PHILADELPHIA − Much of the Eagles’ attention is on Jalen Hurts’ return Sunday against the Giants in a crucial season-finale.
Hurts made it official by walking into Lincoln Financial Field wearing a Michael Jordan T-shirt when he unretired from the Bulls, with the words “I’m Back!” on the bottom.
But he’s not the only key player coming back from injury.
The Eagles activated safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and defensive end Robert Quinn off injured reserve Saturday, giving the Eagles a much-needed boost on defense.
Gardner-Johnson has missed the last five games after suffering a lacerated kidney on Dec. 4 against Tennessee. Despite missing so much time, Gardner-Johnson is still tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 6. The Eagles acquired Quinn before the trade deadline.
The question is where will Gardner-Johnson play because nickel corner Avonte Maddox is missing his second straight game with a toe injury. Gardner-Johnson played nickel for the previous three seasons with New Orleans. If he plays there, then Reed Blankenship will play safety next to Marcus Epps.
If Gardner-Johnson goes back to safety, where he has played for the Eagles, then Josiah Scott will play nickel. It’s also possible that Gardner-Johnson will play both positions − safety in base defense before switching to nickel on passing downs.
Quinn, meanwhile, played in five games since the Eagles acquired him before going on IR with a knee injury. Quinn hasn’t had any sacks since coming to the Eagles. But his return is needed because it coincides with Josh Sweat’s neck injury suffered last Sunday against the Saints.
Sweat, who has 11 sacks, was ruled out for the game.
Hurts is returning despite being listed as questionable on the injury report all week.
The Eagles are starting all of their regulars because they have to win the game in order to lock up the NFC East title and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with the first-round bye that goes with it.
A loss, coupled with a Cowboys win over the Commanders, makes the Eagles a wildcard team. They don’t want to be a wildcard team.
Record for A.J. Brown
It only took one play for A.J. Brown to set the Eagles’ franchise record for receiving yards in a season. Brown came into the game with 1,401 yards, 8 short of Mike Quick’s record set in 1983. On the first play, Hurts threw a slant to Brown, who turned that into a 35-yard gain.
This is Brown’s first season with the Eagles.
Eagles, Giants inactives has many starters
Eagles starters among those not on the game-day roster include RT Lane Johnson (groin), CB Avonte Maddox (toe) and DE Josh Sweat (neck), all sitting out with injuries. The other inactives are QB Ian Book and RB Trey Sermon.
For the Giants, they took 6 starters off the game-day roster in S Julian Love, CB Adoree’ Jackson, RB Saquon Barkley OLB Azeez Ojulari, OT Andrew Thomas, DL Dexter Lawrence and DL Leonard Williams.
QB Daniel Jones is on the Giants’ game-day roster, but he’s not expected to play. The Giants gave the practice-squad elevation to QB Davis Webb, who’s reportedly starting ahead of backup Tyrod Taylor. Webb has never thrown a pass in an NFL game dating back to 2017 when the Giants drafted him in the third round.
Webb has gotten into 1 game in his career, rushing 2 times for minus-3 yards while with Buffalo last season.
The Giants are more interested in coming out of this game healthy. After all, they’re locked into the No. 6 seed no matter what happens against the Eagles.
In other moves, the Eagles also signed P Brett Kern to the 53-man roster because he was out of practice squad elevations. To make room for Kern, Gardner-Johnson and Quinn, the Eagles placed LB Shaun Bradley (wrist) and DE Janarius Robinson (ankle) on IR. They waived G Sua Opeta on Friday.
Eagles have a top-10 draft pick
New Orleans’ loss to Carolina on Sunday means that the Eagles will pick No. 10 in the first round. The Eagles made a trade with the Saints last April where, in essence, the Eagles sent 2 first-round picks to New Orleans (No. 16 and No. 19) in return for the Saints’ first-rounder (No. 18) plus a first-rounder in 2023 and a second-rounder in 2024.
The Saints went 7-10 this season.
3 things I’m watching
- All about Hurts: The most intriguing thing about Hurts’ return is how the Eagles will use him. It’s safe to assume that he won’t run the ball 17 times like he did in his last game. But he will have to run somewhat. So can his shoulder take a hit? And can he throw deep and with the same accuracy?
- A.J. Brown’s record: Brown needs just 9 yards to become the Eagles’ single-season receiving leader, surpassing Mike Quick, who had 1,409 yards in 1983. That should be easy enough with a quick slant on the first play of the game.
- Sack record: The Eagles need 5 sacks to surpass the Bears’ 1984 record for sacks in a season with 72. Sure, the Eagles are playing a 17th game, which was added in 2021. But that shouldn’t cheapen the record at all. Not when QBs are much more mobile now than they were back then. The Eagles have had at least 6 sacks in each of the last five games, the first NFL team to accomplish that.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Live analysis: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts is back, A.J. Brown gets record, Giants use practice QB