Eagles in Good Health with Rams Coming to Town
PHILADELPHIA – All hands look like they will be on deck for the Eagles when they entertain the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
“I’m 100 percent ready to go,” said the running back following Friday’s practice.
“I’m ready to go,” said the right tackle following Thursday’s practice.
The Eagles’ injury report Friday afternoon reflected the return to good health of Sanders and Johnson, but also defensive linemen Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave.
Yes, Hargrave. The Eagles and their fans will finally get a glimpse of what $26 million bought them in the offseason. That is the guaranteed money the DT got as part of three-year, $39M cotract he signed as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Barnett was one of two players listed as questionable, but the expectation is that he will play after being a full participant in every practice this week.
The other questionable player is Brandon Graham, who has gone through concussion protocol, but now must remain symptom-free through the weekend to line up against the Rams.
Sanders, Johnson, Barnett, and Hargrave are all key cogs in the Eagles’ machine. None of them played in the disappointing season-opening loss to Washington last weekend.
Receiver Alshon Jeffery is the only player the Eagles have ruled out for Sunday, though they will also be without defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Craig James, both of whom were placed on Injured Reserve earlier in the week.
Johnson said on Thursday that he won’t be at 100 percent after “tightrope” surgery in August to repair a torn ligament in his ankle.
Sanders, however, said he will be 100 percent.
“I could have played last week, but hamstrings are real tricky,” he said. “I felt good. That was the first week I actually felt good, so they didn’t want to just throw me in there. Just trusting the training staff and the coaches on the decision. What’s important is that I’m playing this week.”
Sanders, however, has not done much for the past month and is conditioning could be somewhat of a question since a hamstring doesn’t allow for much aerobic activity. Still, he is hopeful that doesn’t limit his number of snaps or touches.
“I hope not,” he said. “I’m willing to do whatever the coaches order, whatever is in the best interest for me and the team.”
Without Sanders, the Eagles struggled with blitz pickups against Washington especially up the middle. Also, without him and Johnson, the Eagles’ running attack never got untracked, with just 17 rushes for 57 yards.
“Very difficult,” said Sanders about watching the loss. “I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. I was actually sitting on my couch. It wasn’t a good feeling at all. I didn’t like it at all.
“All I can say is trusting the training staff and their decision to keep me out for an extra week, and just getting as healthy as possible. They’d rather have me for 15 weeks instead of just one.”
The absence of Sanders and Johnson did more than impact the run game. Their absence also helped Washington pile up eight sacks. Sanders gets a lot of credit for his prowess as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield but he’s also a very good pass blocker, and one of his blocking assignments on Sunday may be Aaron Donald.
Sanders and the Rams’ star defensive tackle are both from Pittsburgh and work out together sometimes.
“I know him a little more than people think,” said Sanders. “You don’t win defensive player of the year two years in a row for no reason. I’m proud of him and I respect his game, but we got a team over here full of good players, too. It’s going to be a dogfight up front. We’re just looking forward to that W at the end of the day.”
Having Sanders, Johnson, Barnett and Hargrave back in the lineup should certainly help with that goal.
Get the latest Eagles news by joining the community. Click “Follow” at the top right of the EagleMaven page. Mobile users click the notification bell. And please follow me on Twitter @kracze.