Philadelphia Eagles continue to embrace next man up mentality


The Eagles currently own the best record in the NFL, despite suffering their fair share of injuries. Here’s why their next man up mentality is a winner.

Sitting at 6-1 and the top team in the NFC, it’s easy to forget the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles have been far from a healthy team this season. The Eagles have had an abundance of players miss games throughout, in addition to losing a handful of key players to season-ending injuries.

Just seven weeks into the season, the Eagles have already been without, Lane Johnson, Rodney McLeod, Wendell Smallwood, and Fletcher Cox amongst others. While many of those guys are back now, the Eagles have suffered some blows to players who will miss the remainder of the season.

Already going into the season without second-round cornerback Sidney Jones and fifth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey, Philadelphia has since lost several more key contributors. Darren Sproles was lost against New York with a broken wrist and a torn ACL and four games later in Carolina, special teams ace Chris Maragos was also placed on IR after rupturing his ACL in the fourth quarter.

And under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, the Eagles may have suffered their two biggest blows yet. The Eagles lost both Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks to season-ending injuries. Peters with a torn ACL and MCL, and Hicks with a ruptured Achilles.

Related Story: Eagles face tough challenges ahead after losing Peters, Hicks for season

But just like the Eagles have done so often this season, they must continue to embrace the next man up mentality. Quite frankly, the team will need some of their players to step up now more than ever.

And so far, the many young players have done just that.

When Sproles went down lost for the season, it was known that the rest of the running backs would have to step up.  Smallwood was tasked with taking over a bulk Sproles’ third-down work when healthy and so far, he has done that pretty well in that role when healthy. But, when Smallwood missed some action earlier on, Corey Clement and the newly resigned Kenjon Barner had to step up and fill that void, next man up after all.

There have been so many other instances of the next man having to step up, with none bigger than in the defensive backfield. When Ronald Darby went down in the first half of the team’s first game of the season against the Washington Redskins, it seemed like the Eagles defense was going to be in for a long year. But, the tandem of Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Patrick Robinson have really stepped up and played tremendously in Darby’s absence, an absence that should end any week now.

This mentality that the Eagles running backs and secondary have embraced is essential for a winning team and is needed now more than ever. Losing two cornerstones, one on offense and one on defense is a huge hit to take. Hicks and Peters are leaders on both sides of the ball.

Hicks is not just one of the best players on defense, he’s the quarterback of the defense; the defensive signal caller who’s tasked with making sure the team is set properly on each down. Peters’ impact also cannot be understated, as he is ranked as one of the best offensive tackles in the league, and protects Wentz’s blindside on every play.

Replacing those two will be no easy task, and it will most certainly take a group effort.

In Hicks’ absence, Nigel Bradham will most likely have to move over to the mike linebacker spot. Bradham’s production is not much of an issue, but taking on that leadership role and “quarterbacking” the defense will be where Hicks’ absence may be felt the most. With Bradham moving over, Mychal Kendricks will slide into a larger role, which should fit him well as he has played very well this season.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles best bet is to keep Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle. “Big V” played fairly well in the second half in relief of the injured Peters. Having Vaiti at left tackle will allow Johnson to stay at right tackle and only effect one position on the line, as opposed to two if Johnson was to swing over to left tackle.

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Sitting at 6-1, the Eagles are in a prime position to make a deep playoff run. They just can’t let the current injury situation derail them. While losing big contributors on both sides of the ball will be a hard thing to overcome, that’s football. Doug Pederson‘s team has everything they need to continue to win, they just have to rally together and embrace the next man up mentality, especially if the Eagles wish to make a push for the promised land.