While the NovaCare Complex has quieted down with players having cleaned out their lockers and headed home for the offseason, there is still some buzz in the athletic training room with players rehabbing their injuries. The list of 11 players who ended the season on Injured Reserve (not counting cornerback Elie Bouka, who was waived/injured and safety Chris Maragos, who remained on the Physically Unable to Perform list all year) took a large chunk from the projected 53-man roster and forced the Eagles to reach into their emergency list to fill holes.
How do those players who ended the year on Injured Reserve project into the equation for 2019? Let’s take a look ...
Jay Ajayi, RB
His entire career is up in the air. Jay Ajayi, who already had one knee injured in college, suffered a torn ACL in his other knee in the game against Minnesota and faces an uncertain future. The knee injury is one thing, but Jay Ajayi is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Getting healthy is the first priority for Ajayi. After that, he’ll get looks around the league, but how much can teams trust his health? The Eagles are likely to address the running back position in some way, shape, or fashion. It’s tough envisioning Ajayi returning, but you never know how things will work out in what is going to be an extremely interesting offseason.
Derek Barnett, DE
The Eagles need Derek Barnett to be outstanding in 2019. He’ll be in his third season and the former first-round draft pick is a starting defensive end who is relentless and has all the skills. There could be some significant change along the defensive line, with both Brandon Graham and Chris Long scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March. Barnett had a season-ending shoulder injury that really limited the Eagles’ defensive end rotation late in 2018. Barnett has a big offseason ahead. He is going to be a central figure in the defense.
Corey Clement, RB
After a strong rookie season, Corey Clement was expecting to take a big step forward in ’18. He started the season fine but suffered a quadriceps injury in Week 3 against Indianapolis and was never the same. Clement’s season ended in the overtime loss at Dallas, and he faces an offseason of rehabilitation. Given the situation in the offensive backfield – Ajayi’s injury and contract situation as well as the uncertainty with Darren Sproles, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and may not play in the NFL any longer – Clement is in an important position. The Eagles know how much Clement can help the offense. He’s a big piece moving forward. His full recovery is important.
Ronald Darby, CB
Ronald Darby is an interesting player to watch. He’s coming off a torn ACL and he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Can Darby become whole before the start of the regular season? What level of interest do the Eagles have in bringing him back? Cornerback is, obviously, a position of interest in this defense. Darby, when he’s all the way healthy, has the speed to run and turn with receivers better than any Eagles cornerback. Does he come back?
Mack Hollins, WR
What a downer of a season for wide receiver Mack Hollins, who was expected to be a key role player in the Eagles' offense and a core member of the special teams unit. Hollins had a groin injury that just never came around enough for him to get on the field. So, what’s next? Where is he in his recovery? What can the Eagles expect from Hollins, who showed strong hands, good speed, some big-play ability, and good skills on special teams as a rookie? The Eagles could use a healthy Hollins in a lot of ways next season.
Jordan Mailata, OT
A back injury ended Jordan Mailata’s rookie season, but the Eagles seem convinced that Mailata will be fine. It’s likely that Mailata will stick around Philadelphia and the NovaCare Complex rehabbing and working in the strength and conditioning room to get a jump start on next season. Is he going to be ready to contribute on the field in 2019? What happens with left tackle Jason Peters at age 37 for next season? How does Mailata fit into the team’s plans next year? So many questions for such an intriguing young player.
Rodney McLeod, S
Boy, did the Rodney McLeod injury hamper the Eagles’ defense. His versatility was missed tremendously, so it’s imperative that McLeod makes a full recovery and gets back with Malcolm Jenkins to make a dynamic duo in the deep secondary for the Eagles. What are the plans for McLeod? Get him back in the defense and see how quickly and significantly things improve.
Jalen Mills, CB
This could be a tricky situation. Jalen Mills has a foot injury serious enough that he missed half the season and wasn’t close to returning in the playoffs. Is he going to be OK for 2019? Think about the challenges for a cornerback with a foot injury … he needs all the mobility and change of direction available. There is no word on when Mills will be good to go, so let’s hope he makes good progress in his rehab. He was missed in 2018.
Josh Perkins, TE
Josh Perkins did some good things working in as a third tight end/receiver before moving to IR in November with a knee injury. The Eagles are set with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert as the 1-2 punch at tight end, but would there be room for Perkins behind them?
Josh Sweat, DE
If you’re looking for a candidate to take a significant leap from Year 1 to Year 2, it could be Josh Sweat, a fourth-round draft pick who played in just 68 defensive snaps before going to IR in December with an ankle injury. Sweat needs to get stronger and improve his technique, so he’s got a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of talent to work with here. Again, defensive end could be a volatile position, so Sweat factors into the mix in a promising way.
Paul Worrilow, LB
Paul Worrilow was injured before the Eagles really had a chance to see him, and he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, so … who knows? He’s a local guy (Delaware) and he has a good sense of the defensive scheme, so maybe he is someone the Eagles would have interest in having back. That is an evaluation for another time. Right now, Worrilow joins this lengthy list of injured question marks as the Eagles start to put their plan together for the offseason ahead.