By Kevin McGuire
Two members of the Philadelphia Eagles defense are listed as questionable for Saturday afternoon’s NFC Divisional Round playoff matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Starting middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has taken over the role for Joe Walker due to a season-ending injury, is officially listed as questionable for the Eagles this weekend. His potential absence could become a serious concern for the Eagles against the Falcons offense if he is not available on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The good news is Ellerbe may be expected to play. He was limited in practice on Wednesday due to a hamstring but was able to go through a full practice on Thursday as the Eagles prepared for their matchup this weekend. Going through a full practice two days before the game seems promising for Ellerbe’s chances to play Saturday, and the Eagles may need him. If Ellerbe is unable to play, the Eagles will run thin at linebacker and will have to shift some players around. In that case, outside linebackers Najee Goode or Kamu Grugler-Hill could get some playing time in the middle.
The only other Eagles player listed as questionable is rookie cornerback Sidney Jones. Jones was finally activated for the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered prior to the NFL Draft. Unlike Ellerbe though, Jones is more in question for Saturday after being limited in practice all week. It makes sense the Eagles would be extra careful with their second-round draft pick considering he was already coming off a serious injury. A hamstring injury may not be catastrophic for Jones, but there is no reason to risk hurting Jones any further this season if it can be avoided. If the Eagles happen to win this weekend, Jones could be in better shape for the NFC Championship Game. Otherwise, all eyes will be focused on getting Jones in full health for the offseason workouts and minicamps leading up to training camp over the summer.
The Eagles are pretty set in the secondary even without Jones, and his possible absence is likely more to be a depth issue than anything else given his limited playing time. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are in good shape and not expected to miss any playing time, although Mills is listed with an ankle injury despite putting in full practices. The second string cornerbacks, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas, are also not listed on the injury report. Defensive end Brandon Graham has practiced through an ankle injury and should be expected to be fine for Saturday.
Running back Jay Ajayi (knee) should have no problem playing in the game after putting in full practices this week. The combination of Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount should be a big feature of the Eagles’ offense this week. Offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai continues to be fully available despite a mild knee concern.
- LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring)
- CB Sidney Jones (hamstring)
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer and college football editor for The Comeback and host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow McGuire on Twitter and like him on Facebook.