The Eagles will get a key piece to their defensive line back this week, as the team added Tim Jernigan to the 53-man roster on Tuesday afternoon.
Jernigan was on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list since the beginning of the season. He has been practicing with the Eagles for the past two weeks. To make room for him, the team released defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. The Eagles also added two players to their practice squad – center Anthony Fabiano and cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon.
Jernigan and Fletcher Cox provided a dynamic 1-2 punch last season in clogging up running lanes. Jernigan’s presence also allowed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to utilize a rotation up front, something he hasn’t been able to do this season. The result has been a significant increase in Cox’s snap count this year.
The absence of Jernigan isn’t the only reason for Cox’s workload going up. The Eagles haven’t really found someone as reliable as Beau Allen, either. Allen left in free agency.
The Eagles brought in 34-year-old Haloti Ngata to help take Allen’s place, but the defensive line rotation never was able to replace Jernigan. Destiny Vaeao tried, but he got hurt and was placed on Injured Reserve. His last game was against the Giants on Oct. 11.
Without Jernigan, the Eagles have been through a hodgepodge of defensive tackles opposite Cox.
McGill played 30 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, and now he is back on the street where he was until Nov. 6 when the Eagles signed him.
Ngata, who has struggled to stay healthy, and hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was earlier in his career, played 33 snaps and Trevon Hester was on the field for 23 snaps.
Addressing Hicks’ potential absence
With linebacker Jordan Hicks week to week, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday that Nigel Bradham’s role will likely be a similar one to last year when Hicks was lost for the season midway through the year.
“Yeah, you'll probably see him in some similar roles,” said Schwartz. “If (Hicks) is not able to go, we'll sort of cover it up with a couple different guys probably similar to what we did in the opener. Nate Gerry is a guy that we trust; has played some good football for us, particularly in the opener. He’s had some challenges with injuries and stuff like that, but he's back. Probably get him a role.
“Kamu (Grugier-Hill), La Roy (Reynolds). We have a lot of different guys that filled roles when Nigel was out in the opener and we're going to need them.”
There was certainly plenty not to like about that ugly loss on the Bayou. Schwartz singled out his defense’s inability to stop the run as his biggest disappointment.
“We knew we would have challenges in coverage, we knew it was tough to get turnovers, we knew it was tough to get sacks, but we put ourselves, scheme-wise, in position to stop the run, and we didn't get that done for a second week in a row,” he said. “I think that's the most disappointing thing that came out of it.”
The Eagles’ offensive numbers are down across the board form a season ago, from points scored to red zone and third down efficiencies. Heck, last year they looked like the offensive juggernauts that the Rams and Saints are.
“We haven't gotten the production we want,” said offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Tuesday. “Everybody has talked about it. It's documented. We haven't got off to the starts that we want in the games and we haven't been as efficient in the red zone as we were. Everybody compares us to last year. Every season is new. Every team is different. Right now, we all know that we have to do better. If the season is going to turn around, then we got to get these things fixed.”