Without Carson Wentz leading the offense, the Philadelphia Eagles need their defense to shine if they want to beat the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. As a result, starting middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe’s status has been a hot topic in the City of Brotherly Love this week.
Despite being a full participant in practice on Thursday, Ellerbe is listed as questionable for Saturday’s divisional playoff game as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury. He sat out practice on Tuesday before taking part in some drills on Wednesday, so his progression is promising.
The 32-year-old veteran has bounced around between the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and now Philadelphia. The Saints placed him on IR prior to the season with a foot injury before ultimately cutting him. After recovering, Ellerbe signed with the Eagles on November 12th and started the final two games of the regular season, making a total of eight tackles.
In addition to Ellerbe, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones is listed as questionable with an ailing hamstring on the Eagles’ injury report. Jones was just activated prior to Week 17 after tearing his Achilles in a workout before the draft.
Ellerbe’s status is especially important because of the Falcons’ strong running game, driven by the two-headed monster of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Atlanta likes to use 21 personnel with a fullback and a tight end in addition to either Freeman or Coleman. Philadelphia will likely defend that package with a base 4-3 defense and Ellerbe as the middle linebacker.
The Georgia product hasn’t been with the Eagles for long, but with fellow middle linebacker Joe Walker on IR, he has quickly become an essential piece of their defense. If Ellerbe is limited or knocked out during Saturday’s game, Najee Goode will likely take over his spot, or Philadelphia could use different defensive packages that might make stopping Atlanta’s running game more difficult.