After the rollercoaster that was the NFL Draft, we have hit that point in the offseason where the long wait for Football begins. Training Camp is still a few months away and with OTA’s still a couple of hurdles ahead, we’re currently at a point in time where we can simply take a deep breath and examine the view. It’s been an incredible offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles. From revamping their secondary, to the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Derek Barnett, the Birds are in a firm place to make some waves in 2017..but there are still some questions left unanswered. Many of these will be answered as Training Camp unfolds, but here’s one question facing each position on the roster after a strong offseason.
Quarterback: Who (if anybody) will take on the QB3 role?
When the Eagles signed former Raiders QB, Matt McGloin, earlier this offseason, it looked to be the perfect match..except for one area. Doug Pederson has voiced his interest in developing a third quarterback behind Wentz on numerous occasions, and with the Draft offering little in the way of strong candidates, the team would find an extremely intriguing prospect in the weeks after the Draft, UDFA Jerod Evans.
The former Virginia Tech quarterback looked primed to walk into rookie minicamp and assert himself as a contender for the position. With a tremendous chip on his shoulder, Evans began to excite fans..until a foot injury sealed his fate. The Eagles parted ways with Evans, instead signing former Oklahoma State offensive lineman, Victor Salako..so the Eagles are back to square one, or are they?
The team notably worked out former Oregon Ducks signal caller, Dakota Prukop, as well as Tulsa’s Dane Evans. While it hasn’t been announced that either of these quarterbacks have been invited to OTA’s or anything further, the team certainly like the idea of adding competition at every spot on the roster.
It will be interesting to see if the Eagles bring in another UDFA QB to replace Jerod Evans, or simply stick with the hand they have. While there’s no guarantee that the Eagles will take three quarterbacks into the season, it is still a possibility worth considering.
Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo spent two seasons with McGloin during his time at Oakland. A link that will surely hold some merit when deciding who the third arm should be with Training Camp looming in the distance.
Running back: Who’s leading the charge?
The drafting of Donnel Pumphrey in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft all but cemented another committee effort for the Eagles, but which back will be at the head of the pack? Darren Sproles may be entering his final NFL season, Ryan Mathews may have already played in his, and it’s currently unknown whether the team view Wendell Smallwood as a reliable three-down option. That leaves new arrival Donnel Pumphrey, and undrafted free agent and dominant downhill runner, Corey Clement. But would the team elevate Clement above Pumphrey so willingly?
There’s always the possibility that the Eagles could add even more talent to the backfield through remaining veteran free agents or via trade. Prior to his new deal, Jamaal Charles was one name prominently linked with the Eagles, while the likes of Jeremy Hill and LeGarrette Blount have also often heard their names called into conversation.
It’s clear that before anything happens, the Eagles have to find a rushing identity..and with more threats outside, the running game is all but certain to expand. With the versatility and explosiveness of Donnel Pumphrey, combining with arguably the most impressive change of pace back in NFL history, the Eagles look set to cause headaches. However, it remains to be seen whether the team view either as a “bell cow” back. Will it instead be down to Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood to battle it out during training camp, to secure that three-down rushing role that Doug Pederson craves? Only time will tell, but this may be one of the most exciting questions to keep an eye on as free agency progresses.
Offensive line: Who will start at left guard?
While not directly related, the Eagles reported offseason-long shopping of Jason Kelce implies that the team are prepared to enter the season with a new center. It’s incredibly likely that Kelce remains on the roster in fact, it can be difficult to justify otherwise aside from cap implications. But Kelce may be the biggest domino to fall..because the battle at left guard has one key contender who could either replace Barbre, or Kelce…Isaac Seumalo.
The former Oregon standout has been widely recognized as the long-term heir to the center throne, but with open season on the horizon, a three way battle at left guard between himself, Allen Barbre, and Chance Warmack, makes for one of the most interesting roster battles of the year.
32-year old Barbre has anchored down the position well for the Eagles, while former Jeff Stoutland prodigy and first round pick, Chance Warmack, is seeking his “chance” at redemption. When you factor in an athletic, versatile interior guard, who impressed during his rookie season and could potentially end up starting at either LG or C in 2017, the battle in the trenches is set to be vicious as the team seek stability.
Stefen Wisniewski also pencilled a new deal and is listed as the team’s backup center, but there is every chance he would want to compete for a starting spot at LG, especially after having such a huge impact in the 2016 season. He may be a wildcard for a Training camp fight, but if the eventual starter were to go down with an injury, would Wis be the guy that Pederson and Stoutland turn to first on the sidelines? It’s an interesting debate, and one that could have a tremendous impact on the Eagles season.
Tight end: How will the Eagles use their tight ends now they’re at full strength?
There wasn’t much movement at the TE spot during the offseason..in fact, the only move was seeing pending free agent, Trey Burton, ink a one-year tender, keeping him in Philadelphia through 2017, something he was absolutely thrilled to earn. Zach Ertz, like Brent Celek is entering the second year of his new extension, meaning everything is all neatly tied together. The only question that really remains, is how will the Eagles use their tight ends in 2017?
Three tight end sets were a welcome addition to Pederson’s offense, but with injuries to Zach Ertz early in the season, it was Trey Burton who took on receiving duties while Celek posted his lowest career numbers yet, embracing a role as a blocking tight end. With Ertz and Burton back fully healthy, it will be extremely interesting to see how many targets they receive, especially with all the new offensive firepower. Burton played the third most snaps out of the slot of any TE in the NFL last season, and with Billy Brown on the roster as an UDFA, there could be potential for a depth battle. But regardless of who wins, how the tight ends will be used in 2017 will be crucial to the success of the offense.
Will they block more to open the run as they did in 2016, or was that simply to aid the loss of Lane Johnson? Will Zach Ertz finally enjoy the breakout year fans have been pining for, and will Brent Celek return to creating memories in the hearts of many? All of these questions fall under one umbrella..an umbrella that Doug Pederson has the luxury of extending to its fullest to get the most out of a position group he’s helped thrive in Kansas City.
Wide receiver: How will the depth chart shake out?
Sure, there are plenty of questions remaining at wide receiver..but the most prominent is easily asking, how will the depth chart shake out? The Birds added two new wideouts during the NFL Draft, both of whom seemed primed to make the roster..but what role will they play, and is anyone going to lose out?
The obvious debate becomes who wins the starting job opposite Alshon Jeffery. Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor both enter a crucial season’s in their career’s, but one of them is simply going to have to take a rotational role. Beyond those two, the placing of both Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins has the potential to carry a lot of weight into how the Eagles offense shapes up in 2017.
There are so many possibilities, but one thing is for certain. Training camp is going to be the most intense it’s been for quite some time..and the Eagles wide receiver corps may not have fully completed its transformation just yet.
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