There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Philadelphia Eagles dealing with injuries. As training camp gets underway and the team prepares to defend their NFC East title, a slew of bang-ups have begun.
The important note is that these injuries aren’t devastating. However, they certainly raise some alarms due to how frequently health problems have struck the team over the past few seasons. It’s become such a problem that the Eagles have changed up their medical staff three times in as many years.
If the Eagles can stay healthy, they can form a fearsome team that should scare every opponent they face. Of course, that’s always easier said than done.
High-Profile Pickup Javon Hargrave Running Into Bumps
The Eagles’ best unit on defense suddenly has question marks. Nose tackle Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia’s premiere free-agent signing, has suffered a pectoral strain which should keep him out for a “few weeks,” per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
There is a silver lining, though. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Hargrave has a “realistic shot” at playing in the Eagles’ opening game against Washington. Cue the sighs of relief.
Hargrave, 27, put up four sacks and 60 combined tackles for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. Those stats helped him secure a three-year, $39 million deal with the Eagles back in March.
High-priced defensive linemen succumbing to health problems has become a reoccurring theme for the Birds over the past few seasons. Tim Jernigan signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Eagles during the 2017 season. The next year, injuries limited him to just three games played.
Similarly, Malik Jackson inked a $30 million deal with the Eagles in 2019 and proceeded to suffer a season-ending injury in the first game. Ironically, Jackson hadn’t missed a game up to that point since 2012.
The pressure will certainly be on both Jackson and Hargrave as they look to help Fletcher Cox disrupt offensive lines while living up to what they’ve been paid. The first step to accomplishing that goal is to simply stay on the field.
DL Health Concerns Continue With Derek Barnett’s Mishaps
Hargrave isn’t the only notable lineman to be sidelined. Defensive end Derek Barnett is currently dealing with an ankle sprain. Like Hargrave, Rapaport said Barnett also has a good chance of suiting up for the season opener.
Barnett has been a polarizing figure since being drafted 14th overall back in 2017. There have been high points, such as his incredible fumble recovery in Super Bowl LII.
Then, there are the low points. These nagging injuries are nothing new for the Tennessee product. Barnett only played six games in 2018 due to shoulder surgery, and has never played a full season since starting his career.
Underachieving might be a word floated around when discussing the pass rusher. Barnett, the 2016 SEC leader in sacks, has never come close to double-digit sacks in the NFL. His career-high is six-and-a-half sacks, which he set last year.
Still, this didn’t deter the Eagles from picking up his fifth-year option for 2021, which is worth over $10 million (all guaranteed). It’s a risky move. But it shows the Eagles have faith that Barnett will not only stay healthy, but also reach his potential.
Miles Sanders Looks To Avoid Missed Time
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, running back Miles Sanders is being labeled as week-to-week with a “lower body injury”, although the Eagles don’t seem to be worried about Sanders missing any significant time during the season.
#Eagles RB Miles Sanders "week to week" with a lower body injury, the team says. I don't sense any great concern but he'll miss some time as the team is making sure players stay as healthy as possible. Almost a month to Week 1.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 19, 2020
Losing Sanders would be an incredible hit to Philadelphia’s offense. The 23-year-old is coming off a spectacular rookie season where he accumulated 818 rushing yards and 509 receiving yards.
Boston Scott would be the next man up if Sanders was unable to play. While Scott showed his explosive potential with a three-touchdown game in the final game of 2019, it remains to be seen how he would do as the RB1.
Like the defensive line, the running back group has seen their fair share of bruises in the past. Corey Clement’s rising career has since been sidetracked by numerous injuries that have limited him to just 15 games over the past two seasons.
One interesting question that might pop up now is if the Eagles would be more persuaded to sign an additional running back in the event Sanders’ status becomes more serious. In the past, the running game has thrived on having a two-back platoon. Jordan Howard and Legarrette Blunt both thrived in that kind of system.
There’s no doubt that Sanders has the talent to be the sole starter at running back. But having a solid backup in the event of an emergency, such as Devonta Freeman (currently a free agent), never hurts.
As the Eagles continue to prepare for their season, Hargrave, Sanders, and Barnett will take it easy for the time being. The Eagles’ championship chances depend on them making it to the start of the season in one piece.