While Doug Pederson did share some additional negative news on the injury front during his press conference on Wednesday, that was not the only news he shared.
Pederson said that he was “optimistic” about Sidney Jones playing on Sunday and replied the same in response to Timmy Jernigan playing against the Saints.
Jones is the more important of the two. Jones has missed the last three games as well as most of the game the week before that. He would be a sight for sore eyes as the Eagles look to take on the offensive juggernaut that Drew Brees is running in New Orleans with a secondary consisting only of Malcolm Jenkins with four fill-ins: back-up corner Rasul Douglas, rookie Avonte Maddox, undrafted free agent Chandeon Sullivan, recent acquisition Cre’Von LeBlanc and the safety duo of second-year undrafted free Tre Sullivan and veteran Corey Graham.
Douglas would be the top corner and he was burned multiple times on easy touchdown passes that Dak Prescott flat out overthrew, but still allowed over 100 yards aside from those easy touchdowns that were just missed. Tre Sullivan was flat out embarrassed multiple times against the Cowboys, including the play where he was hurdled by Ezekiel Elliot; a play that would have been an easy touchdown ha Zeke not fallen on his own upon landing. Avonte Maddox has been the best player outside Malcolm Jenkins, and he has spent much of the season playing safety – a position where he hasn’t played since high school.
Inserting Jones into the lineup likely won’t fix everything on its own, but Jones had been playing at a high level prior to his injury and would at least give the team full confidence in one of their corners, allowing the defense to give more help to their weaker corners. The help could prove vital and turn the tide of this season, especially if Timmy Jernigan returns.
Jernigan has been sorely missed on the defensive line. The Eagles have a strong defensive line, but not a complete one. Fletcher Cox has been dominant to the point where he was rated as the second-best player in the league by Pro Football Focus, however his partners at defensive tackle have been a rotating door of four players who have made next to no major impact and Haloti Ngata.
Ngata missed three games and has otherwise been unimpressive. He has almost been a 340 pound roadblock. The veteran was supposed to be a big impact player, but has managed only nine tackles and one sack while playing beside two other defensive linemen that have been among the best in the game this season and routinely receive double teams, leaving Ngata with the need to beat only one man.
Comparing Ngata’s production to Jernigan’s through this point last season shows just how large the loss has been.
|Player||Tackles||Tackles For Loss||Sacks||QB Hits||Stuffs|
Jernigan returning will increase the productivity of the defensive line, assisting to better shut down the run game and forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball sooner, which should help the secondary to key in on more mistakes and force turnovers.
The Eagles have two weeks left to activate Jernigan or they must leave him on the NFI.
The Eagles defense seemed to be decimated halfway through the Cowboys game when Ronald Darby went down, but the return of two big playmakers to the defense may be just what the doctor ordered.