AVENTURA, Fla. – Now, there is a football game to win. The Eagles – coming off consecutive losses, still only one game behind Dallas in the NFC East (thanks, Buffalo!) – have a chance to do some damage and right this thing and build a lil' somethin', somethin' as December begins.
December. When it all matters. When it all changes. When the cream rises to the top in the NFL.
It was an eventful week at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles welcomed back some offensive firepower to practice in the form of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor and offensive linemen Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, expecting an offense that struggled in losses to New England and Seattle to feel an immediate boost in Miami on Sunday. They hoped for some good news on running back Jordan Howard and didn't get it, as Howard is officially out for the Dolphins game.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles got back cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc – activated on Saturday to the 53-man roster – and now add to their personnel flexibility in the secondary. Avonte Maddox has played very, very well as the nickel cornerback and, of course, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have been outstanding since returning to the outside. LeBlanc was terrific last season, rescuing a cornerback room that had been decimated by injury. LeBlanc came right in off of waivers and handled the nickel position professionally, and he was rewarded with a new contract through 2020. So, it's good news that he's ready to play football.
"It's been a good week," LeBlanc said as he arrived at the team hotel on Saturday. "We'll see what happens but I feel like I'm ready to play and help this team."
The Eagles are monitoring tight end Zach Ertz and a hamstring injury that limited him in practice this week, so they promoted Joshua Perkins from the practice squad, knowing he'll be up to speed with the offensive X's and O's should Ertz need time on the sidelines. Waived was defensive tackle Albert Huggins, who played 44 snaps in his four weeks of action, including 15 last Sunday against Seattle.
Off the field, the Eagles took care of business with long-term contract extensions for placekicker Jake Elliott and Johnson, as those two join Brooks and long snapper Rick Lovato in the newest Long-Term Contract Club.
And that's the setup. The Eagles are a 5-6 football team looking to build some momentum. They're playing a 2-9 Miami Dolphins team that tore it all down in the offseason with a series of trades that sent talented veterans elsewhere in return for future draft picks. The future is not now for Miami. They're trusting their own Process.
But Miami, after a historically dreadful start, won back-to-back games against the Jets and Colts before losing the last two weeks against Buffalo and Cleveland. It's been ugly a lot of the time this season for the Dolphins, but they're playing hard, they've got nothing to lose, and, as we've seen in the not-too-distant past, if quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick gets on a roll, Miami is a dangerous team.
"We have the same goal we have every week," linebacker Nathan Gerry said, "and that's to go 1-0. We're going to Miami to win a football game. Of course, we respect them. You turn on the tape and watch how hard they play and the talent they've got. We know they're playing better now than they were early in the season."
Win a football game. That's the objective. Any way, anyhow. The Eagles need to get on a roll, with very little margin for error, in the last five games. After everything that has happened this season, with all of the ups and the downs, the injuries and the inconsistencies, the Eagles control their playoff fate. If they win five games in a row, they're in. And you can't win it – the Super Bowl, that is – if you aren't in it. The objective is to get there and then see what happens. A five-game winning streak would be a nice one to take into the postseason.
That can't happen if the Eagles fail on Sunday. The mission, then, is clear: In front of an Eagles-green, partied-up crowd in South Florida, the Eagles need a win. Nothing else matters.