It's time for Eagles to move on from injured or pouting stars like Jackson, Ertz
Time for the Eagles to stop relying on veteran players who seem to be dragging them down, either by their continued injuries or attitude, or both.
All of that was evident Sunday in the Eagles' 38-29 loss to the Steelers.
Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery can't get on the field, and it's time for the Eagles to move on with young players like Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, Greg Ward and first-round pick Jalen Reagor when he gets healthy.
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Jackson has played in just six of 22 games since the start of the 2019 season, including the playoff game last January. Jeffery has played in just 10 games.
It seems as if Eagles coach Doug Pederson might be leaning in that direction, at least with Jackson and Jeffery.
Fulgham, who had 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown in the loss, showed that he can use his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame to get 50-50 balls like the Eagles were counting on Jeffery to do.
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When asked about trying to bring back Jeffery, who has yet to play this season after foot surgery last December, and Jackson, Pederson started off with the old standby, that Jackson and Jeffery have to be 100% healthy.
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Then he said the coaches are trying to design a package of plays for the young players, while hoping that Jackson and Jeffery "could give your offense a boost."
That made it seem like Jackson and Jeffery would be complementary players.
But Pederson didn't stop there.
"We’re also realistic from the standpoint that the guys in the game have been playing well," he said. "Has it been perfect? No it hasn’t. But they’re playing hard, they’re playing fast, and there are things we can coach, teach and continue to get better at with these young guys."
In other words, Fulgham should not lose playing time to Jeffery, and Reagor, when he's healthy, should not lose playing time to Jackson. Reagor is on injured reserve after having thumb surgery.
Reagor caught a 55-yard pass in the Eagles' opener against Washington, his first NFL catch. It's still the Eagles' longest reception of the season.
Sure, there will be some mistakes, like when Hightower didn't get out of bounds to stop the clock in the final minute of the first half after a short reception near the sideline. That forced the Eagles to use a timeout.
That proved costly when J.J. Arcega-Whiteside caught a deep pass at the Steelers' 12 in the middle of the field. The Eagles were out of timeouts, and the half ended before they could try a field goal.
"Yeah, a teaching moment," Pederson said about Hightower's mistake.
Speaking of Arcega-Whiteside, it's time to admit that drafting him in the second round was a mistake, too.
Arcega-Whiteside has played in 20 games in his career. He has 11 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown. Fulgham, who was cut twice in August and stuck on the Eagles' practice squad until Oct. 3, has more catches (12), yards (209) and TDs (2) ... in just two games.
Then there's tight end Zach Ertz, who's admittedly frustrated by the lack of progress on a new contract, not to mention the unfathomable lack of chemistry with quarterback Carson Wentz.
There were at least two occasions Sunday when Ertz threw up his arms at Wentz passes that sailed over his head. Wentz also missed Ertz badly on a pass that was intercepted.
Ertz, coming off three straight Pro Bowl seasons, has just 20 catches for 145 yards this season. Over the last two games, Ertz has just 5 catches for 15 yards.
Dallas Goedert, the Eagles' other tight end, is on injured reserve, leaving Ertz as the receiver opponents focus on.
"They give him a lot of respect," Pederson said.
Then he added this, which seemed rather troubling: "Something, too, I think he’s gotta look at himself, as we all do, and we gotta keep working ... We gotta find ways to get him uncovered, so we can use him a little bit more."
Ertz has always been Wentz's security blanket, to the point where one anonymous Eagle complained about it to former ESPN reporter Josina Anderson in 2018.
"It’s one of those things I’m not worried about, because as far as chemistry goes, I feel great with Ertz," Wentz said. "I think we’ve showed that over the years. That was the type of day it was (Sunday), and really last week.
"I still feel confident that he’s going to get open, he’s going to get his going forward."
There's still another veteran the Eagles can't rely on anymore: Jason Peters.
The Eagles desperately signed the future Hall of Fame left tackle in July after Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles. Peters was going to replace Brooks at right guard, a position Peters had never played before.
It seemed to be working well, until Andre Dillard, drafted in the first round in 2019 to replace Peters at left tackle, tore a biceps muscle, ending his season. Peters moved back to left tackle, but not before demanding more money, which the Eagles gave him.
Now, Peters is on IR with a toe injury, and Jordan Mailata has started in his place for his second straight game. Mailata has played reasonably well, and deserves to keep playing there when Peters returns.
The same is true at right guard where Matt Pryor is holding his own.
Sure, playing the young guys could backfire on the Eagles. Then again, what do they have to lose? They're 1-3-1, and still, incredibly, just a half-game out of first place.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.