Get ready for some old-school, smash-mouth football in the rematch against Tom Brady. The Philadelphia Eagles are getting healthy at some key positions, particularly in their backfield as they head into the NFL playoffs.
The Eagles play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, January 16 at 1 p.m. According to head coach Nick Sirianni, the team could have all three of their top running backs – Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott – ready to go for the wild-card round.
Sanders is the biggest name to monitor on that list. The Penn State product suffered a broken hand in Week 16 (December 26) and has missed the last two weeks. The Eagles never put him on injured reserve in the hope he could return for the postseason. Well, Sanders (137 carries for 754 yards) appears to be right on schedule.
“We’re hopeful for Miles this week,” Sirianni told reporters. “Again, that’s why we didn’t put him on IR way back when he did have the hand injury. So, we’re hopeful for him.”
Meanwhile, Howard has been out since January 2 with a neck stinger. He has 406 rushing yards and three touchdowns in seven games. Scott (373 yards, seven scores) was missing in action in Week 18 due to COVID-19. Rookie Kenny Gainwell started versus Dallas on Saturday night and gained 78 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown.
“We’re hopeful for Jordan this week and Boston and Kenny,” Sirianni said. “So, I think we’ll have our full stable of backs and really excited about where our backfield is. I think a lot of teams in this league would like the depth we have at this position.”
One more minor roster update: Richard Rodgers will be elevated from the practice squad to the 53. The veterean tight end will replace Tyree Jackson who is done for the year after tearing an ACL. Rodgers will move to third on the depth chart behind Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll.
The team also activated 11 players from the Reserve/COVID-19 list while placing three guys – WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, TE Tyree Jackson, T/G Brett Toth – on injured reserve. Running back Jason Huntley was elevated from the practice squad. Kicker Matt McCrane and running back Kerryon Johnson were released.
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Jalen Hurts Ready for ‘Next Game’
Sunday will mark Jalen Hurts’ first playoff game as a starting quarterback in the NFL. The Eagles weren’t supposed to be this good this soon, but no one in the locker room gets to use that as a crutch. And definitely not Hurts. Sirianni expects Hurts to be ready for the moment and keeps preaching to him that it’s just the next game on the schedule. He doesn’t want anyone overthinking it.
“I know he’s ready for the next game, which just so happens to be a playoff game and he’s going to prepare the same way he has prepared,” Sirianni said. “I know, from the outside, it looks like it’s a bigger game and everything, but to us, we understand the consequences of losing, and when you win – you’re done if you lose, so we understand that.”
Hurts’ overall record as a starter stands at 9-10. He finished the 2021 campaign with 3,144 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 784 rushing yards and 10 scores. His predecessor, Carson Wentz, just choked away a possible playoff spot for his new team. He saw just nine total snaps in his lone postseason appearance (2019 with the Eagles) and went 1-for-4. Wentz’s career record as a starter is 44-40-1.
Sirianni Previews Buccaneers Matchup
Sirianni keeps doubling down on his process heading into the playoffs. The Eagles won’t look too far ahead. They’ll continue to get one-percent better every day. And stick to the tiny details that got them here.
However, it’s got to be a bit daunting to see Tom Brady on the other sideline. After calling him “one of the greatest players of all-time,” Sirianni also made sure to credit Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay coaching staff.
“What I see in this team is they’re well-coached and the next guy is ready to step up,” Sirianni said. “I really believe that with this Tampa team that we’re playing, that the guys that are coming into their place have been coached well and they’re ready to go because they’re good players, too.”