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  • Alex Hand

27-22 Loss to Redskins Forces Eagles to Scour for Replacements

A divisional must-win game for both parties that left the Philadelphia Eagles with the same feeling that many have in the final two weeks leading up to the Holidays; there is still plenty of shopping to be done and money to be spent.

A total of eight Eagles players were sidelined by the time Kirk Cousins took the final kneel down. They limped away tattered and beaten from Sunday’s 27-22 loss against the Washington Redskins, which prompted the Monday signings of cornerback Dwayne Gratz and long snapper Rick Lovato – both New Jersey natives.

In exchange for the two additions, the franchise had placed running back Wendell Smallwood (R Knee MCL Sprain), offensive lineman Matt Tobin (L Knee Grade II MCL Sprain), and LS Jon Dorenbos (wrist) on season-ending IR.

In addition to the three immediate roster changes, there also stands some possibility for Jaylen Watkins, Darren Sproles, and Jason Peters to move onto IR. Watkins has a left ring finger tendon rupture, Sproles has entered concussion protocol, and with Lane Johnson returning from suspension after next Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, it would make sense to rest the 34-year-old left tackle who likely won’t be seeing the postseason in 2016.

Offensively, the Eagles are banged up. Defensively, they’re just bad. While the defensive line should be more than capable of getting after the quarterback, often times they do not have the luxury of having a QB hold onto the ball for very long due to a leaky secondary.

Malcolm Jenkins cannot be asked to man the nickel rotation regularly, Rodney McLeod’s weekly performance reflects the Eagles standing record, Jaylen Watkins doesn’t always speak the language of the scheme, Ron Brooks is on IR, Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll get toasted regularly, and Jalen Mills is still a rookie.

Gratz – 5’11” & 201 lbs. – might offer an alternative at nickelback or simply just at depth. The former third-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars comes with 119 tackles, three INTs, two forced fumbles, and 12 pass breakups through out his career. However, the former UConn DB has struggled mightily this season. Lovato – 6’2” & 240 lbs. – will simply allow the Eagles to cease holding mid-game long snapper tryouts on the sidelines but also allow them to run special teams without fear of botching.

During the mayhem resulting from the shoulder-to-helmet hit on Sproles, Jason Peters claims that Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson and offensive lineman Trent Williams were responsible for calming him down and letting the referees to handle the situation in order to not get ejected from the game.

Some view the plausible Jackson rehire as a desperate attempt to rejuvenate the Eagles or maybe even serve as an ‘I.O.U. / #WeAreSorry’ for the 30-year-old Californian; but the truth of the matter is that Philadelphia will likely require the work of not only Jackson, but also another free agent such as Alshon Jeffery on top of drafting one or two more receivers.

Defensive back and running back will be the two positions that the Eagles may search for solely in the draft. Rarely does the signing of a free agent CB pay off and youth is exactly what the Birds need in their running back stable given the status of Sproles, Smallwood, and the oft-injured Ryan Mathews.

Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey and Florida’s Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor could all potentially fall to the Eagles with their first-round selection. Jackson caught three balls for 102 yards and a touchdown to combine with Pierre Garcon’s 5 for 59 plus a TD and Jamison Crowder’s 2/37 yards – one of those two being a long of 33 yards.

In the tailback department, the Eagles should stockpile on one of the many stellar backs that this draft has to offer the NFL this coming season. Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey would both fit tremendously into a West Coast offense and spring life into a unit that needs to supplement its young quarterback with weapons.

Carson Wentz had a good outing against Washington, as did the tight end group. Unfortunately, not all the pieces have fully compiled for the Eagles, and now Philadelphia’s coaching staff and front office will have to spend the next four months evaluating who will be in the plans for years to come and who is getting the axe in exchange for more fruitful talent.

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