The Eagles could be without their top receiver Sunday against the Patriots. Alshon Jeffery missed a second straight day of practice.
Jeffery, who leads all Eagles receivers with 34 catches, suffered a previously undisclosed right ankle injury two weeks ago versus Chicago. The eight-year veteran sat out of Wednesday’s practice and missed Thursday’s session as well.
Wide receivers coach Carson Walch was seen throwing balls to the team’s pass-catchers, including Jordan Matthews, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Nelson Agholor. Practice squad members Robert Davis and Marcus Green were also on the field.
While Jeffery has received a ton of criticism in recent weeks, there is no denying his absence would severely hinder the Eagles’ passing attack. The 6-foot-3 target has 34 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns this season.
He leads everyone on the team not named Zach Ertz. Head coach Doug Pederson ruled Jeffery “day-to-day” on Wednesday when he addressed the media. He has also been suffering from a calf injury sustained in Week 2.
“The guy [Jeffery] has a proven track record in this league and is a very good player and will continue to be a very good player,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said earlier this week, “and we haven’t lost any confidence in him. I know he’ll make some very important plays for us, as he did in the fourth quarter in that last game.”
Jordan Howard, Jason Peters Limited Participants
The Eagles listed Jordan Howard (shoulder) and Jason Peters (knee) as limited participants during Wednesday’s practice. They were on the field Thursday and their status for Sunday doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. Peters is expected to resume his starting role at left tackle after rookie Andre Dillard filled in — and showed why the Eagles took him 22nd overall — over the last three games.
Howard is a guy the Eagles will need to rely on this week versus a New England defense that surrendered 210 yards on the ground to Baltimore. The Patriots have been stifling on the defensive side of the ball and boast the NFL’s top-ranked defense. However, the one area where they have been exploited has been against the run where they rank 11th in the league and give up 99.1 yards per game.
Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh hinted that the team may be a run-first offense moving forward. That should spell plenty of touches for Howard and rookie Miles Sanders.
“I really like the way we’re running the ball,” Groh told reporters. “We don’t really care how we make first downs or score points but if we can hold the ball for 40 minutes like we did two weeks ago and keep the other teams’ offense on the sideline, I think that’s a good recipe.”
Could There Be Bigger Role for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside?
Reading the tea leaves, it looks like second-round draft pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside might be in for a bigger role Sunday. The rookie wide receiver has had a hard time getting snaps, but the coaching staff likes what they’ve seen out of him.
When wide receivers coach Carson Walch addressed the media earlier this week, he pointed out that the team has been “cross-training” Arcega-Whiteside on all the receiver positions, including the X and Z positions. If Alshon Jeffery is indeed out versus New England, look for him to step into a larger role.
“J.J.’s ready. He’s cross-trained now,” Walch told reporters, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He knows the X position, he knows the Z position and if it came down to it he could probably play the F position. He’s in a good place right now. He’s positive, he feels good about where he’s at in the offense, so yes, I do anticipate him getting some snaps as we go.”