Position battles to watch across the NFL that could benefit the Eagles

Howie Roseman is not one to shy away from making a move to improve the team, no matter what month it is.

The summer of 2019 brought Johnathan Cyprien, read here why that move is important, and Josh McCown.

The summer of 2017 brought Corey Graham and Ronald Darby.

While these moves may seem minor at first, they do prove important later in the season.

Can the Eagles take advantage of the “odd man out” from certain positional battles this summer? Let’s take a look at some intriguing ones.

Baltimore: Wide Receiver

The number one position is all but locked to be Marquise Brown’s job in 2020. The number two and three positions, however, remain to be seen. The Ravens drafted two receivers in the 2020 draft, Devin Duvernay and James Proche, and have second-year receiver Miles Boykin. The odd man out may be Willie Snead.

Snead joined the Ravens in 2018 after four years with the Saints. In two years with the team, he has 93 receptions for 990 yards and six touchdowns. He’s not the fastest receiver out there, but he was one of the best receivers in 2018 at creating separation, doing so on 54.7% of his targets, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles’ receivers had a hard time with that in 2019, so if some of the new guys don’t show promise this summer, Snead could be an option.

Chicago: Linebacker

The Bears’ fourth-round draft pick from 2018, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, has played a grand total of 26 defensive snaps in his two years, with 23 coming in his rookie year.

He is currently slated to back up Roquan Smith. With Smith’s injury concerns, Iyiegbuniwe can find himself in the starting lineup and try to make a name for himself like Nick Kwiatkoski did last year.

However, there are questions to whether or not Iyiegbuniwe will be able to beat out undrafted free agent Rashad Smith. If he can’t, he may find himself on the waiver wire. His 4.6 speed could be of interest to Jim Schwartz.

Houston: Wide Receiver

The top three receivers are set, even after the bananas trade of DeAndre Hopkins, with Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Will Fuller. But the fourth and fifth spots are left to be decided. Eagles legend DeAndre Carter, rookie Isaiah Coulter, and third-year receiver KeKe Coutee will be vying for that spot. Carter provides the Texans with return ability, Coulter has almost no chance of being cut due to being a rookie, so Coutee may be the odd man out.

Despite averaging 47.4 yards per game in six games as a rookie, Coutee fell down the depth chart in 2019. With Cooks and Cobb joining Fuller, his path to playing time is rough.

Like the scenario above with the Ravens, if the Eagles decide they need more speed at the receiver position, Coutee’s 4.43 speed will be welcome.

Detroit: Linebacker

Jarrad Davis has all the tools to defend his selection in the first round by the Lions, however he has yet to do so. His combine showcased elite speed for the linebacker position:

He has 259 tackles in his three years with the Lions, but has been quite the liability in coverage. He was targeted 37 times in 2019 and allowed 29 receptions and a 78.4% completion rate. Quarterbacks had a 116.6 rating against him and he also missed 10 tackles, down from 18 in 2018.

Second-year linebacker Jahlani Tavai is highly regarded in the organization and could push Davis for the starting MIKE position. If so, Davis could find himself quickly on the trade block. Jim Schwartz may look to salvage the fourth-year pro’s career.

Atlanta: EDGE

There’s an intriguing battle in Atlanta between two former first-round picks who had their fifth-year options declined.

Former Dolphins’ defensive end Charles Harris was traded to the Falcons on May 1st for a 2021 7th round pick. After three very underwhelming years in Miami, Harris will look to win the starting EDGE spot across from new Falcons’ EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.

He will have to beat out incumbent Takkarist McKinley, who was taken four spots after Harris in the 2017 draft. McKinley, who has had the better career of the two, has injury concerns. He announced himself that the Falcons were declining his option and then deleted all of his social media. Could that be an indication of wanting a fresh start elsewhere?

If Harris wins the starting job this summer, McKinley can find that fresh start in Philadelphia, where the depth at EDGE isn’t too deep.

New York Jets: Linebacker

The Jets have a slew of options at inside linebacker beside C.J. Mosley. Neville Hewitt, James Burgess, and Patrick Onwuasor will all be vying for that starting spot, as will Avery Williamson. Williamson missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL after totaling 120 tackles in his first year with the Jets in 2018.

The Jets can save $6.5 million in cap space if they cut Williamson, and will probably do so if he doesn’t show he is healthy and/or beats out the aforementioned names. If he’s available and healthy, the Eagles would be wise to kick the tires on one of the better run defending linebackers in the league.

If the Jets are unhappy with their corner depth, maybe a trade could be n the cards for whoever loses their spot in the Eagles corner battle.

Jacksonville: Guard

It’s only been a little over two years since Andrew Norwell signed his mega-deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars after four years in Carolina that included a 2017 All-Pro nomination.

An injury-riddled 2018 and an underwhelming 2019 led to Norwell agreeing to restructure his contract in April. There were rumors swirling of him being a cap saving cut but his restructure helped him stay on the team.

The Jaguars drafted Ben Bartch in the 4th round of the draft in April and many believe he will supplant Norwell as the starting left guard sometime in the season.

With how Norwell underperformed in 2019, it’s quite plausible he gets beat out by Bartch in training camp. If the Eagles aren’t pleased with the Brooks replacements, could they make a move for Norwell and hope offensive line guru Jeff Stouland resurrects Norwell’s game to All-Pro levels again? There would probably have to be players/restructurings involved, but it could be worth it.

Are there any position battles across the league that you are watching closely? Let us know in the comments!

Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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