Training Camp is almost upon us. It’s been a long road and we still don’t know exactly how it’s going to look, but we cannot ignore its importance in a year without OTA’s or preseason. It looks as though this won’t be a camp that favors the dark horses, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a few surprises. Here are five underdogs you need to keep an eye on when Camp opens up.
QB Kyle Lauletta
Nate Sudfeld was surprisingly brought back this offseason, but the leash is short. He may have been around the roster since 2017, but the Indiana product has never really shown enough to emerge as a primary backup to Carson Wentz. The drafting of Jalen Hurts put a cap on that ceiling, and the presence of Kyle Lauletta may just rip the floor from under it.
At 6’3, 217 lbs, he has the size and smarts needed to thrive in Pederson’s scheme. In last year’s preseason, he completed 37/62 passes, throwing for 453 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 INT. The 25-year old amassed a 103.8 passer rating and graded 13th out of 79 qualifying quarterbacks according to PFF. This was made even sweeter with a stunning 19-point comeback in the preseason finale. But for the Giants, it wasn’t enough. Lauletta was cut and he promptly found his way on the I-95 to Philadelphia.
On the outside looking in, Lauletta will be breathing down Sudfeld’s neck. I feel he will actually displace Sudfeld and sneak onto the roster as the QB3 behind Hurts. It’s even plausible that he’s a little more ready to be dropped into NFL game action given his previous experience, so isn’t totally farfetched to imagine him starting out ahead of Hurts, who can develop under the shadows in what will be a vital training camp.
RB Elijah Holyfield
The Eagles have a trio of new backs on their roster. All of them were undrafted – two from this year’s class (Michael Warren & Adrian Killins) and another from last years. It’s that man who I think will actually crack the final roster and play a relatively large role in the offense – Elijah Holyfield.
With only 215 college carries under his belt and lacking a comprehensive collection of tape and a poor combine performance, the son of infamous boxer Evander Holyfield signed with the Panthers as a UDFA last year, where he turned many heads. Across four games, Holyfield averaged 4.8 yards per carry, tallying 79 yards on 19 attempts. He even caught 6 passes, which is more than he caught in his entire final season as a Georgia Bulldog.
The Eagles were quick to snap him up after he fell through the cracks and without addressing the loss of Jordan Howard through the Draft or free agency, Holyfield has as much chance as anyone to cement himself as an RB3 and short-yardage specialist. With a year of NFL experience under him, I think Holyfield is in the perfect spot to snatch a spot and go on to have an impact in 2020.
DB Grayland Arnold
One of the more intriguing UDFA’s signed by the Eagles this offseason was former Baylor DB Grayland Arnold. He finished his junior season with 46 total tackles, 33 of them solo tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, and 6 interceptions.
In an interview with our podcast Flippin’ The Birds, Arnold revealed that he’s actually been working at Safety under Rodney McLeod. At 5-10, 187 lbs, he’s the same height as McLeod and 8 pounds lighter.
The move makes sense. There’s already an intense battle at cornerback and depth is plentiful when it comes to developmental talent. If his size would likely leave him fighting for a nickel role, getting into a scrap with Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Robey-Coleman would be a monumental task. At Safety, the chance to sneak onto the roster seems greater, and if those prove-it deals do expire next year (Parks/McLeod/Mills), having a secret weapon to develop under the radar is absolutely a good idea.
Arnold will need a strong Training Camp, but he’s been working with the same footwork coach as Darius Slay and Rasul Douglas. There’s always one undrafted free agent sleeper that makes some waves and with a subtle position move appearing to be on the books, Arnold seems to be a great candidate.
The Eagles TE spot is one dominated by Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, but the battle for TE3 is going to be a fascinating one. Joshua Perkins has been developing under the radar for quite some time, but it’s UDFA Noah Togiai who could bring the heat this Summer.
At 6’4, 246 lbs, Togiai has intriguing size for the TE position and signs on the back of recording 44 catches for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2019. While Togiai is clearly an athletic specimen, he lends himself to a receiving weapon as opposed to an in-line blocker. He’s also the sixth Oregon State TE to end his tenure with 1,000+ receiving yards.
Keep an eye on Togiai to unseat Perkins. The Eagles are high on the rookie and although Perkins may have experience on his side, I’m not sure he’s done enough to have a secure enough foothold on the final roster to fall into a training camp battle. Togiai could well be among the biggest dark horses to watch.
DE Genard Avery
The Eagles’ depth at defensive end is beyond questionable. Vinny Curry walked into free agency and the team haven’t replaced him, or even the losses of Chris Long/Michael Bennett from years past. Every DE has question marks of some kind over them and beyond Graham, Barnett, and Sweat, it’s an absolute free-for-all. Enter mystery man – Genard Avery.
Acquired at last year’s trade deadline, it wasn’t the blockbuster move Eagles fans were craving. However, the cost was certainly high enough to turn heads, with the Birds’ giving up a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Avery stands at 6’1, 225 lbs, and was entering his second year in the league after a strong rookie season where he notched 4.5 sacks and 40 tackles. As a sixth-round pick, he certainly looked like he was going to be an absolute steal…until the Browns did a Browns thing and changed scheme, leaving him out in the cold.
With an impressive Eagles debut, it looked as though Avery would settle right in to the City of Brotherly Love, but that heat quickly died down and he disappeared into obscurity.
Avery’s skillset is an intriguing one and if he can outshine some questionable depth, he could easily exit camp as the team’s EDGE4.
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