They are all in various stages of their comebacks. In some cases, like that of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, the grind of the actual rehab process is all but finished, and the next steps are more football related than they are health related. For Jamaal Jackson, every day brings the need for patience and persistence as he goes through the steps of his regimen.
They are, as a group, players upon whom the Eagles relied last season only to fall to injury and to end the season on Injured Reserve. In some cases, like that of Shawn Andrews, the Eagles decided to part ways before finding out how Andrews fit into the future. For the rest of this group, the season is nearly here. How much can they help in 2010?
One by one, we'll examine ...
**STEWART BRADLEY, linebacker
On the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player prior to his injury, Stewart Bradley has been extremely diligent in his rehab and has said many times that he expects to be completely ready for this season. His return is a big part of the Eagles defense, which clearly was not the same without him in 2009. The question is whether Bradley can return and immediately be the player he was prior to suffering his torn anterior cruciate ligament. If he can, the Eagles defense gets back a 260-pound downhill force who plays the run well and who is a punishing blitzer. They get back a big man with a huge wingspan who is excellent in coverage. They bring back a leader.
If it takes Bradley time to round into tip-top form and get back his instincts and his timing and his confidence in the knee, the Eagles must be prepared.
Bradley has great football ahead of him. How quickly he gets back to that high level of play he enjoyed before his injury is an important key to Sean McDermott's defense.
**OMAR GAITHER, linebacker
A restricted free agent, Omar Gaither has a big, big season in front of him. His injury last year -- a Lisfranc foot sprain -- was extremely costly to the Eagles. They lost a versatile and valuable linebacker and Gaither's absence was felt particularly in the nickel defense. Gaither was injured in late October, so his rehabilitation quite a bit behind that of Bradley's. Complicating matter is that, because Gaither has not yet signed his contract tender, is not permitted by NFL rules to rehab with the Eagles athletic training staff.
Knowing Gaither, he will continue on the program prescribed by the Eagles and will be ready to go when the time is right. And if Gaither comes all the way back, he should contend with Akeem Jordan at WILL linebacker, provide depth across the linebacker board, play a key part in pass coverage and have a chance to be a core member on special teams.
The real question is when can Gaither play again. You'd expect the Eagles to add some pieces to the linebacker group, in some shape or form.
**ELLIS HOBBS, cornerback
A cervical disc injury sidelined Ellis Hobbs after half of the season and he has said he is going to be 100 percent for the year. The Eagles gave Hobbs a contract tender at a first-round draft pick level of compensation, so they clearly have plans for him. Hobbs expects to be a player in the cornerback rotation and he will have the first crack -- I'd imagine -- at returning kickoffs with new special teams coordinator Bobby April in charge.
The loss of Hobbs was an underrated blow to the defense. His injury, plus the four-game suspension handed to Joselio Hanson, forced the Eagles to go deep into their cornerback rotation in the second half of the campaign.
Having Hobbs back on the field will be a plus in many ways.
**FENUKI TUPOU, offensive lineman
I'm not sure we can predict much about Fenuki Tupou, a fifth-round draft pick last April. He has good size, seems to have good punch and power, but can he play offensive tackle at this level? We're about to find out.
Tupou, who suffered a chest injury in the preseason and was placed on IR prior to the beginning of the regular season, is going to have an opportunity to challenge for Juan Castillo's eye and a solid place on the roster. Tupou has the look of a right tackle, but the truth is that he needs another off-season to give the Eagles enough of a sample.
Not many have talked about Tupou, but the fact that he was a fifth-round draft pick means something. He has his chance and Tupou seems to be doing his best to make a mark. He has been a regular on the off-season conditioning program and he will be on the field in the post-draft camp. Let's see then what he can do.
**CORNELIUS INGRAM, tight end
After an impressive spring and early summer showing, Cornelius Ingram suffered a torn ACL in training camp and had his entire rookie season go down the drain. Combined with the injury to the same knee he suffered 12 months earlier, Ingram's recovery was a question mark. It still is, in theory, but Ingram has been Bradley's partner in the rehab process.
The young man looks great, says he feels great and, well, here he goes again. If Ingram can stay healthy, he has fine promise. Ingram is a physical marvel, an intelligent kid and he is as hungry as a player can be to get back on the football field.
Ingram's return gives the Eagles -- potentially -- another athletic player in the offense. Ingram will have to show he can dig in and block at the point of attack and drive defenders off the line of scrimmage. He also, of course, has to get down the field in his routes and stick that foot in the ground with confidence making his cuts.
We'll see him on the field soon and hopefully see the best of Ingram for years to come. He has had his share of bad injury luck.
**JAMAAL JACKSON, center
The good news is that Jamaal Jackson is in good spirits and is confident that he will make a full recovery. What we don't know, more than any player on the IR list at the end of last year, is when Jackson can play at a high level again. His agent reportedly said weeks ago that Jackson won't be back until mid-August, which makes it dicey to count on Jackson to start the regular season.
Nick Cole is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his contract tender. When he does, Cole is likely to be the No. 1 center on the depth chart. The Eagles think a lot of Cole, a player they say is a natural center who has played guard in his NFL career.
But Jackson is the veteran leader of this offensive line who is relegated to working on his recovery every day between now and, hmmm, many weeks from now. It is a tedious process, Too many players from last year know the routine, and they have followed it intensely for months. What waits is the payoff to all of that work.