By Kevin McGuire
The most important goal of the preseason in the National Football League is to reach the start of the regular season without any significant injuries. The Philadelphia Eagles appear to have done just that, although there are some mild concerns about the wide receiver position as the new season kicks off Sunday afternoon.
The only two players officially ruled out for Sunday’s season opener at Lincoln Financial Field for the Philadelphia Eagles are wide receiver Josh Huff (shoulder) and offensive tackle Matt Tobin (ankle). Tobin appears to be the more significant of the losses for Sunday, but his absence may only become much of a factor if the Eagles happen to get banged up on the offensive line during the game. Tobin had been listed second on the depth chart behind Evan Mathis, who is good to go. The rest of the offensive line—a unit that stayed largely healthy a season ago—is also in good shape on the first team line-up. If the Eagles do need to plug in a new lineman, Dennis Kelly and David Molk will be available, and Andrew Gardner could be inserted on the left side of the line as well if needed.
Huff is listed second on the depth chart behind Jeremy Maclin, which appears to be of some concern if Maclin gets hurt at any point. However, if the often-hindered Maclin needs to take a rest at some point, the Eagles will be fortunate to have rookie Jordan Matthews to put on the field. Matthews may work into the game plan already, but if the Eagles need to use a second string receiver in a larger role, that responsibility may go to Matthews or Jeff Maehl.
Huff is not the only receiver on the injury report, though. Riley Cooper (ankle), coming off a career year, is officially listed as probable. The good news is Cooper was able to participate in full practices all week and appears to be ready to assume his role on the field on Sunday opposite Maclin. Maehl is listed second on the depth chart behind Cooper, but it looks as though Cooper will be available without much concern. The other starting wide receiver in the mix, Brad Smith (groin), is also officially listed as probable. Like Cooper, Smith was able to take part in full practices all week and should be ready to play. Matthews is listed as Smith’s back-up on the depth chart.
Starter LeSean McCoy is in good health, which is certainly good news for the Eagles out of the preseason. He will be the key to the success of the Eagles offense. His back-up, and new acquisition, Darren Sproles is also in good shape out of the preseason. The third running back on the depth chart, Chris Polk (hamstring), is officially listed as questionable for this weekend’s game. With McCoy and Sproles bot healthy, the need for Polk and concern over having him limited at best is diminished. Polk did participate in full practices this week, including Friday, but the Eagles are proceeding with caution as hamstrings can be tricky to predict and handle.
On the defensive side of the roster, only cornerback Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) is listed as questionable. Watkins has a more severe hamstring injury than Polk, which is why he was out of practice all week. Listing him as questionable for the game appears to be slightly optimistic, but do not expect him to see the field on Sunday. Watkins starts the season buried on the depth chart at cornerback, so the Eagles have plenty of options to work with before they would have to think about where or how to use Watkins. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are listed as the starters for the Eagles at each cornerback position, with Nolan Carroll II and Brandon Boykin filling the spots on second team defense.
WR Riley Cooper (ankle)
WR Brad Smith (groin)
RB Chris Polk (hamstring)
CB Jaylen Watkins (hamstring)
WR Josh Huff (shoulder)
T Matt Tobin (ankle)
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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