With Drew Brees and the high-flying New Orleans Saints on deck this Sunday, and the equally high-soaring Los Angeles Rams waiting in the wings later this season, the Eagles will have to make do without cornerback Ronald Darby, who tore an ACL late in Sunday night’s 27-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Head coach Doug Pederson revealed the news during his Monday news conference.
The Eagles were already without cornerbacks Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Jalen Mills (foot) against Dallas. When Darby went down midway through the third quarter, the Eagles turned to undrafted rookie Chandon Sullivan.
Sullivan had to play 19 significant defensive snaps (28 percent) against the Cowboys, who scored touchdowns on two straight fourth-quarter possessions, and may be called on for more against the Saints if neither Mills nor Jones are healthy in time.
Jones has missed three straight games.
“Sidney is coming along,” said Pederson. “We're going to get him a little bit of work this week, see where he's at. Obviously, he's close, so we'll see as the week goes on. So, I would say he's day-to-day. Jalen’s probably a little further away.”
With all the injuries in the secondary, Pederson jokingly asked one reporter if he had any eligibility left.
“It's hard because you're asking players that maybe don't get a lot of practice time during the week to come and play,” said Pederson. “They're on the look teams. Maybe they're giving a look to the offense or whatever it is. Next thing you know, they're having to play.
“We've just got to continue to coach those guys up just like we do everybody, and make sure now moving forward that they're ready. I thought Chandon Sullivan stepped in and did some nice things out there, and it's going to be the same again this week with those guys.”
The Eagles may fill Darby’s spot on the roster with De’Vante Bausby, who is on the practice squad. Bausby played in four games with the Chicago Bears in 2016.
“Bausby's been a bright spot,” said Pederson. “We had him in camp, and brought him back again. Again, just got to get caught up, terminology and all that if need to be, yeah, it's another possibility.”
Still, Darby’s injury is the latest blow to a team that has been ravaged by injury. Last year, the Eagles overcame them all, and there were many, to win a Super Bowl.
This year, is a completely different story.
The Eagles have had several players go down for the season with injury, including safety Rodney McLeod, defensive end Derek Barnett, and running back Jay Ajayi. On Injured Reserve are receivers Mike Wallace, who played one game this year, Mack Hollins and tight end Richard Rodgers. Neither Hollins nor Rodgers have played this season.
Nor have defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and safety/special teams standout Chris Maragos. Additionally, veteran running back has been unable to heal from a hamstring injury suffered on Sept. 6 and hasn’t played since and right tackle Lane Johnson has a strained MCL and did not play against Dallas, though Pederson said Johnson was close to playing against the Cowboys.
“I think the extra rest for him is really going to help going forward, and hopefully we'll get him back this week,” said Pederson.
Certainly the Eagles will need all the help they can get to end the Saints’ eight-game winning streak.