The Philadelphia Eagles kick off the 2016 preseason tonight at 7 p.m. ET versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Many players will have to step up in order to win starting jobs and roster spots during the preseason. Here’s five players who’re poised to thrive tonight.
The versatile defensive back out of LSU has been turning heads so far in training camp. Mills was taken by the Eagles in the seventh-round of the 2016 draft, which took many by surprise. His draft stock plummeted due in large part to domestic violence suspicions, but Mills was never charged in any investigations.
Mills is competing for a starting job in the Eagles secondary. He’s aiming for the No. 2 cornerback spot and the competition there is wide open. Ron Brooks is penciled in as the No. 2 on the Eagles depth chart currently, but last year’s starter, Nolan Carroll, and Mills will push for that spot.
If Mills can bring his level of play in training camp to the field tonight, he’s going to put everyone on notice. He’s already ahead of 2015 second-round pick, Eric Rowe, on the depth chart. Mills’ emergence could come much quicker than expected.
Wisniewski was signed by the Eagles during the offseason and is expected to be apart of the left guard competition. Allen Barbre is currently penciled in as the starter with 2016 third-round pick, Isaac Seumalo, backing him up.
Both Barbre and Seumalo headline the competition, but Wisniewski could easily change that with a couple of strong performances.
Wisniewski filled in at right guard for the injured Brandon Brooks during the first week of training camp and left a strong impression on Doug Pederson.
“Everything we expected of him. He’s a veteran guy and has got a lot of starts in the National Football League,” Pederson said, when asked about what Wisniewski has shown him so far.
“It’s not too big for him. He’s picked up the system. He’s a smart kid, and somebody that is definitely going to fit into the mix in the rotation at guard for us.
As you know, this is typical of a regular season. Those guys that get nicked up and miss a couple days, you know, the next guy steps up, and it’s that mentality and he’s done a nice job handling that.”
Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, also offered praise for the veteran guard.
“Wisniewski’s looked great. I mean, he’s really looked good,” Reich said, when asked about Wisniewski.
“He’s incredibly smart. He’s very stout. Yeah, he’s been — I don’t want to say a surprise. That’s why we signed him. But he’s met and exceeded expectations.”
Wisniewski’s play has caught the attention of the Eagles’ new coaching staff. Don’t count him out of the left guard competition just yet. His play in the preseason could secure him the starting job.
The Eagles are expected to use the team’s tight end group heavily in 2016. That means more three tight end formations, which bodes well for Burton and his potential breakout campaign.
The Eagles have split Burton out wide as a wide receiver in red zone formations. Expect to see a mix of that tonight versus the Buccaneers.
Pederson plans on improving the Eagles red zone efficiency. Adding more packages revolving around Burton could do just that. If Burton proves he can handle the role in the preseason, then watch out for him in 2016.
The Eagles appear to be paper thin with their linebacker depth, but don’t tell that to Tavarres. He’s ready to make a noticeable impact and will be given every opportunity to this preseason.
“It was in my best interest to come here, especially with the depth chart at linebacker,” Tavarres said, when asked about playing in Jim Schwartz’s defense.
“The opportunity to play in this scheme (was appealing). For a linebacker like me, I can play sideline to sideline, which plays to my strengths.
“But also knowing I could come in and possibly get some playing time on special teams was also a big factor.”
Tavarres’ impact on special teams during his collegiate tenure at Incarnate Word was incredibly noticeable. He can be a huge asset for the Eagles on special teams. Tavarres knows that as well.
“My goal on every special team is to be the first one down there,” Tavarres said. “And not just get down there, but get down there and make the play and make the tackle.”
Tavarres will get his opportunity to show why he belongs on the Eagles 53-man roster tonight.
The Eagles signed Givens this offseason to a small one-year, prove yourself contract.
Givens hasn’t quite established himself as a primer threat in the league, but hopes to rekindle his chemistry with Eagles quarterback, Sam Bradford, and provide a much needed spark to the team’s wide receiver group.
Bradford is starting tonight for the Eagles and could look Givens way early. Neither have their long-term futures secured in the NFL, so don’t be surprised to see the two former teammates lean on each other throughout the 2016 season.