The Eagles start their OTA program and there is plenty to be excited about. This is set to be one of the most exciting offseasons in recent memory for the birds and with so much to be watching out for, it’s easy to lose track of some important storylines. Here are the five things you need to be keeping an eye on as OTA’s progress.
5: A new era at Linebacker
The recent change in Defensive system has certainly turned a few heads and there’s rightfully a lot of optimism in the air. But with Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham moving to Defensive End, the Linebacker position is down to bare bones..or is it?
Of the eight Linebackers on the roster, only four played for the Eagles in 2015. A strong draft and the signing of free agent Nigel Bradham bolstered the unit, but competition will be ripe. Will undrafted free agent Myke Tavarres outshine guys like Najee Goode? Could seventh round pick Joe Walker throw the cat amongst the “Ducks”? The Eagles have signed an abundance of players who scream low-risk, high-reward.
When it comes to Linebacker, the birds need to establish a strong core to build upon and for players like Quentin Gause, this is the perfect opportunity to make an impact and really build a case to make the final 53-man roster.
4: Wide receiver warfare
Beneath Jordan Matthews and Reuben Randle, it’s a free-for-all when it comes to earning spots on the roster. From an underperforming Josh Huff to the undrafted Cayleb Jones, the Eagles currently have 12 wide receivers on the roster. There will be plenty of players approaching OTA’s with a chip on their shoulder and with so much uncertainty over the position, competition for roster spots will be fierce. The Eagles have been very meticulous with the way they have built this roster and Pederson will be paying very close attention to every receiver over the next few weeks.We can almost certainly expect a few surprises come training camp, but for the players..it all starts tomorrow.
3: Cornerback conundrum
Much like the WR position, the Eagles are inundated with defensive backs. Eric Rowe will likely take the reigns as Ron Brooks, Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll also cement starting positions..but the Eagles have plenty of wildcards who will be vying to show Jim Schwartz that they have the skills to earn a spot in his system.
Regarded as a steal in last year’s Draft, JaCorey Shepherd will take to the field in an attempt to make up for lost time following an ACL injury in preparation for the 2015 season. Denzel Rice and Randall Evans had minimal opportunities to show their abilities in 2015, but will look forward to proving even more people wrong as the competition levels are even higher than last year.
Then of course you have players like Jalen Mills who despite being drafted as a versatile back in the seventh round, expects to practice as a corner. It’s perhaps the position that boasts the most competition of all for the Eagles and is guaranteed to be one of the most exciting storylines to watch unfold.
2: Back to basics backfield
By passing on Ezekiel Elliott, the Eagles asserted that their backfield would be a dynamic and versatile committee as opposed to a backfield that focuses on one lead back. The question is, where do we go from here? With the injury history of Mathews and the aging Darren Sproles, the Eagles added Wendell Smallwood and the versatile Byron Marshall over the duration of the Draft. But how will the backfield shape up?
The birds also waived a fullback not too long ago to make room for UDFA’s and whilst many expect Tight End Trey Burton to be competing as a fullback this season, he could have a much bigger impact as a wide receiver. (Article on that here.)
Pederson seemed intent on bringing a fullback to the Eagles and with so many possibilities and ideas swirling around, keeping an eye on the developing backfield will be very fun to watch.
1: Quarterback reps
The QB position has been one of heavy focus for the Eagles and that’s not likely to change over the course of the coming weeks. Sam Bradford’s holdout is now over and Carson Wentz is officially the team’s project Quarterback after signing his rookie deal, but how will the team distribute the reps?
It remains to be seen whether Bradford will face any repercussions for his actions, but the Eagles need to tread carefully to avoid setting off a ticking time bomb. It’s more than likely that Bradford will take the majority of first team reps, but what about Chase Daniel?
If Daniel is demoted below Wentz in terms of reps, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Developing Wentz is a priority, but you have two Quarterbacks on the depth chart who barring an injury will dress before him. So the question becomes, how much focus do you place on the future as opposed to the here-and-now?
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