First, it was Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, who went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the spring rehabbing from a shoulder injury suffered in 2019. Then it was defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who suffered a pectoral injury before stepping foot on the field in Training Camp. Then left tackle Andre Dillard tore a biceps muscle in camp, ending his 2020 before it started. Safety Will Parks went on Injured Reserve before the regular season started, joined shortly thereafter by defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Craig James. On Tuesday, the Eagles placed left guard Isaac Seumalo on IR, and he will miss a least a handful of weeks.
News then broke Wednesday that wide receiver Jalen Reagor, watching practice from the sidelines wearing sweatpants, has a thumb injury that could sideline him for up to six or seven weeks, or longer. Who knows? The injuries are coming at an alarming rate for the Eagles, and for the entire NFL.
That's what happens when players don't have a normal spring to acclimate their bodies properly and train for a full season. The Eagles were pleased with the virtual offseason program, right, and that's great, but it doesn't replace having hands on the players at the NovaCare Complex and overseeing their strength and conditioning programs. Training Camp wasn't enough to get bodies into football shape, and that's why IR lists around the league are packed to the brim with star players, starting players, young players, so many players.
In 2020, nothing goes as planned, right?
Injuries are no excuse for the Eagles' 0-2 start, so please understand the intent here. This is a conversation about the impact of the injuries, because several positions have been challenged just two weeks into the season.
The Eagles, in the days following the 2020 NFL Draft, projected a starting offensive line of Dillard at left tackle, Seumalo at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Brooks at right guard, and Lane Johnson at right tackle. Brooks' injury blew up the plan. Jason Peters returned with the idea that he would play right guard, which he did through all of Training Camp until Dillard was injured and then Peters, the week of the opening game at Washington, volunteered to Head Coach Doug Pederson that he would return to his familiar left tackle position. Sounded good.
Good, until Johnson missed the opener at Washington recovering from ankle surgery and the Eagles went with rookie Jack Driscoll at right tackle and second-year man Nate Herbig at right guard, making his first start. The way it looks for Sunday against the Bengals, the Eagles have Peters at left tackle, Herbig/Driscoll/Sua Opeta/Matt Pryor at left guard, Kelce at center, Herbig/Pryor at right guard and Johnson at right tackle.
It's happening everywhere in the league, so there is no woe-is-me here. It's just startling when you consider that, three weeks into the season, the Eagles are considering third-string options as starters on Sunday. Gives you a sense of just how uneven this 2020 season is going to be, week to week.
The way the blueprint was put together, the Eagles anticipated having a defensive line that would dominate every week. That is still the expectation even if it hasn't yet played out that way. End Derek Barnett missed all of camp with a hamstring injury and is just now rounding into form. Hargrave played against Los Angeles after having only a few days of practice under his belt and he was rusty. He should get better and better. Fletcher Cox missed practice on Wednesday with abdomen injury and so we're all keeping our fingers crossed that it's nothing serious or that it doesn't become something serious. Curry's injury pushed third-year man Josh Sweat into a more prominent role and he needs to take advantage of those added reps.
Injuries mean a loss of talent and depth and that defeats the plan here.
With Alshon Jeffery on the active roster but still not practicing, the Eagles entered the season shorthanded at wide receiver. Reagor's injury is a bummer. He has shown such promise starting both games, playing 72 percent of the snaps, and showing explosiveness and toughness. Let's hope he is back sooner rather than later. He suffered a shoulder injury in camp and came back perhaps a week or two earlier than expected, so maybe he's a fast healer.
Meanwhile, who plays at wide receiver against Cincinnati? DeSean Jackson has to be the leader here and he has to stay healthy. Second-year man J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has his chance to produce. He really needs to step up. Rookie John Hightower will get more playing time. Greg Ward is in the slot, doing his thing. The Eagles played around 80 percent of the game against the Rams with one running back and two tight ends on the field and they're probably going to continue that personnel grouping moving forward and promote somebody from the practice squad to add a fifth wide receiver.
The injury to Will Parks had a subtle yet substantial impact on the rotation the Eagles want to employ in the secondary and we're likely going to see some of that against a Bengals team that likes to use four and five wide receivers and spread the field and make a defense play coverage. Without Parks, the Eagles have used Marcus Epps in coverage and they are working rookie K'Von Wallace into the mix. Parks was set to play a key role in multiple positions in the defense.
Craig James was one of the most impressive players in Training Camp and he earned a new contract for his play, and then he went down and is on IR, thinning the cornerback depth. You just can't have enough depth in this league and the Eagles, like many other teams, are learning that firsthand.
Injuries are gonna happen. That's just the way of life in the NFL. Rosters are stretched, depth is tested, and coaches need to improvise. It's still early in the season, but the Eagles are tasked with overcoming major injury hurdles in Week 3. The season has just begun, really. But the injury hits keep coming and the Eagles must find a way to win with what they have on the field.