PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Eagles reported to the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday for training camp. The first practice of the Nick Sirianni era will be on Wednesday.
With that being said, let’s take a look at four position battles to watch in training camp.READ MORE: Man Shot At Least 8 Times In Strawberry Mansion Left In Critical Condition, Police Say
Will the Eagles find their LT of the future?
The Eagles finally moved on from Peters, the future Hall of Fame left tackle who’s been on the team since they acquired him in a trade with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
As a result, the Eagles’ biggest training camp position is the spot Peters held for more than a decade.
Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard will go head-to-head to see who can protect quarterback Jalen Hurts’ blindside.
Mailata, the former professional rugby player and Australian native, started 10 games last season. He was one of the few bright spots in the Eagles’ embarrassing 2020 season.
Mailata didn’t have any football experience when he was selected by the Eagles in the seventh round in the 2018 draft, so his upside is sky-high. At 6 foot 8, 346 pounds, he’s the biggest offensive lineman on the team and could develop into the long-term solution at left tackle, which would be an absolute steal for the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Dillard really hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status. The Eagles originally traded up to pick Dillard in the first round of the 2019 draft to become Peters’ replacement, but it hasn’t gone that way.
Dillard started four games in his rookie season, however, he suffered a biceps injury in training camp that made him miss all of last season as Mailata emerged in his place.
Regardless, the Eagles will find their starting left tackle, but it might not be the player they intended it to be a couple of years ago.
Young WRs have a ton of potential
The Eagles’ top three spots at the wide receiver depth chart are most likely locked in.
Rookie Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham will headline the group, and the trio has a ton of potential, especially if Reagor and Fulgham can be more consistent.
Smith’s presence should help a lot as well. The Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet, but his teammates raved about him earlier this year during the team’s offseason program.
After Smith, Reagor and Fulgham, the Eagles will have some tough decisions to make.
Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower and Quez Watkins will compete for the last couple of spots.
Ward has been consistent since he got an opportunity in 2019. He’s a former quarterback and has a knack for finding the open spot in the defense.
This camp might be Arcega-Whiteside’s last chance to make an impact. The former second-round pick out of Stanford has been a huge disappointment. With a new coaching staff, Arcega-Whiteside might find himself being cut if he doesn’t impress in camp.
Hightower and Watkins fit the same mold of receiver — fast deep threats who can take the top off the defense. Hightower got a lot of opportunities early last year, but he struggled with drops. Watkins showed flashes of his 4.35 speed late last season and that could potentially translate to this upcoming year.
Sirianni, a former wideouts coach, is known for getting the most of his group on the outside, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to make an impact on the young group of wideouts.
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Miles Sanders is locked into the No. 1 running back spot, but after that, it’s an open competition amongst a group of veterans and younger players.
Kenneth Gainwell Jr., Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, will compete for the remaining spots on the running back depth chart behind Sanders. Jason Huntley, Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins Jr. are also in the mix for a potential roster spot, but they’ll most likely be on the bubble or end up being practice squad players.
The Eagles selected Gainwell in the fifth round out of Memphis. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said he was a “steal.” Gainwell is a great receiver out of the backfield, which could lead to him playing the Nyheim Hines role with the Eagles. Sirianni helped Hines haul in 63 catches for 482 yards last season with Indianapolis. He’ll probably be on the team’s 53-man roster Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson and Howard will most likely compete with each other if the Eagles decide to keep a tailback with a physical running style.
Johnson was claimed off waivers by the Eagles in May after he was released by the Detroit Lions. The 2018 second-round pick out of Auburn had a successful rookie season, but he’s dealt with injuries since that have hampered his career. If healthy, Johnson could add some much-needed depth to the Eagles’ backfield.
Howard had a good run with the Eagles in 2019 until he got hurt, which led to Sanders’ emergence late in the year. He re-joined the Eagles last season after he was released by the Miami Dolphins, but he wasn’t able to replicate his first year in Philadelphia.
Scott has played well since the 2019 season, however, he might not find himself on the roster after training camp. With the Eagles drafting Gainwell and bringing in Johnson, they know they need an upgrade at backup running back. Scott might find himself on the practice squad, or another team’s roster if he gets cut at the end of camp.
Did the Eagles find a starting LB in 2020?
The Eagles’ linebacking corps is one of the weakest position groups on the team. The squad is filled with one established veteran and a mix of young players.
Who’s the established veteran? That would be Eric Wilson, who the Eagles signed to a one-year contract. He had 122 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions last year for the Vikings.
Behind Wilson, it’ll be a competition amongst Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Genard Avery. Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley and JaCoby Stevens.
Fun player heading to Philly in Jacoby Stevens… Announced as LB
6’1 212 4.58
10’10 Broad https://t.co/5Q1QvyPsw7
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 1, 2021
It remains to be seen what defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme will look like, but he comes from the Mike Zimmer tree, so it’ll most likely be a 4-3 scheme with his own twist on it.
Singleton and Edwards will probably fill in the other two startling linebacker spots behind Wilson. Singleton was another bright spot in the Eagles’ putrid 2020 season. The former Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Candian Football League recorded 120 tackles last year, which ranked 14th in the league.
Avery is making the switch from defensive end to linebacker. Since the Eagles acquired him for a 2021 fourth-round pick in 2019, he hasn’t been able to find a role in the team’s defense. Maybe a change will help him out, it’ll be a story to watch throughout camp.
Taylor and Bradley were both dealt difficult hands last season due to the way the COVID-19 pandemic made all of the offseason programs go virtual until training camp. Neither is a lock to make the roster, but they’ll both be given opportunities this camp under the new coaching staff to show what they got.
Stevens is an interesting name to keep an eye on throughout camp. The Eagles selected him out of LSU in the sixth round earlier this year.
Stevens lined up everywhere on the field for the Tigers. He has the potential to be a weapon that Gannon moves around his defense to cater to the opposing team’s personnel.MORE NEWS: Montgomery County Department Of Public Safety Is Hiring
At LSU, Stevens wore the No. 7 jersey, which is given to one of the team’s best players and leaders. He had 63 tackles and three sacks in his senior season for the Tigers.