How are Eagles rookies looking ahead of preseason opener?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 30: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Milton Williams (93) during Philadelphia Eagles training camp on July 30, 2021 at Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles are just a few hours away from their first preseason action since 2019, so I wanted to give an overview of how the rookies have fared so far in training camp. After the preseason games, I will do another report card to see how they have progressed.

Devonta Smith, WR

Devonta would have a higher grade, but his injury brings him down a little bit. If you can’t practice or play it’s not as easy to evaluate. Although, the former crimson tide standout appears to be as advertised with a skill set far more polished and NFL ready than fans could have dreamed. Everything points towards Smith having a successful season but for now, I will grade a bit harshly because we haven’t seen enough from him quite yet.

Grade: B-

Landon Dickerson, OL

Unlike Devonta, coming into camp we knew Dickerson would be limited in practice as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. Even though he is limited physically right now, Dickerson has been active on the sidelines getting “mental reps” as coach Siranni stated.

My grade is fully reflective of my belief in Dickerson and maybe it should be lower given we haven’t seen him practice. The Eagles 2nd round pick has all the tools to succeed in the NFL and the sky is the limit if he can stay healthy.

Grade: C+

Milton Williams, DT

Williams has had a quiet but fairly productive camp. He has shown flashes of the explosiveness and athleticism that intrigued the Eagles coaching staff. The expectation is that Williams will move around the defensive line playing DE and DT in certain packages.

I am very curious to see what kind of impact he can make with a lot of playing time in the preseason opener against the Steelers. For now, I’ve given the former LA Tech star a positive but somewhat cautious grade because he has not shown enough consistency throughout camp.

Grade: C+

Zech Mcphearson, CB

DID THE EAGLES DRAFT A GOOD DEFENSIVE BACK?!?! Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I was hopeful about the Eagles secondary. McPhearson has been one of the biggest stars in training camp generating pass breakups, being sticky in man-to-man coverage, and showing more toughness in run defense than expected. If the Eagles had not signed Steven Nelson, Zech would unquestionably be the starter opposite Slay which is very impressive for a 4th round pick.

For once, the Eagles have strong depth at outside CB spots which can be attributed to the former Red Raider being significantly more pro-ready than expected.

Grade: A+

Kenneth Gainwell, RB

He has been nearly invisible in the camp which is not good for him. A running back like Kenny is more likely to succeed in a training camp setting where speed and pass-catching ability stand out. He is leading the position in receptions, which is definitely worth noting given the issues Miles Sanders is working through. In the last few days of camp, he has started to play a little better so maybe the arrow is pointing up from here.

Grade: D+

Marlon Tuipulotu, DT

The former USC defensive tackle has not done much to impress in training camp. While he hasn’t been outright bad, I do think its possible that he could get cut and moved to the practice squad. Marlon is a late-round pick so I think that is a reasonable projection for him.

However, I will say that Tuipulotu’s skillset will be much easier to discern in preseason action as he is more of a run stuffer and power player. These traits aren’t suited to training camp, so his performance in the preseason will be crucial if he wants to make this team. I didn’t grade him too harshly because I want to see what he can do in a live game setting before making any final judgments.

Grade: C-

Tarron Jackson, DE

Jackson has displayed better bend and quickness than most expected this training camp, but the Eagles are stacked along the defensive line. It might be tough for Tarron to claim a roster spot looking at it now. Defensive End Brandon Graham has spoken highly of Jackson which is certainly worth noting. Players often have a good sense of who is actually capable of competing at the NFL level.

Jackson is still on the bubble but has shined in 1-on-1 drills throughout camp. I think he has had an average to slightly above average camp so far and his grade reflects that.

Grade: C+

JaCoby Stevens, LB

Stevens has seen action with the first team as defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon continues to try to find a strong linebacker rotation. Stevens has made the transition from safety to linebacker look fairly smooth, he had one of the highlights of camp by picking off Jalen Hurts and showing his athleticism.

Unfortunately, JaCoby injured his hamstring and is now week to week. Injuries have really rocked the linebacker room but the former LSU team captain showed a lot of potential throughout training camp.

Grade: B+

Patrick Johnson, LB

Johnson has had some good reps playing in Gannon’s rush linebacker role but it’s a lot to ask of a 7th round pick to change positions. Johnson has looked like a rookie during camp and needs time to develop. I think he’ll be on the practice squad, but I think he may be able to carve out a role on the birds in the future.

This grade may be a little optimistic, but I am grading on a bit of a curve considering where he was drafted and changing positions while adjusting to the NFL.

Grade: C+

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire