Eagles rookie projections: How good will this class be in year one?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 30: Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) during Philadelphia Eagles training camp on July 30, 2021 at Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The NFL regular season is upon us and the Philadelphia Eagles will be fielding a very young team. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the new era, but what can we expect from this year’s rookie class?

WR DeVonta Smith

As the team’s first-round pick, there’s naturally a lot of excitement surrounding his name, but there is far more buzz about what Smith might be able to accomplish in his rookie year in comparison to what the expectations were for Jalen Reagor in 2020.

Smith is coming off of a dazzling Heisman-winning season where he electrified the SEC. His crisp route-running has been just as impressive during his first ever NFL training camp and taste of preseason football. Lining up as the team’s WR1, it’s fair to expect big things from a player who is destined to appear on highlight reels on a near weekly-basis this year.

The last time the Eagles had a receiver eclipse the 1,000 yard mark was all the way back in 2014. I think it could be a fairly lofty expectation to put on the shoulders of Smith to become the first since Jeremy Maclin to do so, however there’s no reason he can’t get close considering how lethal his route-running truly is and the chemistry he already has with Jalen Hurts.

Prediction: 845 yards, 6 touchdowns

OL Landon Dickerson

It’s beyond encouraging to see that Dickerson is healthy enough to start the regular season after missing the entire offseason program due to the rehabbing of an ACL, however I can’t help but feel the Eagles will take it slow with the versatile guard, as they should.

They haven’t been this healthy along the offensive front in quite some time and have plenty of options at their disposal. We may see Dickerson pick up some playing time in the event of an injury, but outside of that or a huge drop in form from one of the starting guards, he’ll probably spend the first season on the sidelines.

DT Milton Williams

Williams may carry the most upside of anyone not named DeVonta Smith. He’s built like a defensive end but has the power to play inside. We saw him used all across the line of scrimmage during preseason and he flashed on several occasions. Jonathan Gannon may have a Swiss Army knife on his defensive line and we could see a very strong season as a result.

Prediction: 4 sacks, 7 QB hits, 3 PD, 30 tackles, 2 FF, 4 TFL

CB Zech McPhearson

McPhearson won’t have a starting role as the season begins, but we know how many injury problems the group has sustained over the past few years. The fact he saw time on the outside in preseason is encouraging from an experience perspective and may give Jonathan Gannon more confidence if it comes it dropping him in the deep end. Ultimately, it will be a year of special teams reps with the potential to sneak onto the field for some defensive reps in certain situations.

Prediction: 8 tackles, 1 PD

RB Kenneth Gainwell

The Memphis product turned plenty of heads during preseason, bursting through the hole and looking like he was on the edge of a huge touchdown run every time he carried the ball. The perfect compliment to Miles Sanders, Gainwell adds a lot to the passing attack and will likely feature heavily in the offense as a result, even if it’s as a 1B/C back to begin with.

Gainwell may be the best poised of any Eagles rookie to earn himself prominent role in his rookie season and is undoubtedly going to be extremely fun to watch.

Prediction: 317 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD’s, 412 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD’s

DT Marlon Tuipulotu

It was a quiet offseason for the second defensive tackle drafted by the Eagles this year, and with a breakout from T.Y McGill solidifying his spot on the depth chart as DT3, it’s likely that Marlon Tuipulotu is going to be working between the DT4/5 spot for the time being depending on matchups and if he’s active on gameday.

We may see sprinkles of him on special teams, but I think it’s largely going to be a subtle first year for the USC graduate.

Prediction: 9 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 TFL

DE Tarron Jackson

I absolutely love Jackson’s game. An athletic monster who can bend the edge, he became a PFF darling during his final collegiate season. However, he’ll be stuck behind a pretty strong rotation to begin with in Philadelphia. It’s unlikely he’ll see much playing time as a result of this, but don’t write off the occasional appearance in games with huge score lines or on special teams. Year two will be the time to really start circling his name.

Prediction: 6 tackles, 2 QB hits, 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL

LB JaCoby Stevens

Currently sitting on the practice squad, Stevens was the only Eagles rookie not to crack the final 53. He’ll struggle to get playing time at a position where depth is oddly plentiful for once. The Safety convert is in a similar boat to Jackson and will likely spend most of his rookie season learning the ropes from the sideline.

LB Patrick Johnson

Johnson has the potential to become a threat as a stand-up pass-rusher, which is something Jonathan Gannon has plenty of familiarity with from his time with the Vikings. Johnson flashed some of that potential in preseason and flew around the field. As a result, I think he should see more action than both Stevens and Jackson in situations where the Eagles need an extra blitzes.

Prediction: 15 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire

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