Wentz back, Eagles aim for return of other top skill players

By Rob Maaddi - AP Pro Football Writer
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PHILADELPHIA — Even with Carson Wentz back, the Philadelphia Eagles are far from complete.

Three of the team’s top skill position players weren’t on the field for Sunday’s 20-16 win over Indianapolis but could be nearing a return.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are getting closer to rejoining the offense after missing a combined six games.

It’s still too early to know their status for this week’s game at Tennessee (2-1).

“Sometimes it feels like you don’t know the identity maybe of your offense (without) those guys,” coach Doug Pederson said.

“You kind of have hopes and you kind of say, ‘OK, this is what we think we have.’ Individually we kind of know these guys, but collectively as a unit, I think you’re still working through the month of September trying to figure out your identity a little bit offensively.”

Jeffery hasn’t played since offseason shoulder surgery. He had 57 catches for 789 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns last season.

“We’ll get him in the mix a little more this week and see where he’s at health-wise,” Pederson said Monday.

Sproles missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury and Ajayi sat out one game with a back issue.

“They’re both day to day right now,” Pederson said. “I would expect, barring any setbacks, that they would both be available (for practice).”

The Eagles (2-1) still had their best rushing game without Ajayi and Sproles. Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and rookie Josh Adams had a total of 142 yards on 32 carries against the Colts.

“Got to have guys like that,” Pederson said. “Might be role players, but their role is pretty big in games when your two top guys are down in the backfield.”

Missing Jeffery has hurt the team’s passing attack. Mike Wallace also went down in Week 2 and Mack Hollins began the season on IR. Pederson used two and three tight ends in more offensive sets and Wentz completed only six passes to receivers in his first game back since last December.

Nelson Agholor had four catches for 24 yards and Jordan Matthews had two receptions for 21 yards in his return to the Eagles.

“Defense and special teams kind of carry the load early in the season and offense kind of plays catch-up a little bit,” Pederson said.

“When the offense catches its stride, then you got a good thing going. The other thing is it’s a long season. We find ways to win these games early, makes a big difference down the stretch when you start getting the guys back.”

Notes

Safety Rodney McLeod is still being evaluated after injuring his knee. Pederson expects to update his status on Thursday.

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By Rob Maaddi

AP Pro Football Writer