It has moved beyond incredulous and is now teetering on the brink of ridiculous.
That would be the Eagles secondary situation. Not available to them when they host the New York Giants on Sunday are cornerbacks Jalen Mills (foot), Sidney Jones (hamstring), and Avonte Maddox (knee, ankle). Another cornerback, Rasul Douglas (knee, ankle), is listed as questionable. That’s on top of the Eagles already having lost for the season corner Ronald Darby and safety Rodney McLeod to knee injuries.
It’s so bad that at practice, the Eagles have had to use their second-tier wide receivers to play cornerback.
“You take some of your young wide receivers and plug them in on the (scout team on the) defensive side if they're servicing the offense and vice versa,” said head coach Doug Pederson prior to Friday’s final tune-up practice before their NFC East showdown with the Giants.
“We've had to do it with offensive and defensive linemen throughout the course of the year. It's a little challenge because sometimes you won't get the right look you need in practice, but one of the things our guys have done, and they've done well, is their willingness to go out and service and provide the look that we do need. A lot of times it's from your younger receivers.”
So say hello to your new Eagles’ secondary: Chandon Sullivan, De’Vante Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc. Household names they are not.
They have been thrown in the NFL fires, though, out of necessity. Last week, it was a bonfire for the secondary, with Drew Brees lighting them up. This week, look out for New York receivers Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram.
This isn’t exactly the secondary the Eagles had in mind when they set out to defend their Super Bowl title, but it’s what they got.
“I know they are young, but it's a great opportunity for them,” said Pederson. “We always talk about the next man, and they're the next men. They worked extremely hard this week in practice so far. It will be another great opportunity for all three of those guys really to kind of step up, really help the defense against an offense right now that's playing well. Great opportunity for those three.”
Along with the challenge of playing three players who were on the 53-man roster as little as three weeks ago, is communication. They will need to know where to line up, when to shift, and what personnel groupings they are in.
That job will fall heavily on the shoulders of veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has played in all 16 games in his previous four seasons and is on track to do so again this year – of course, the way things are going on the back end, that may a difficult task.
“They have to obviously understand that, step their game up, focus, laser focus, like we talk about, and be prepared,” said Pederson. “The challenge for some of the veteran guys back there, with Malcolm in particular, is to make sure that these guys do get lined up and they're doing the right thing.”
Said Jenkins earlier in the week: You can focus on those things that make you afraid, or you can stand up and face it. I think that’s where we are. For us to even have success or talk about a division and all that, if we don’t find guys who are ready to fight for it, it’s all for naught. Even if we’re talking about trying to win a division, that’s not going to be an easy road.
“Then if you’re talking about playing with these types of guys, these are who we’re going to have to win with. So if we can’t handle it right now, there’s not going to be a switch that we can turn on later and all of a sudden be the team that everybody expects us to be. So we gotta figure that out.”
NOTE: Also ruled out for the game against the Giants were linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf), who had played every snap this season heading ino last week’s game against New Orleans, where he got hurt late, and running back Darren Sproles (hamstring