Training Camp is now just a few days away for the Philadelphia Eagles and and anticipation is nearing an all-time high. Nick Sirianni and a new band of coaches are ready to welcome in a new era of Eagles football. For some players, this is a huge opportunity to leave the troubles of the past behind them, and turn over a new leaf. Here are five Eagles who will be looking to do just that.
Locked in a battle with Jordan Mailata, the former first-round pick now finds himself in an unenviable decision. After missing the entirety of his second year due to a biceps injury, Dillard will enter the NovaCare Complex having watched a former seventh-round pick steal the spotlight in his absence. While it’s going to be a competition between the two, there’s no doubting that there’s more pressure on Dilalrd’s shoulders than those of the Aussie.
If Dillard is unable to beat out Mailata this Summer, then he’ll likely be the backup tackle in Philadelphia, and one who lacks versatility too. He has to go out and prove that he was worthy of being traded up for in the NFL Draft not too long ago. Otherwise, he’ll be entering year number four of his rookie deal with just half a season worth of starts as a rookie, an injury in year two, and a role as a backup in year 3. Not ideal at all.
Drafted in the third round last year, Davion Taylor was always going to be a project. He had limited football experience in comparison to the majority of draft prospects due to his religious beliefs and while possessing a freakishly athletic skillset, lacked the polish of many.
He played in just 32 defensive snaps as a rookie, featuring in 40% of special teams opportunities. But with a new defensive coordinator, a different scheme, and plenty of competition, there’s no guarantee that Taylor will be ready to make the jump needed to secure the role that many hoped he’d be ready to.
The Eagles have a positional group filled with young and unproven talent, but with the likelihood of the team rolling a base defense with only two linebackers on the field being preset high, even the very best-case scenario sees him fighting for a rotational role. Taylor has to show a leap forward in year #2 to prove that he is more than just an athletic transformer.
Talking of linebackers, Genard Avery probably isn’t the name that would first come to mind when thinking about the positional group. The former Browns defensive end was acquired by the team back in 2019 in exchange for a fourth-round pick, but has struggled to do much since outside of a flash of some eye-popping burst and penetration.
However, Avery is now moving to linebacker. After an offseason of training at the position, he’s most likely going to be deployed as a standup edge rusher so it will be interesting to see how he’s used in Camp. He does have the speed to drop back into coverage and cover running backs if needed.
What’s interesting is that in his rookie campaign, Avery amassed 4.5 sacks and 40 tackles. Clearly a project in every sense of the word, Avery is now entering his third year as a Philadelphia Eagle without much to show that he’s been worth the price to pay. A change of position may help change that, but he’ll be fighting an uphill battle to make the roster.
Will he be fighting for a CB2 role or return home to his old stomping ground in the slot? At this point, nobody really knows. The Eagles did draft Zech McPhearson, who also has a history of playing in the nickel, but they also have very few viable outside corners to lean on.
Maddox wasn’t dreadful when playing on the outside, but he wasn’t brilliant either. His height hurt him a lot and a lack of durability stung him too. With that said, he does have a lot of burst to his game which helps him click-and-close with ease and also carry routes down the field. His tackling is going to need some work as he can over-leverage himself when taking angles, and that’s something that will need to be worked on this Summer.
Regardless of where he lines up, though, Maddox is going to have to step up. Entering his contract year, another disappointing campaign would all but seal his exit out of the City of Brotherly Love at the end of the season.
J.J Arcega Whiteside
JJAW’s tenure in Philadelphia has been infamously bumpy at this point. Despite playing in 627 snaps over his first two years as an Eagle, he’s amassed only 14 catches for a total of 254 yards and a single touchdown. Not brilliant.
The former second-round pick has struggled to separate, relying on his frame to win at the catch-point, but that is often negated by the fact that he is knocked off of the stem of his route a little too easily and the timing can be disrupted as a result, causing a myriad of problems between quarterback and receiver.
Only making matters worse was the fact that Travis Fulgham burst onto the scene last year and led the NFL in receiving over a four-week span and pushing JJAW even further down the depth chart.
The Stanford product now enters a Summer where there’s a shiny new Heisman winner in town, partnering a first-round pick from 2020, and the big-bodied Fulgham. With a pocket full of speedsters competing all around him, JJAW could well be playing on borrowed time, and his chances of making the roster look slim unless he can break out of what has been a disappointingly downward trend this Summer.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire