The Eagles will officially kick off their first of three OTA practice-filled weeks tomorrow and while they may look a little different, there will be some things worth watching out for. With no 7-on-7 action and limited group reps, there will be a heavier focus on individual drills and virtual teaching. With that said, here are five things to watch out for as we get one step closer to the start of a new season.
Who starts at CB2?
There’s still one question that the Eagles have failed to answer this offseason – who starts opposite Darius Slay?
The team did draft nickel cornerback Zech McPhearson but while he’s a little taller than Avonte Maddox, a move outside so-soon may not be ideal. As things stand, the Eagles have a few in-house candidates such as Michael Jacquet, Craig James, and Kevon Seymour who will all be jousting for momentum over the course of the next few weeks.
There is a chance that the team acquire one of the few-remaining free agents, or even go one further and trade for a player of a slightly higher caliber. However, if one of the underdogs currently on the roster can show out against what is, in all fairness, an eclectic group of wide receivers, then the coaching staff and front office may have other ideas.
We know that the Eagles have a new emphasis on defense and that has to be worth noting. Turnovers and intensity are the name of the game which means reaction-times and positioning will be monitored very closely, even during drills.
It will be very interesting to see who bursts out of the gate and who may be left lagging behind.
Who starts at left tackle?
One of the biggest positional showdowns of the year is undoubtedly that for the starting left tackle spot. Jordan Mailata played brilliantly last season and very much earned the right to be named the starter, but if only things were that simple.
Breathing down his neck will be former first-round pick Andre Dillard, who was forced to miss most of last season with a biceps injury. The team have invested more in terms of capital in Dillard, but would they really prioritize that over the progress of a tackle with a much higher ceiling?
We’ll find the first part of our answer this week when both players work through drills in a bid to impress Jeff Stoutland and some new faces.
Eyes on the rookies
The Eagles have a plethora of exciting rookies that will demand plenty of attention over the course of the summer. Naturally, all eyes will be on 10th overall pick and Heisman-winning wideout, DeVonta Smith, but there will be several other names to note as well. Even at the same position group, UDFA’s Trevon Grimes and Jhamon Aubson will be doing all they can in a bid to beat out names like J.J Arcega-Whiteside and Travis Fulgham.
On defense, rookie CB Zech McPhearson will be joined by a bunch of defensive linemen. Milton Williams will be among the most versatile and athletically exciting to watch as he bends around rings and flaunts his explosiveness, while it will be fun to see how the likes of Patrick Johnson and Tarron Jackson stack up against the likes of newly-signed Ryan Kerrigan.
This team is bursting with young talent and OTA’s will be our first real chance to get a close look at them in an Eagles uniform.
This has flown under the radar, but there are a few positional changes worth noting this offseason. Genard Avery has struggled to get onto the field since being traded for two seasons ago, but is now making the shift up to linebacker. Will Jonathan Gannon be able to deploy him as a WILL/SAM or will he naturally float down as a stand-up EDGE rusher? When Avery was actually used, he made a lot of noise. We’ll get to see how he fares at linebacker and whether or not he stands a better chance of making an impact that way.
Versatility has long been preached and while players may not change roles completely, there’s bound to be some eyebrow-raising looks. We know that rookie Safety JaCoby Stevens was actually drafted as a linebacker, and EDGE Patrick Johnson is even listed at linebacker as well.
Building up a rapport
The Eagles endured a tumultuous offseason to say the least, but one man who stayed away from the ‘Rat poison’ was QB Jalen Hurts. Having seemingly inherited the starting role (with some competition of course), Hurts wasted little time in gathering his wideouts together for some offseason workouts. He’s spent plenty of time working individually with QB coaches to refine his craft and this will be the first time he gets to throw to his complete array of offensive weapons under a new staff.
The former second-round pick already has a strong bond with his DeVonta Smith and his leadership has been praised at every turn by just about every teammate possible. How will that translate onto the football field? We may some way off from seeing padded action just yet, but seeing a glimpse of what the future holds is always exciting!
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