Football injuries are inevitable — a play away. Wanna win your division? Wanna deep playoff run? You better have quality depth. Not just a body, but guys who can play at a level comparable to the starter they’re replacing.
The Eagles’ 29-21 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday could have exposed the Birds’ lack of depth but, instead, showed they are deep — and talented.
Eagles were dropping like flies Sunday — Jordan Mailata, Darius Slay, Jake Elliott, Isaac Seumalo. Plus, Avonte Maddox didn’t even play. These weren’t easy-to-replace third-stringers. Mailata and Seumalo are 40 percent of the NFL’s best offensive line.
Slay is one of the league’s top cornerbacks. Maddox is one of the league’s top nickel backs. Elliott is a Pro Bowl kicker.
You would think it’s difficult to win without so many quality players. Maybe depth is one of the X-factors about the 4-0 Eagles. The next-man-up philosophy often sounds like bravado but can lack substance on the field.
Maybe the Eagles really are this good.
Through training camp, the buzz was that the Eagles had one of the NFL’s best rosters. One game is a small sample size to test that depth, but the Eagles met their first challenge of skating shorthanded.
Jack Driscoll played 76 snaps in relief of left tackle Mailata — Driscoll’s first offensive snaps *of the season*. Sua Opeta took over for right guard Seumalo and played 20 snaps.
On defense, Josiah Scott had 42 snaps replacing Maddox at nickel back. Zech McPhearson had 44 snaps as Slay’s replacement. The defense only had 47 snaps total, as the Eagles dominated time of possession — 39 minutes, 51 seconds to 20:09.
Coach Nick Sirianni heaped plenty of praise on the back-ups. You don’t expect the coach to trash his players, but if he were displeased, he could have gotten it out there.
MENTALLY UP FOR THE CHALLENGE
For the back-ups, there is a level of being physically ready and mentally prepared, too. And remember, the reserves are replacing an ostensibly better player on a team with high and mighty aspirations.
- “Yeah, I think that is definitely a challenge that they’ve got to come in every single day understanding that they’re one snap away from being the starter, right?” Sirianni said.
- “They know that we use a lot of different guys. Whether you’re contributing on special teams — all 53 guys, and the guys on the practice squad as well, are vital to winning football games.
- “So they know they got to prep just like the starter does knowing that they’re one play away.
- “I can’t give enough credit to the guys that you just mentioned [Driscoll, Scott, McPhearson]. Zech and [safety] Andre [Chachere], Jack [Driscoll], and Sua [Opeta], all these guys, and Josiah [Scott], that came in and filled a role and being ready to play.
- “That’s just a tribute to them, that when they do get reps they make the most of it, a credit to their coaches for preparing them to play as well.”
JURGENS READY TO PLAY?
Second-round rookie center Cam Jurgens hasn’t played an offensive snap yet and only 20 special-teams snaps. Jurgens received first-team reps in training camp when Jason Kelce was recovering from elbow surgery.
Jurgens was heralded as an obvious heir apparent to Kelce — a mini-me, albeit a 6-foot-3, 290-pound one. Sirianni was asked if Jurgens could have replaced Seumalo instead of Opeta against the Jags.
- “Cam’s spending a ton of his time learning with Jason and with [run game coordinator/offensive line coach Jeff] Stout [Stoutland] as far as the center position. That doesn’t mean that he’s not getting some cross training at guard. He definitely is.
- “Sua’s played a lot of good football for us at guard. Sua started in a playoff game at guard for us …
- “We’ve got a lot of faith in both of them. Just right now, at this particular time, Sua is the next man up at the guard position.
- “Sometimes you do that because of the amount of reps, the amount of time that the guys are getting at the certain spots. That’s just what we feel best about it at this particular time.”
Sirianni said he will reveal on Wednesday the severity of the injuries and how much time, if any, players will miss.
- “We think that everybody has a chance to play this weekend,” Sirianni said. “But, you know, I don’t want to come out and say that quite yet just in case some things happen.”
Based on that statement, Wednesday’s news conference could be scary to fans intoxicated with the 4-0 start. Or, not.
“Unfortunately, it’s a long year in the sense of guys get injured,” Sirianni said. “You’re going to have to have depth. So we’re doing our best to coach everybody hard and get them ready to go.
“And I know we got the right guys on this team that if they’re not a starter, they know their role and they’re contributing on special teams and they know they’re one play away from going in.”