The fact of life across the NFL is this: Injuries are going to happen. There is no way to escape them, so the teams with the best Plan B blueprints are the ones that adjust most effectively when players go down. Well, players went down for the Eagles on Sunday in the win over Washington. What is the plan to move forward?
OK, so at this point there are all kinds of reports circulating about the injuries to cornerback Ronald Darby and placekicker Caleb Sturgis. The Eagles are not ready to make any definitive statements or provide specific timelines, so the outside world is left to speculate. Left tackle Jason Peters strained his groin on Sunday at Washington and is "day to day," according to head coach Doug Pederson.
Let's take a look at those injuries and what they mean as the Eagles turn their attention to the Kansas City Chiefs.
CB Ronald Darby, ankle
The scene was a scary one in front of the Eagles' bench in the first half of Sunday's game. Cornerback Ronald Darby was on the ground, writhing in pain. His ankle stuck in the turf at FedEx Field and he immediately went down and the entire team rallied around him. Everyone knew it was something serious.
Just how serious, and how long Darby will be out, is not yet known for sure. The defense would love to get him back at some point in this 2017 season. There is the matter of the possibility of surgery. No doubt the rehabilitation would be arduous. An ankle injury for a player who plays a position that requires so much quick-twitch movements makes for an even more difficult rehab.
Losing Darby, for however long he's out, is a blow to the defense. The Eagles have some options in the secondary, perhaps using the versatility of a player like Jaylen Watkins, who can play both cornerback and safety, or Malcolm Jenkins, a combo safety and nickel cornerback, depending on the matchups. They have inside corner Dexter McDougle learning the scheme. They have rookie Rasul Douglas developing his technique.
It could very well be the Eagles go with matchups. Against smaller, quicker receivers, the Eagles have players like McDougle. Against bigger receivers, the Eagles can go with Douglas and give him help if needed from safeties Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.
For now, it would appear that the starters are Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson, both of whom played well on Sunday. Jenkins can play the nickel. Robinson can move inside and play the nickel.
There are options. How the Eagles use those options is the big question.
K Caleb Sturgis, hip flexor
The extent of Sturgis's injury isn't really clear, but he was bothered enough at Washington to have his workload reduced. If the Eagles need to bring in another kicker, what do they do with Sturgis? Can they keep him on the active roster while he heals? Can they put him on Injured Reserve and bring him back this season, per NFL rules (Darby would also be a candidate for this)?
and holder Donnie Jones?
Shame is, Sturgis has been kicking the ball great. And even though he missed an extra point on Sunday at Washington, he boomed three field goals, including a 50-yarder to close out the first half. Hope that he is back soon and can get his timing, rhythm, and confidence back quickly.
T Jason Peters, groin
Peters insists that he's going to be ready for Kansas City after receiving treatment all week, but nobody really knows for sure. If Peters can't go, or if he re-aggravates his groin injury, the Eagles have to adjust on the fly. They've got some depth along the line, and second-year man Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the first man up. He played left tackle in the second half on Sunday and did a good job. Vaitai can also play right tackle, with Lane Johnson moving to the left side.
There are eight offensive linemen on the active roster, with another two on the practice squad. The Eagles have some depth and they have versatility. They're going to need all of that throughout the course of the very long season.
One thing we know is this: The Eagles can't put all of their injured players on Injured Reserve and call them all back to the 53-man roster. The NFL changed the rule in 2017 so two players, instead of one, can be placed on IR and recalled to the active roster. Tough decisions are going to have to be made. Existing players on the 53-man roster may have to be released to make room for those the Eagles add to the 53.
Stay tuned. A lot of tough decisions are forthcoming. Let's see how the Eagles play these next steps.