Five bold predictions for Eagles Training camp

Training Camp is just a week away for the Philadelphia Eagles and it promises to be one of the most important in recent years. With position battles emerging all over the roster, there’s plenty of room for shocks, pleasant surprises and who knows..maybe a few underdog stories that find new chapters. Here are five bold predictions ahead of Training Camp.

Trey Burton to move to Wide receiver:
I’ve been behind this since before OTA’s and Minicamp and now Training camp is just around the corner, my faith is stronger than ever. After breaking down in detail why I think the move is a no-brainer, I was excited. But the more I study Pederson’s play-calling last season, the more I can see Burton flourishing as a big-body wide-receiver.

Especially in plays like these. Notice how the success of this screen pass is fully dependent on two wide-receivers blocking and making a small hole for Maclin to charge through. It’s a role that would fit the versatile Trey Burton perfectly. Then, there’s the physical side of things. How does Burton compare to the Chiefs receivers Pederson had success with in 2015?

It’s safe to say that Burton would fit in perfectly. Not only that, but during OTA’s and Minicamp, Burton began to take reps on the outside..and impressed too.

Tight end is a tricky position to be listed third on the depth chart in Philadelphia. With Celek and Ertz signing huge extensions during the offseason, the rotation doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon..especially considering how dangerous Zach Ertz has become. Burton played outside during his time as a Florida Gator and with a WR corps begging for consistency and a safe pair of hands..Burton could see himself lining up as a wide receiver in pre-season if he continues to take reps on the outside in training camp and makes the most of them.

 

The emergence of Kenjon Barner:
The Eagles backfield situation is an interesting one. On paper, they have a back who averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2015 and scored 6 touchdowns, a dangerous veteran in Darren Sproles, and a rookie in Wendell Smallwood…oh, and Kenjon Barner.

While Sproles was away from OTA’s and Mathews missed time with illness, it was Kenjon Barner who inherited the majority of snaps ahead of Smallwood in a situation that could prove invaluable as the team head into Training Camp. If Barner can continue to carry the momentum created in offseason workouts into Training Camp and is as bulked up as reports suggest, there’s no reason why he can’t climb up he depth chart.

The running style of Mathews can be likened to Charcandrick West who was a very important piece to the success of the Chiefs backfield last year. Spencer Ware’s more downhill style very closely resembles Kenjon Barner..but with Mathews unable to escape the cloud of looming injury concerns, we could see a more balanced offense than you might think.

Spencer Ware seemed to be utilized on third down and when decisively running up the gut for a big gain..Mathews is the more elusive, outside back who thrives in one-on-one situations. The Eagles would be smart to keep Mathews fresh, especially with a bye-week coming in week 3..which could lead to the more reliable Kenjon Barner leading the charge, leaving Sproles a lighter workload and Mathews more explosiveness on less carries.

Training Camp could well decide how the backfield looks heading into week one, or at least paint a picture of what we can expect to see in pre-season where the real battle could happen. Barner looked very strong during the offseason and has quietly been the player making big waves under the radar during the Chip Kelly era. A strong training camp could really assert himself in the race to become the lead rusher for the Eagles heading into the Pederson era.

 

Denzel Rice to shine:
The cornerback battle is among the most exciting on the roster without a doubt. Eleven defensive backs are set to fight it out over what could be as little as 5/6 roster spots.

Rice was undrafted rookie last year who made the Eagles practice squad before being called up to the main roster when the birds encountered an injury crisis. Rice began to turn heads in 2015 and continued that trend into his second year. Rice intercepted a Carson Wentz pass and forced two fumbles during one OTA session. He may be from the small school of Coastal Carolina, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked. Rice has been clawing at a roster spot and is one of my favorite underdogs to make the final roster.

Training camp acted as a proving ground for Rice last year and it will do so once again this year. The difference is that he’s now competing for roster spots in a defensive system that craves aggression. Rice will need to prove he can be every bit as physical as guys like Blake Countess, Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd if he is to have a shot at making the final 53..and Training camp is his opportunity to take center stage and audition in what could be one of the most important Summer’s of his career..keep your eye on Rice as Training camp progresses, he may just spring a surprise or two.

 

Ruthless aggression:
If there’s one thing the Schwartz Defense demands, it’s aggression..and if there’s one quality Bryan Braman has in abundance, it’s aggression.

Out of 443 snaps last season, just 15 were on Defense. This is largely due to his dominant Special Teams role, but when you look at what he’s done in those 15 snaps, it’s clear to see just how valuable Braman can be. Six tackles, a sack on Drew Brees and a fumble recovery. In comparison, Marcus Smith had 7 tackles in 127 Defensive snaps.

Braman enters 2016 as a Defensive end behind the likes of Barwin, Curry and Graham..but we know how tenacious he can be. From the no helmet tackle as a Texan to some of the absolute dominance he’s displayed during his time on Special Teams, this could finally be the season Braman breaks out.

The Eagles need explosiveness at Defensive end..and with a bye week coming after just three games, depth may become thin as the season progresses. If it does, there’s one man I would want to see setting the edge and rushing the quarterback. Bryan Braman. For that to happen however, he’s going to need to do more than just turn heads next week.

Depth may be thin at DE, but it’s talented. There’s no guarantee Barwin is going to bounce back after a difficult year and there’s no real guarantee Marcus Smith makes the roster..but Braman has always been that gnarly underdog. This system just seems like a perfect fit for the ruthless pass rusher and if Braman can enter next week with the same intensity he’s showed the world time and time again..people could finally start to see what he could bring to the table while others in more favorable positions struggle to adapt to a fast and physical Defense. Expect some big hits when the pads are on and plays to be made all over the field..this is going to be a big, big Camp for Bryan Braman.

 

Byron Marshall to burst onto the scene:
With so much focus being placed on the shoulders of the Eagles running backs and wide receivers, we seem to be overlooking a man who can do both. Byron Marshall was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Eagles earlier this year after a stunning campaign for the Oregon Ducks that saw him become the ONLY player in Pac-12 history to rush for 1,000 yards and then receive for 1,000 in the following season.

At 5’10, 210 pounds, the explosive hybrid player was almost certain to turn heads in 2015 had his season cut short during a game against Utah.

He bounced back in time for the Combine..but was limited to the bench press and nothing else..further lowering his stock. At Oregon’s Pro-Day however, Marshall exploded back onto the scene..posting the best time in the 40-yard dash (4.57) and impressing in each of the drills.

Unfortunately, fans quickly forgot about Marshall because he wasn’t able to attend OTA’s or Mandatory Minicamp through no fault of his own..but they’re about to be reminded of Marshall very, very soon.

His versatility needs no explanation and it’s easily Marshall’s greatest asset..for two reasons. One, for what it can do for Marshall on the field and two, for what it means in terms of Training camp. The Eagles backfield and wide receiver positions both have large question marks looming over them heading into next week.

Even though Marshall missed offseason activities, he’s going to be competing in two of the most free-for-all enticing battles on the entire roster..meaning his chances of making a good impression are slightly enhanced. He will be fighting to snatch as many snaps as possible, but with a roster spot on the line..we could see a huge training camp from the former Oregon Duck as he turns heads on the outside and as a running back. It’s going to take one big play for the coaches to begin ramping up the workload and for the fans to get a sudden reminder of how explosive this man can be.

The Eagles need to solidify their committee backfield and add more explosive weapons on the outside. Marshall ticks all the boxes and when it comes to the versatility the birds so keenly look for..meaning there may be none more adequately prepared for a Training camp roster spot battle.

 

Photo Credit: Andy Lewis/contrastphotography.com

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