Eagles Cross Fingers with Fletcher Cox, but a Thumb will Sideline Jalen Reagor
PHILADELPHIA – Injuries are piling up across the NFL.
On Sunday alone there were seven ACL tears. None of those shredded knee ligaments happened to any Eagles; they have their own issues, however, in the battle to stay healthy, with rookie receiver Jalen Reagor and special teams standout Rudy Ford expected to miss some time and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox possibly being sidelined, too.
Cox has an oblique injury and he will be managed this week in practice in hopes that he can play Sunday, though that may seem unlikely given the nature of an oblique issue.
It is bizarre that Cox can never get to experience the excitement of playing next to a defensive tackle the Eagles have brought in each of the past free agency periods. And the fans get cheated, too, of seeing the potentially devastating impact Cox could have with a DT of high pedigree riding shotgun with him.
Two years ago, it was Malik Jackson, who got hurt in last year’s opener.
This year it was Javon Hargrave who had a pec and hamstring issue that cost him the opener. Hargrave returned for 25 snaps on Sunday but now Cox is danger of missing some time.
The Eagles appear well-equipped to handle a couple weeks without Cox, though he is their best defensive player by far. But with a still getting-up-to-speed Hargrave and Jackson, along with Hassan Ridgeway and T.Y. McGill, who had a half-sack in the opener and is one of the four protected practice squad players for Sunday’s game against the Bengals, the unit remains strong enough.
“I feel like I’m ready,” said Hargrave on Wednesday. “I had a good practice (Wednesday), so I’m just taking it a day at a time, working my craft and trying to get better and get myself into that game shape.”
Ford is also week-to-week with a groin injury, further depleting the specialty units with Craig James already injured and on Injured Reserve.
Then there’s Reagor, and that is probably the bitterest of pills to swallow after it was learned that he will likely have surgery to repair a torn UCL in his thumb, an injury that happened during Sunday’s 37-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
So, Reagor’s first NFL season will sit at five catches for 96 yards and no touchdowns.
The good news is, he should be able to build on those numbers later this fall because he is likely to return eventually. For a reference point, the injury is similar to the one that cost New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees five games last year.
If that is the case, Reagor could return perhaps in Week 8 against the Cowboys. The Eagles have their bye week right after that, so maybe they play it safe and hold him out until they go to MetLife Stadium to play the Giants on Nov. 15.
Or maybe Reagor recovers quicker than Brees, who was 40 when the injury happened. Reagor is 21 and he already showed some amazing recuperating powers overcoming a minor tear in his labrum on Aug. 30 to play the first two games of the season.
So, don’t underestimate the healing powers of youth.
“I never want to see nobody injured from this league,” said cornerback Darius Slay. “We’re all brothers in this league. I’m praying for him to have a speedy recovery. It’s a hit. He’s a talented guy. He’ll stretch the field. I’ve been working with him hard, making him try to be one of the best young receivers in this league.
“I know he’ll come back and play hard. He’s got that already in his mind. He’s been talking to himself. He’s been motivating himself that whenever he gets back, he’ll be ready to compete.”
The Eagles are now without their two first-round picks in each of the last three years, with Reagor joining left tackle Andre Dillard, who tore a bicep muscle during training camp and is out for the year.
“He (Reagor) is a young player, he was starting to catch stride and I think he was just going to be climbing all season as a rookie he’s just going to get better,” said tight end Dallas Goedert. “It is a big loss for us. Obviously, when you lose your last two first-round picks, it takes a toll on the offense, but we’re going to be all right. We’re going to fight through without him and be excited when he gets back.”
Goedert said he noticed a difference in the way the safeties played a little deeper with Reagor and DeSean Jackson both on the field, which in turn, opened up the middle of the field for him and Zach Ertz to roam a bit more freely.
The Eagles WR corps may be able to withstand Reagor’s loss, with Quez Watkins eligible to come off the IR after Sunday’s game, and John Hightower expected to now have a bigger role.
It would help to have Alshon Jeffery back, but the veteran WR continues to do nothing at practice except have a catch now and then and do trunk twisters on the sideline.
The bigger emphasis will now be on DeSean Jackson, whose snap counts are being monitored and had his second straight Wednesday off from practice for maintenance. The snap-count plan may now have to go out the window now, though.
The Eagles will likely activate Deontay Burnett for Sunday and they also have Travis Fulgham available on the practice squad.
“There will definitely be opportunities for big explosive plays,” said Goedert, “whether we can get the play action going and Djack can take a big play or Hightower or if we can get J.J. (Arcega-Whiteside) started rolling, but everybody has to be better.”
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