Eagles' Unsung Heroes Playing Their Roles Nicely

It takes more than the 53-man roster teams establish at the end of the preseason to make it through the football year. That initial 53 is just a start. The marathon of the season requires a team to stay ahead of the game and anticipate which players from around the league might come free for a waiver claim and also to keep an emergency list of players on hand for when there are injuries.

And there are always injuries.

The Eagles have had more than their share of injuries this season and yet, here the team is preparing to play in New Orleans against the Saints on Sunday in the NFC Divisional Round (4:40 p.m., FOX). The pro personnel department, managed by director of pro scouting Dwayne Joseph, has found the right pieces to fit in “role player” areas for the roster. Here is a look at the transactions made since that initial 53-man roster was made and the way the player moves have impacted the team in this playoff season.

Offense

WR Jordan Matthews (Signed September 19)

The injury suffered by wide receiver Mike Wallace scuttled the Eagles’ plans at wide receiver (along with the groin injury that sidelined Mack Hollins) and the Eagles signed Jordan Matthews off the streets and Matthews has contributed 20 receptions for 300 yards and a pair of scores. And of those 20 catches, 15 of them have gained a first down or a touchdown. That kind of production is impressive.

Mathews didn’t have a catch on Sunday in Chicago, but he was the target on a throw from Nick Foles on the left side that ended with a pass-interference call against Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara that gained 33 yards for the Eagles on a drive that ended with a Foles touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert.

“Jordan has done a great job since he’s been here. He’s embraced his role. He’s ready to step up. I talked to him on Saturday night and said, ‘Be ready. At a moment’s notice, you could have your number called.’ Jordan was ready,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “He went into the game and we throw him a ‘go’ route down the left sideline and he draws a defensive interference play and that led to a touchdown. That was a huge play for us. He’s really done a great job embracing his role.”

WR Golden Tate (Acquired in trade on October 30)

A big trade-deadline deal netted the Eagles the services of Golden Tate, one of the most productive receivers in the NFL in the last several years. He ended up catching 30 passes with one touchdown in eight games, and then came up big in Chicago with five receptions, 46 yards, and the game-winning touchdown.

Tate hasn’t always been as targeted as much as most expected, but when he’s been called upon, Tate has delivered. Sunday was the most obvious example.

“He’s really talented and he’s a big part of what we’re doing here,” Groh said. “We’re going to continue to find ways to get him the football.”

TE Richard Rodgers (Activated off Injured Reserve on November 16)

The Eagles signed Richard Rodgers as an unrestricted free agent and he figured to be the perfect third tight end behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. But Rodgers was injured in the preseason and didn’t get into a game until November 18 when the Eagles played at New Orleans. Rodgers has one catch for 7 yards this season and he’s played in just 43 offensive snaps, although he’s a staple on special teams.

“He was off to a strong Training Camp and then was hurt and missed a bunch of time,” Groh said. “With the emergence of Dallas and the performance of Zach Ertz, Richard’s role was probably diminished just a little bit. He’s eager, he’s enthusiastic, he comes to work each and every day, and he’s ready to go when his number is called.”

RB/KR Boston Scott (Signed off New Orleans' practice squad on December 11)

Signed from the Saints’ practice squad in Week 15, Boston Scott is giving the Eagles a taste of what he can do as the team’s kickoff return man. Scott averaged 24 yards on four returns in the regular season, including a 35-yarder, and then he averaged 17.5 yards per return at Chicago. He will get a long look next season as a spot running back and return man.

“He’s got really good quickness and it looks like he’s got good vision as a running back,” Groh said. “I’m excited to see him get out there.”

Scott, at 5-6 and 203 pounds, is low to the ground, thick, and can do a lot of things. He will be an interesting player to watch in the spring and summer.

WR Mike Wallace (Activated off Injured Reserve on December 24)

The Eagles had big plans for Wallace, and while he’s active and back on the 53-man roster, Wallace has yet to suit up for a game. He’s a vertical threat in the passing game, but the Eagles seem to have a good rotation going with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Tate, and Matthews at this time.

Defense

S Deiondre' Hall (Acquired in trade on September 1)

Special teams have been where Deiondre’ Hall has made his impact, with five tackles in coverage during the regular season and a strong performance in Chicago, with a pair of tackles on returns. Hall runs well and finds the football in the return game. He played just six snaps on defense in the regular season.

“He brings energy on the practice field and he has made a difference on our special teams in the second half of the season,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He wasn’t active for some of the year (Hall played in 13 regular season games), but when he has been, he’s made a difference.”

LB D.J. Alexander (Claimed off waivers on September 2)

A former Pro Bowl special teams player, D.J. Alexander was added here to help in that phase of the game. In 12 outings, Alexander made four special teams tackles. A quad injury and a hamstring injury have hampered his availability this season.

“When he’s been healthy he’s made plays on special teams, which is the beginning of a defensive series,” Schwartz said.

DT Treyvon Hester (Promoted from the practice squad on October 2)

This is an interesting player. A former Raiders draft pick, Treyvon Hester was waived as Oakland made its initial 53-man roster. The Eagles added Hester to the practice squad and then promoted him to the 53-man roster. He ended up playing 22 percent of the defensive snaps (226 total) in the regular season and contributed 20 total tackles and a quarterback sack. Sunday, of course, Hester made his impact on special teams with a block of Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal to save the Eagles’ victory.

“We had a need and he’s earned his reps,” Schwartz said. “He’s a strong guy and he plays with some energy. I don’t know that we’ve had a bigger play than getting a fingernail on a field goal attempt. That’s a play that probably 99.9 percent of the people watching the game wouldn’t even notice an interior rusher, but he gets his hand up at the right time and he makes all the difference.”

S Tre Sullivan (Promoted from the practice squad on October 10)

After spending part of 2017 on the team’s practice squad, Tre Sullivan was waived by the Eagles on September 7, added to the practice squad a few days later, and then promoted to the active roster one month after that. Sullivan ended up playing 21 percent of the defensive snaps as the Eagles rotated safeties following the season-ending injury to Rodney McLeod.

Sullivan was part of the three-safety personnel look the Eagles employed on Sunday in Chicago.

“He’s done a good job,” Schwartz said. “I know he would like to have had that interception (in the end zone) in Chicago, but he’s generally been in the right place at the right time for us.”

CB Cre'Von LeBlanc (Claimed off waivers on November 5)

Waived by Detroit in early November, Cre’Von LeBlanc was claimed by the Eagles and immediately settled into the nickel cornerback position. His short-area quickness, his competitiveness, and his toughness have all been positives for the defense as it has jelled in the injury-ravaged secondary down the stretch.

“It doesn't take long to be around that guy to know that he's competitive and he's tough. It took a little bit – he wasn't a rookie, so a lot of times with those guys, it's just a matter of getting his terminology up-to-date and things like that,” Schwartz said. “So it was sort of by necessity. He needed to get up to speed quickly, but he was up for the task. He's played some outside corner for us, too. I don't know that we win that Giants game if he can't step in and play outside corner, which was a position that he had hardly ever played and he had not practiced for us. But competitiveness and toughness go a long way, and he brings both of those.”

DT Tim Jernigan (Activated from the Non-Football Injury list on November 20)

After missing most of the season as he recovered from offseason injury, Tim Jernigan is just now rounding into form. He and Fletcher Cox make an effective duo at defensive tackle, and the Eagles love Jernigan’s burst off the ball and his energy inside.

Jernigan brings a much-desired snarl to the Eagles’ defense.

“I love having him out there,” Cox said. “We play off of each other real nice. Tim moves the pocket with his quickness and he doesn’t stop playing. That’s what we need from him out there.”

DT Bruce Hector (Promoted from the practice squad on November 8)

After originally making the 53-man roster, Bruce Hector was waived, added to the practice squad, and eventually promoted again to the active roster. He’s played in 82 of the team’s defensive snaps this season. Given the Eagles’ depth at defensive tackle with Jernigan and Haloti Ngata healthy and Hester a quality fourth tackle, Hector might not be called upon in the postseason. He will have a chance to build on his promising rookie season in 2019.

DE Daeshon Hall (Signed off Houston's Practice Squad on December 11)

This is a player with a lot of talent who bears watching in the future. Daeshon Hall was a third-round draft pick by Carolina last year and spent most of his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. Carolina cut him and then Hall was on the practice squad in both San Francisco and Houston before the Eagles signed him when rookie defensive end Josh Sweat was lost for the season with an ankle injury.

Hall played in just 16 snaps in the regular season and contributed a half-sack. He’s shown some excellent speed and athleticism covering kicks. Hall is 6-5 and 265 pounds, so he needs some strength and experience.

“He’s brought some speed defensively,” Schwartz said. “He hasn’t played a lot of defensive reps, but he’s another guy who has been active for games because he has earned a role on special teams.”

LB B.J. Bello (Promoted from the practice squad on December 14)

B.J. Bello played for Cleveland in 2017 and made a contribution on special teams and then he was released by the Browns this season and signed to the Eagles’ practice squad a month later. Bello played in three regular-season games and made three tackles on special teams and he was active in Chicago for the postseason win. He finds the football on special teams. That’s his role for now, and it’s an important one.

CB Josh Hawkins (Promoted from the practice squad on December 24)

In his third NFL season, Josh Hawkins has played in 32 regular-season games and three playoff games in his time with Green Bay and Carolina (he also was on Kansas City’s practice squad). Hawkins suited up for the regular-season finale at Washington and played on special teams. He was not active on Sunday in Chicago.

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