Doug Pederson was asked about linebacker Jordan Hicks and running back Darren Sproles during his Wednesday news conference. Both players have expiring contracts at the end of the season, but the answer from the Eagles’ head coach was an interesting contrast.
“I think right now we're focused on the Redskins, and I'll worry about the roster in the spring when I get to the spring,” said Pederson when asked if Hicks was a foundation piece going forward or were injuries a concern. “Jordan has been a big part of our success here. He helped us win the game last week, and he'll help us win another one Sunday.”
This was Pederson’s answer about Sproles and if the coach would like to have him back next season: “I think Darren Sproles would be a great addition. He's a great leader. He works hard. He's a great mentor to a lot of young players. I think anybody would love to have a Darren Sproles. I would.”
Hicks will likely test the free agent market, though exactly what is value will be remains to be seen. The Eagles would most likely want him back, but it may have to be on a one-year, prove-he-can-stay-healthy kind of deal. He has been able to stay healthy only one full season, and that was back in 2016, his second season in town after being a third-round pick in 2015. In that fully healthy season, he led the team with five interceptions and collected 95 tackles.
This year, he suffered a calf injury in the loss at New Orleans and missed four straight games. Hick returned last week in the 32-30 win over Houston and played 66 percent of the defensive snaps for a total of 43. He made five tackles with one pass defended against the Texans.
“He eased in,” said Pederson. “He eased in a little bit. That was the plan going into last week. It's hard to put a player -- give him a full complement right away, because it's different than training and rehab.”
Despite missing four games, Hicks is still third on the team in tackles with 86.
As for Sproles, well, it is still not a foregone conclusion that he will retire, like he said he would when the season began.
“I’m just going to take it one game at a time,” Sproles said in Sunday’s postgame locker room. “We have one more game left."
You can’t blame him for having second-thoughts, even though he will turn 36 next June.
He missed 10 games this season, but has been as big a reason for the resurgence, right up there with quarterback Nick Foles, the offensive line, and a secondary that has gotten better each week with its backups.
Sproles has been on the field for the last four games and the Eagles have won three of them. He has scored three touchdowns since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 10 straight games. He had a 37-yard catch-and-run score that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead in their win over the Houston Texans.
He had his most receiving yards (76) in a single game since Sept. 25, 2016 vs. Pittsburgh (128 yards). Sproles caught a 37-yard TD pass from Foles on fourth-and-2 that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. It was the longest receiving TD by an Eagle on fourth down since Brian Dawkins’ 57-yard TD catch on a fake punt (thrown by Brian Mitchell) on Sept. 29, 2002 vs. Houston.
“I'm not surprised, and I say that because of watching this guy day-in and day-out, whether it's been through his rehab or the way he's practiced during the week,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “This guy goes a hundred miles an hour every single day. It shows up. When you see this stuff in the game, it's not surprising because he does it during the week. So again, it's a credit to him, where he is in his career, he's been a valuable part of the Eagles organization since he's been here and quite frankly, this time of the year for us right now.”
Peters and Big V
Jason Peters managed to be on the field for just five snaps last Sunday before being removed with a quad injury. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, as he always does, stepped in. Asked how he thought Big V played, Pederson said: “I thought there were some highs and lows with Big V. He had a tough task. We know (Texans DE Jadeveon) Clowney is a tremendous football player and he's very active, and we knew that going in.
“Big V has been one of the kind of anchors for that offensive line with all the different moving parts that we've had all season, and whether he's playing left or right tackle, to come in that early in that football game, it's a credit to him, again. But there were some -- I think as the game went on, though, he did settle down and played a little bit better as the game went on.”
Pederson said he expects Peters to be available on Sunday. It could be the left tackle’s final game in an Eagles uniform.
The role receiver Mike Wallace will play won’t be known until the end of the week, Pederson said. Wallace was activated from Injured Reserve on Monday…After missing three straights games, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan played 17 snaps against the Texans and made two tackles. “He's felt good the last couple of days. We'll see (Wednesday) how he feels again, and we're optimistic that he can handle a little bit more”…Wednesday’s practice was a walkthrough as Pederson continues his late-season approach in keeping players fresh for game day by not working them too hard in the middle of the week.