The Eagles are in jeopardy of missing tight end Zach Ertz and cornerback Leodis McKelvin for the Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears - and potentially longer.
Ertz suffered a displacement of the first rib in his left shoulder in Sunday's 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, an injury that could keep the standout tight end out for an extended period. McKelvin strained his left hamstring. Coach Doug Pederson classified both players as "week-to-week," which he admitted is more pessimistic than the usual day-to-day answer he gives for relatively minor injuries.
As exciting as the season-opening victory was for the franchise, the injuries force the coaching staff and personnel department to look closely at the roster in the coming days to prepare for potential absences. The Eagles are considering their options at tight end and cornerback before they return to practice on Thursday.
The injury to Ertz is a setback after the 25-year-old tight end caught six passes for 58 yards in his season debut. Ertz, who signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension with the Eagles during the offseason, is a key target for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
Ertz did not fracture any ribs, according to Pederson. But the first rib, which is near the collarbone, displaced itself under the collarbone. It's an injury without much precedent in the NFL - at least when it's not a part of a bigger injury, such as broken ribs.
The injury occurred early in the first quarter when Ertz caught the ball on a crossing pattern and dropped his left shoulder when absorbing a hit along the sideline. He met with the training staff after the series, and they initially diagnosed him with a shoulder strain.
Ertz stayed in the game and played the final three quarters, making big plays that included a critical fourth-down catch in the third quarter to extend a drive. No one knew the injury was more serious until further tests on the area revealed the rib displacement. Even though Ertz played through the injury during the game, he would need medical clearance before he can play again.
"It's a dangerous situation with a displaced bone," Pederson said. "You are talking up around the neck and head area, so any type of blow again could do further damage to that. That's why it's a week-to-week deal to see how it heals and recovers."
Tight end was considered a strength of the Eagles this season with Ertz, veteran Brent Celek, and third-year tight end Trey Burton. Burton missed Sunday's game with a strained calf. Pederson expects Burton to practice this week and play Monday, and Burton could be in line for a bigger role after Ertz's injury. Celek who played 49 percent of the snaps in Week 1 but would become the top tight end without Ertz.
Cornerback is not a position of strength for the Eagles, and now the depth will be tested with McKelvin's status in question. McKelvin, a starter, exited in the second half Sunday and was replaced by seventh-round pick Jalen Mills. After the Eagles traded Eric Rowe last week, they were left with only four cornerbacks: McKelvin, Mills, Nolan Carroll, and Ron Brooks. Pederson mentioned practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, who was on the initial 53-man roster, as a candidate to be promoted to the active roster.
If McKelvin is out, Mills would take on a larger role. A player who had injury and off-field issues at LSU, Mills impressed the Eagles throughout the summer. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said last week that Mills' emergence made Rowe expendable. Mills played 12 defensive snaps Sunday and finished with two tackles.
"I thought he played well, coming in there and filling in for Leo," Pederson said. "There's a good chance that he gets more work obviously this week. Very comfortable with what he has done so far through training camp. Again, he's another one of those young players that we have that will just get better with more reps."
The Eagles will not practice the next two days. They will have three days of work before flying to Chicago on Sunday. The Eagles' bye week is in Week 4, so there could be time to heal if injuries linger.