The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
Splashy practice at Linc becomes bit of an injury mess
PHILADELPHIA >> At $10 a head, Eagles fans got their money’s worth at the pay-to-view practice Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
However, the 2-hour show was costly on the team level as defensive end Joe Ostman injured a knee and wide receiver-kick returner Shelton Gibson hurt a foot, both in a special teams drill.
Ostman was carted off, teammates comforting him before he left. He hit the ground clutching his left knee. He had been having an outstanding camp, his role expanding significantly throughout the offseason. His loss is an immediate opportunity for fourthround draft pick Shareef Miller (Penn State), who, except for a fight the other day, hasn’t exactly stood out on practice film.
Gibson needed help to get off the field, as well.
The Eagles had injury issues before practice began, particularly at linebacker. Veteran Kamu Grugier-Hill, his sprained left knee in a brace, made his way to the field with crutches. Nigel Bradham isn’t all the way back from toe surgery. Paul Worrilow has an ailing knee.
The Birds can ill afford to lose Grugier-Hill, also a special teams star, for the month of September, as currently feared.
“Kamu’s a great player and I think he was having a tremendous camp,” said Nate Gerry, the lone remaining healthy veteran at linebacker. “We’re both kind of the same position. We both understand the defense. We both can play multiple spots. Obviously, it hurts us a lot but I think our group is pretty deep. I think we’re pretty versatile. It obviously sucks having a really good player like him go down but I think we’ve got the depth to play through it.”
Gerry and Zach Brown, the latter a Washington Redskins castoff, started at linebacker in practice Sunday night. L.J. Fort got time as did newly signed Asantay Brown.
The philosophy of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz basically is it’s what’s up front that counts. He calls the defensive line the engine that pulls the train. On those rails, while not disastrous, the loss of Ostman could have the Eagles shopping for another pass rusher. Chris Long is out there. He just needs to be talked into returning.
Gerry believes the Eagles have enough experience and flexibility to work through the injuries.
“Nigel is the one who leads everything for us,” Gerry said. “I think Zach came in and has done a tremendous job for us, too. Those are the old heads in our group that take charge and we just follow. There’s a lot of football to play before the opener. I think we have all the tools on this defense from front to back. What makes us really good is we’ve got a bunch of player personnel packages that we can play with. Probably just about anybody in the league, we could probably match up with our defensive personnel.”
The Eagles reported that more than 40,000 fans attended the practice.
At $10 a ticket, plus more for VIP packages, more than $465,000 was raised for autism research and care in Philadelphia.
Eagles president Don Smolenski thanked the fans who dropped by in a statement furnished by the team. On the football end, Schwartz said he’s always appreciated the public practice inside the stadium for a variety of reasons.
“It gives us a nice lift during sort of the dog days of training camp,” Schwartz said. “Players get to come out here, particularly the young players that have never experienced it. They see where their locker would be and go out there and just experience the crowd. It’s even good to test your communication.
“We have music at practice but guys can talk over the music. But it’s hard to talk over 40,000 fans or whatever we’ll have today. That’s good for us, also.”
••• Dismissing the injuries, the play of the night was Carson Wentz’s scrambling 50-yard completion to DeSean Jackson. It got a lot of applause, even if it was badly underthrown, evoking memories of Jeff Garcia’s days with the Birds.
Garcia didn’t have the arm strength to get the ball in the same area code as Donte Stallworth, one of the fastest players ever to put on a football uniform. Jackson had to come back for Wentz’s hanging throw, which safety Rodney McLeod was unable to reach.
The next best play of the night was the jump cut by rookie running back Miles Sanders of Penn State in goal line. It left the defense in a state of suspended animation.
Honorable mention: Wentz catching his own pass deflected by Malik Jackson and running it in for a score in the red zone. The Wentz plays obviously aren’t stuff the Eagles work on daily.
That said, the Eagles have a month to get ready for their opener against the Redskins, who have much more serious issues, starting with the quarterback position.
Among the stellar defensive plays was newly added Johnathan Cyprien’s scoop and return of a fumble. How new is Cyprien?
The scoreboard incorrectly identified him as Godwin Igwebulke, the safety the Eagles released when they added Cyprien. Both had No. 41.
The pre-practice injury report also included wide receiver Mack Hollins (hip, day-to-day), cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot sprain, multiple weeks), tight end Richard Rodgers (foot, day-to-day) and rookie offensive tackle Casey Tucker (concussion).
Tucker took a shot to the head in a practice scrap Saturday with Miller.
NOTES >> For giggles, 37-year-old left offensive tackle Jason Peters, who has two touchdowns in his 15-year NFL career, lined up on the right side at tight end, with Dallas Goedert, normally a tight end, at left tackle. The Eagles ran a counter play that went nowhere. … With Gibson sidelined, Donnell Pumphrey got more work in the return game. … After practice, Eagles players spent considerable time signing autographs for and posing for photos with members of the Armed Forces.