don’t think it’s 100 percent, but …”
The Eagles are hopeful that wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor can return to the lineup on Sunday in Miami to help an offense that has scored just 19 points in losses to New England and Seattle.
Agholor said on Tuesday he’s making progress and, well, he’s keeping his fingers crossed.
“It’s getting better. I don’t think it’s 100 percent, but it’s getting better,” Agholor said.
When asked how much he’s looking forward to getting back on the field and if Sunday is a realistic possibility, Agholor said, “That’s something that I really want. I’m going to give everything I’ve got to get ready for Sunday and I have high hopes for that.”
Agholor said, “we can be better,” when asked what he saw from the offense in Sunday’s loss to Seattle. Having Agholor and Jeffery on the field would certainly help.
Rookie T Andre Dillard continues learning the ways of the NFL
This entire season, says rookie offensive tackle Andre Dillard, has “been a great learning experience.” Sunday was no different as Dillard lined up at right tackle for the first time in his football life, playing against the Seattle Seahawks. He lasted there for one half before being replaced by Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Dillard said the challenge was just as difficult as he thought it would be.
“I had never done that before, so it was like, just do your best,” Dillard said. “It was probably harder than I said last week, but you just move on from it and learn from it and keep going.”
Dillard had played well at left tackle when he lined up there earlier in the season, but Lane Johnson’s absence after suffering a concussion a week earlier kept the Pro Bowl right tackle sidelined against Seattle. The Eagles gave Dillard a week of work at right tackle and he compared the challenge to writing an essay with perfect penmanship with your opposite hand. It was, for Dillard, every bit that difficult, “if not more,” he said.
In the big picture, though, it could prove beneficial as Dillard expands his repertoire and shows his versatility.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Dillard said. “I’m grateful to be in a spot where I can be out there and play. The muscle memory is the hardest part. I’m used to playing on the left side. The more I learn, I think, is going to benefit me.”
CB Cre'Von LeBlanc takes next step in return to field
Cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc is accustomed to taking the long road in the NFL. He’s been signed four times in his career, claimed off of waivers twice, cut a couple of times, and toiled on a practice squad. But what he had to go through for the last four months has been about the hardest thing: Coming back from an injury.
LeBlanc was hurt on the first day of Training Camp, suffering a foot injury that knocked him out for the remainder of camp, and landed him on the Eagles’ Injured Reserve list. All of those days and nights of rehabilitation have led him to this moment: LeBlanc on Tuesday was activated for a 21-day practice window, during which or after the Eagles can put LeBlanc on the 53-man active roster or send him to IR for the remainder of the season.
“It’s been tough,” LeBlanc said on Tuesday. “Just to get out there and trust what Jim (Schwartz, defensive coordinator) has for me and take it play by play.”
Asked if he thinks he can play Sunday at Miami, in his hometown with family and friends in attendance, LeBlanc said, “It’s a possibility.”
We’ll see. The Eagles have played extremely well in the secondary now that cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Avonte Maddox are healthy and on the field. Maddox has been terrific in the role of nickel cornerback, a position that LeBlanc solidified so capably in the 2018 season. The Eagles don’t need to rush back LeBlanc, who said he was still working his way back into football shape.
“I’ve been taking this day by day, putting my faith in the Lord, not trying to rush it,” LeBlanc said, “especially with this type of injury that I have and just put my trust and faith into the trainers. Just kind of follow the process. You don’t want to do anything less or anything more.”
LeBlanc didn’t think his foot injury was serious when it happened, but further testing revealed a significant injury. LeBlanc, an energetic man, had to rein in his excitement every week of this season.
Being back on the practice field is an important next step.
“I’m excited to be back out there and hopefully helping this team win,” LeBlanc said. “I am taking it step by step, but I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made.”
Eagles fill out practice squad with rookie safety Chris Johnson
The Eagles made another roster move in addition to activating the practice window for cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc on Tuesday when they signed rookie safety Chris Johnson to the practice squad. Johnson fills the spot that was previously held by wide receiver Greg Ward before he was promoted to the active roster.
A 6-3, 200-pound product of North Alabama, Johnson spent the preseason with the Houston Texans and was on their practice squad earlier this year. A two-year starter at North Alabama, Johnson recorded 47 tackles and two interceptions in 2018, the Lions' first season as an FCS program. In his first year with the Lions, Johnson was a Division II All-American after posting 50 tackles and six interceptions. He earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game.