Eagles patching together an offensive line
JASON KELCE said Thursday he's tried to help Evan Mathis with "little technique things here or there - assignment things in certain situations."
If you're keeping score at home, Kelce began the season as the Eagles' center, a pretty good one, at that. He tore an ACL in the second game. His replacement was Dallas Reynolds, who sprained his ankle Monday night against Carolina. So, left guard Mathis, the emergency center, is expected to start at Dallas Sunday night.
It's not often you get down to your third-line center, but that's where the Eagles are. (I made a joke about winning faceoffs and killing penalties; Mathis didn't get it. Danny Watkins would have laughed, but he's almost never at his locker when reporters are around.)
Mathis said he thinks it would have been a lot harder to be thrown into the center spot during a game, instead of after getting a week of practice. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg lauded Reynolds' toughness for getting through the Carolina game, but Mornhinweg acknowledged he doesn't expect to have Reynolds in Dallas.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable with each day," Mathis said after practice. "Each practice, each snap."
Mornhinweg said Mathis is "a sharp man," and added, "We've had several blitz meetings already, and he's got it down."
Mathis had practiced at center off and on in his pro career and has played the position in preseason games, never in the regular season.
So, the o-line, which seemed to finally be stabilizing a bit against Carolina, gets scrambled again. Watkins, the 2011 first-round pick who lost his right guard spot to Jake Scott, kind of because of an ankle injury and kind of because Scott is a competent veteran who understands the position better, now is the left guard. Mornhinweg said Thursday that Watkins is "real close to being there" in terms of complete healing.
The Eagles also could have kept Mathis at left guard and played Matt Tennant at center. The plus there would have been that, unlike Mathis, Tennant is primarily a center. The minus would have been that Tennant, picked up by the Eagles Oct. 23 after being cut by the Patriots and the Saints, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2010, has never started an NFL game.
The big thing Nick Foles has not been able to do in his two starts has been to get the ball deep. Foles threw for only 119 yards against Carolina. Now, he goes to Dallas without the Eagles' top deep threat, DeSean Jackson, out for the season with rib and chest fractures.
Asked whether not having to worry about Jackson might cause the Cowboys to play the Eagles differently, Marty Mornhinweg said: "Absolutely. No question about it."
Mornhinweg also said he thinks Foles can get the ball deep, regardless. It hasn't seemed to be a matter of arm strength, but more one of timing with receivers and comfort with the speed of the game.
"Nick is a very good deep ball thrower . . . so I'd expect us to be able to schematically drive the ball down the field just a little bit more than it appears we've been doing," Mornhinweg said.
The Eagles ended Thursday with only 51 players on their roster, following the release of Jason Babin and the placing of DeSean Jackson on injured reserve. In fact, they spent the last 2 days at 51, which is unusual. This might portend that they intend only to promote a couple of guys from their practice squad for the trip to Dallas - since practice-squad players practice with the team all week anyway. Nobody added from outside could be ready to play by Sunday.
Head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder is scheduled to update reporters Friday on the progress of concussion victims Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. The Eagles said Vick did not pass the imPACT test he took Wednesday. McCoy apparently remains at a very early level of the recovery progress. The Eagles denied a report that Vick has symptoms and that they are worsening . . . Jason Babin is wearing No. 58 in Jacksonville, which, of course, is the number of his hunting buddy, Trent Cole. Babin was at Cole's house when he got the news he'd been released by the Eagles . . . Fletcher Cox (tailbone bruise) intended to practice at least partially Thursday, but was called away by a death in the family, the Eagles said . . . Marty Mornhinweg was asked about motivating a 3-8, injury-ravaged offensive unit. Mornhinweg said playing a spoiler role "can be very rewarding."