The Eagles are just one day away from opening their preseason campaign against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As excitement continues to build, there’s no better time to project who’s going to really set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd over the next four weeks. Here’s a quick glance at some of the statistical leaders from last preseason and who could be set to lead the team this time around.
Passing yards (2017 leader: Nate Sudfeld, 360 yards)
If you’re a betting man, the safe money would be on Nate Sudfeld to repeat and most likely eclipse last year’s milestone. With Carson Wentz likely out for preseason and Nick Foles battling a minor injury setback, it will be between Sudfeld and Callahan to lead the Eagles offense into battle to begin with. We saw how far Sudfeld progressed when he debuted in week 17 against the Cowboys, making smart decisions and keeping the chains moving. We could see a 500 yard preseason from Sudfeld if he can really maxmize the reps received and amount of time spent with the starters this offseason.
Projected Winner: Nate Sudfeld
Rushing yards: (2017 leader: Byron Marshall, 111 yards)
Byron Marshall may now playing for the Washington Redskins, but that doesn’t mean the Eagles will be without a versatile back to hang their preseason hat on. However, if Training Camp is anything to go by, Wendell Smallwood could the back receiving the most attention, largely because nobody really knows what he brings to the table. The top 3 backs are cemented and Smallwood’s injury history and lack of a specialized niche has left him out in the cold. There will be plenty of opportunity as the Eagles aim to get a true read on whether Smallwood can add an extra element to the offense, or if that spot would be better utilized in the hands of a versatile Pumphrey or a thumping workhorse in Adams or Jones. Expect a heavy workload and the production that would follow suit.
Projected winner: Wendell Smallwood
Receiving yards: (2017 leader: Mack Hollins, 139 yards)
Mack Hollins set the preseason alight when he caught a touchdown against the Packers, showing a nasty stiff-arm in the process. This season, it could be special teams ace Rashard Davis who steps up. The receiving depth chart has plenty of volatility and an underdog competing for outside snaps after a strong training camp could be the perfect name to showcase some deep speed and earn his spot.
At 5’8, 172 lbs, Davis is a smaller receiver than most, but brings impressive quickness to the table having ran a 4.38 40-yard dash. He’s very reminiscent of a Paul Turner type receiver…and we all know how that ended when it came to preseason.
Projected winner: Rashard Davis
Offensive touchdowns: (2017 leader: Carson Wentz, 3)
Quarterbacks obviously have the advantage here due to how often the skill positions will rotate. With this in mind, it’s award number two for S’t’udfield, who will almost certainly score his first touchdown as an Eagle.
Projected winner: Nate Sudfeld
Tackles: (2017 leader: Aaron Grymes, 12)
Tackles can always be difficult to predict as it depends on the flow of the game, running/passing tendencies and of course, who’s on the field. A cornerback would always be a solid bet, but I would also say keep an eye out for Kamu Grugier-Hill. Although Nate Gerry has been splitting first-team reps with ‘KGH’, the Eagles will likely want to see what both players can do during a four-game span to ultimately decide how best to proceed with replacing Mychal Kendricks. Grugier-Hill is a special teams standout who has a huge upside under Jim Schwartz and if you watch this short video I made a few weeks ago, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.
Projected winner: Kamu Grugier-Hill
Sacks: (2017 leader: Alex McCalister, 3.5)
The Eagles have a flurry of defensive ends, but with Graham out with injury, Long at the tail end of his career and a few other reasons not to play the vets, players like the team’s fourth-round pick are bound to see plenty of playing time. Josh Sweat was as disruptive as they come at FSU, but was also a schematic misfit. Now he’s had time to get acclimated in this defense, there’s a very good chance he tees off against backup offensive linemen and feasts during these four games.
Projected winner: Josh Sweat
Interceptions: (2017 leader: Mychal Kendricks, 3)
Who could forget the preseason breakout that led Mychal Kendricks from the edge of irrelevancy to a resurgence like no other. A pick in each preseason game played is a bar that may not be surpassed by anyone this year, but there is a strong candidate who could certainly make some noise. That man is Rasul Douglas. While Sidney Jones and De’Vante Bausby are battling for nickel supremacy, Douglas is a corner who let’s not forget, helped to shutdown the New York Giants in his rookie year and was an absolute menace around the football. A true West Virginia ballhawk, I think Douglas could be one of the big standouts this preseason due to simply having to ball out to keep his place on the depth chart.
Projected winner: Rasul Douglas
Kick return yards: (2017 leader Donnell Pumphrey, 80 yards)
Darren Sproles is more than likely going to be the team’s return specialist this year, but there’s no reason to run the tread thinner in preseason. Look for Donnell Pumphrey to lead the team in kick returns for the second consecutive preseason as the team evaluate the strides he has taken.
Projected winner: Donnell Pumphrey
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports