Training Camp is a crucial component in any team’s offseason program. Of the 90 players on the team heading into OTA’s, only 53 will make the final roster that will contest the regular season. Starts look over their shoulders as rookies look to prove their worth and veterans try to retain their spot at the top of the pecking order. Shocks, twists and turns are to be expected…but for the Eagles, this camp could be the most important in recent memory.
We’re still a long way off from the NovaCare Complex opening its doors to another Training Camp, but the pressure is already beginning to build. By now, we all know the formula. A hard-fought, competitive period that will be shaped by an ‘iron-sharpens-iron’ mentality. Training Camp for the Eagles has become something of a spectacle. Make no mistake, it’s not viewed as a walkthrough for the players to warmup for the preseason. It’s intense, it’s vicious and it brings the best out of every player in the locker room. If they can’t hang, they are made aware of where the exit is, just as Dorial Green-Beckham found out one season ago.
But unlike either of Pederson’s last two Training Camps, the Head Coach now has an interesting task at hand. There are several big question marks looming over the roster, giving a unique opportunity to players previously labeled as backups.
To start with, there’s the quarterback position. Carson Wentz is recovering from a torn ACL and at this stage, it’s currently not known whether or not he will be ready in time for the regular season. Nick Foles recently received a healthy payday for his Super Bowl wizardry and Nate Sudfeld seems poised to one day take over the backup role should Foles move on. The Eagles also signed two undrafred free agents in the way of Jeremiah Briscoe and Brandon Silvers. It was then later reported that the team had agreed to terms with former Packers signal-caller, Joe Callahan. To put it simply, that’s a lot of firepower for one offseason.
Rookie minicamp isn’t that far away and the team do need four quarterbacks in order to evenly split the offensive reps. Last year, it was the ‘marvelous’ Matt McGloin and Dane Evans who partnered with Foles and Wentz, although the Super Bowl MVP missed most of the activities due to the birth of his Child and an upper-body injury. There’s no real way of knowing how many QB’s the Eagles will keep, but they need optionality.
If Wentz is unable to compete during Training Camp or is extremely limited, preseason reps will be avoided at all costs. Foles struggled with elbow soreness last year and that leaves Sudfeld, who has nearly a full season in Pederson’s scheme and then a mix of undrafted free agents and Joe Callahan. For the former, this will be an audition for the potentially vacated QB2 role at the end of next season. For the latter, it’s a period of heavy exposure to further their career or gather enough tape against NFL talent in order to do so.
That same logic can be applied to two other key spots on the roster. Alshon Jeffery tore his rotator cuff at some stage during training camp last season and somehow played throughout the entire 16 game regular season and postseason run. That in itself is just miraculous, but it likely means that his role, if not limited, will be nearly invisible for periods of camp and preseason. Without any rookie wideouts on the roster, it means that players such as Bryce Treggs, Marquess Wilson and even Shelton Gibson will receive a bump in snaps with the first and second teams during this year’s camp, giving them a greater chance of cracking the roster than ever. The Eagles wide receiver picture is so stable that it made it difficult for a ‘Paul Turner’ or ‘Rasheed Bailey’ to shock the world last season, but that potential looks set to return once again.
Elsewhere, Timmy Jernigan’s recent injury has cast a dark shadow over the defensive tackle position. Scheduled to be out for 4-6 months, Jernigan’s absence will leave a glaring hole alongside Fletcher Cox. The team do have a flurry of options including last year’s draftee, Elijah Qualls, who will be vying to fill that role. I broke down that scenario in full, here:
There is also set to be another serious battle at the interior guard position. After Stefen Wisniewski won the starting LG role by default after Warmack and Seumalo both struggled to prove themselves worthy after an entire offseason and two regular season games, both will need a big showing to keep their spot on the roster. Especially with versatile rookie, Matt Pryor, breathing down their necks. Depth behind ‘Wis’ and Brooks remains scarce, leaving another huge opportunity for someone to step up to the mark and solidify the position.
Without spoiling a Training Camp primer months in advance, these battles can be seen all over the roster. Whether it’s establishing a new committee effort at running back or figuring out the replacement for Patrick Robinson, the Eagles have so many questions and injury impacted positions that the competitive nature infused by their Head Coach will shine through more than ever.
This team is no stranger to adversity, but it’s not until you take a closer look at the roster that you realize just how much is subject to change. Super Bowl champions or not, the Eagles are not exempt from needing a thorough and competitive camp in order to shake out the roster and set it up to sustain success.
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