The Eagles will be heading into the season shorthanded, which has become something of the norm in Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Miles Sanders was ruled out of the seasoner opener versus Washington due to a hamstring injury.
But the pain locker doesn’t end there. The Eagles announced their full list of inactives, which includes Lane Johnson, Derek Barnett, Javon Hargrave, and Alshon Jeffrey.
Jalen Hurts is presumably a healthy scratch. For those keeping track at home, that’s five total starters and a second-round pick not playing.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 13, 2020
With all of these stars out, all eyes are on their backups. If the Eagles want to start their season out on the right foot and gain an edge in the divisional race, then it’s up to the spot-starters to come through in the clutch.
The Pressure Is On For The Running Backs
The absence of Miles Sanders is disappointing for a number of reasons. The second-year back has become a game-changer, excelling in both the running and passing game.
However, the Eagles could have an answer in the form of Boston Scott. Scott showed last season he has the potential to shine, being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 17 after a three-touchdown performance.
Scott also managed to rack up a number of receptions, receiving 199 yards over the last four weeks of the 2019 season. He won’t have the same impact down the field as Sanders might have, but he can still give the Eagles a serviceable receiver.
Corey Clement could also make a difference. The once-promising back has since been derailed by injuries, but with a healthy season, he could see a revitalization. The Eagles would certainly take another back who can keep defenses honest.
It’s Josh Sweat & Gerard Avery Time
According to the Eagles’ official depth chart, the two players listed behind Derek Barnett at right defensive end are Josh Sweat and Gernard Avery, who could both see increases in snaps today.
Sweat, a 2018 fourth-round pick, churned out a solid 2019 season by registering 4.5 sacks and 16 solo tackles. He is still an unfinished product, but he can manage in a pinch.
Avery, meanwhile, is more of a mystery. The Eagles traded a future fourth-round pick to the Cleveland for Avery at the trade deadline last season.
With that kind of price, one would have assumed the Eagles felt Avery could contribute immediately. Instead, Avery saw 32% of snaps on offense and just 3% of snaps on defense. He put up 0.5 sacks after having 4.5 in his rookie season.
Many questions about the Eagles’ confidence in Avery have swirled around. Was he not able to adjust to the system? Were other depth players simply better?
Those inquiries will be answered this season now that Avery has had a full offseason under his belt, albeit a COVID-filled one.
If Avery is a part of this team’s future, then being able to play a solid number of snaps vs WFT would be a good start.
Can The O-Line Protect Wentz?
The Eagles Super Bowl aspirations rely on Carson Wentz staying healthy. However, he might be at a greater risk of injury now that his three-time left tackle is out of the game. Rookie Jack Driscoll will be making his first NFL start in Johnson’s place.
Even in the past, when veterans took over for Johnson in his absence, the Eagles’ offense has been noticeably different.
Driscoll isn’t even the only lineman making his first start. The second would be Nate Herbig, filling in at right guard.
Suffice to say, this is not the kind of protection a team expected to make a deep run wants to be trotting out. The key will be to not letting Washington put the pressure on while giving Wentz enough time to develop a play.
If Wentz doesn’t have the time he needs and the line cannot create the space needed for long runs, it could be a very ugly day.
Having Inactives Is The Right Move
It’s a long season, and one game won’t define a team. But after last season’s injury problems, the Eagles are playing it smart by resting their players in the hopes they come back stronger and better than ever.
Washington isn’t some juggernaut either- they might have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Eagles will still play a competitive game, and will get the chance to see how their depth does when it’s thrusted to a starting role.
For now, Eagles fans will just enjoy football being back, while also crossing their fingers they’ll see Sanders, Barnett, and the rest of the players back next week.