Top-5 Eagles training camp battles to watch

Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Isaac Seumalo (56) sets up to block during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Fransisco 49ers on September 19, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Philadelphia Eagles training camp gets underway next Tuesday, July 26. This offseason, general manager Howie Roseman worked hard to fortify and infuse talent into a roster that went 9-8 a season ago and secured a playoff birth.

The Eagles front office went out and was aggressive in its pursuit of adding pieces.

Notable Eagles Offseason Additions

Free Agency/Trade/Draft
WR A.J. Brown (Trade)
WR Zach Pascal
LB Kyzir White
LB Haason Reddick
CB James Bradberry
S Jaquiski Tartt
DT Jordan Davis (Trade up)
C Cam Jurgens
LB Nakobe Dean

The organization has seemingly plugged a lot of roster holes with top-end talent, but there are still some areas on the depth chart that are unsettled. With that, here are the top five training camp battles to watch:

5) What happens at Cornerback after Darius Slay, James Bradberry, and Avonte Maddox

For most of the offseason, it seemed like the Eagles brass was comfortable going into the 2022 season with Texas Tech alum, Zech McPhearson as the starter opposite Darius Slay. However, things changed when the organization added former Pro-Bowl cornerback, James Bradberry.

The decision to sign Bradberry had a corresponding impact on the depth chart: the top backup outside corner spot is now up for grabs.

The aforementioned Zech McPhearson likely has a strong hold on the spot as training camp nears. However, there are a few players who will have something to say. The team added a ton of depth both via free agency and the draft.

The Eagles brought in former Washington Commanders and Houston Texans corner, Jimmy Moreland. Moreland has played in 37 career games.

They also added a pair of collegiate standouts as UDFAs in Clemson’s Mario Goodrich and Alabama’s Josh Jobe. Both players come from powerhouse programs and both played significant snaps (Jobe under head coach Nick Saban and Goodrich under head coach Dabo Swinney).

There are also roster holdovers from the last two seasons that will compete as well such as Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent, and Mac McCain III.

The top backup slot position will also have some competition in the form of 5-foot-11 rookie Josh Blackwell, who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at Duke’s pro day. Josiah Scott should also compete for the role.

4) Tight End behind Dallas Goedert

Dallas Goedert is a top ten tight end and obviously at the top of the depth chart. But in Philadelphia, the number two tight end spot is very important. The Eagles ran the third most plays in the NFL out of 12 personnel (two tight end sets) in 2021 (300). The tight end spot is a vital part of Nick Sirianni’s offense.

Candidates behind Goedert include the incumbent Jack Stoll, veteran Richard Rodgers, rookie Grant Calcaterra, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Tyree Jackson, and 2020 training camp darling Noah Toigai.

Stoll offers a ton from a blocking element, but only caught four passes for 22 yards in 2021. Jackson will likely start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Rodgers has carved out a role for himself as a nice depth piece, but nothing more. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is the wild card of the bunch, given the fact that he recently moved to tight end and given the fact that he’s heading into the last year of his rookie deal, this could be his last shot to make the Eagles roster. Simply put, the role is there for the taking behind Goedert.

3) The battle at inside linebacker

The Eagles added the most talent they’ve had in the linebacker room in recent memory. In base sets, free agent acquisition Kyzir White figures to be penciled in as the weakside starter, while other free agent signing Hasson Redick will start at strongside linebacker. The MIKE linebacker spot is where it gets interesting.

The incumbent starter T.J. Edwards stabilized the position last season when the Eagles desperately needed it. Edwards finished the season with 130 total tackles but allowed a 78.8% completion percentage when targeted in coverage.

Philadelphia selected Georgia linebacker and 2021 Butkus Award winner Nakobe Dean in the third round of the NFL draft. Dean has every element you’d want in an NFL starting linebacker: Leadership, competitiveness, athleticism, and supreme intelligence.

A huge part of what the Eagles accomplished this offseason with the selection of Jordan Davis was the element of optionality in scheming and playcalling. The selection of Davis has a sort of trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster. The Eagles now have the ability to present hybrid fronts. With that, they could also present some interesting looks with players like Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, rookie Kyron Johnson, or Patrick Johnson.

2) What happens at wide receiver after A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith

The biggest addition of the offseason was undoubtedly, A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans. Brown is a legitimate blue chip, number one wideout who makes things better for everyone around him. After Brown, there is of course, 2nd-year wideout DeVonta Smith who is expected to take a major leap forward with Brown drawing top corners.

Behind those two, there is some expected competition.

Quez Watkins started 12 games a season ago. He reeled in 43 catches for 647 yards and a touchdown as he cycled from wide receiver two to the slot wide receiver role. With the presence of Brown, Watkins is expected to start training camp penciled in as the starting slot receiver.

However, the Eagles did add former Indianapolis Colt and Nick Sirianni favorite, Zach Pascal in free agency. Pascal is a nice-sized savvy wideout at 6-foot-2 who played 871 total snaps (627 of which came in the slot) on offense for the Colts last year. Pascal’s best season came in 2020 when Sirianni was the Colts offensive coordinator, where caught 44 passes for 629 yards and 5 touchdowns (eerily similar to Watkins 2021 statline).

Elsewhere at the position, there will be the most competition of any position on the roster. The Eagles have historically kept either five or six receivers on their main roster. Brown, Smith, Watkins, and Pascal are almost virtual locks. But after those four, there is a lot of headway to be made.

The competition will be steep. Former first-round pick Jalen Reagor, veteran Greg Ward, John Hightower, speedy wideouts Britain Covey and Devon Allen, UDFA Keric Wheatfall, Josh Hammond, and Deon Cain will all compete for 2-3 roster spots.

1) The battle of the guards

The offensive line is chief among the most important elements when constructing an NFL roster. After Brandon Brooks retired in January, there was a mammoth 346-pound hole vacated next to tackle Lane Johnson. Nate Herbig filled the role for the majority of last season, but he’s no longer in Philadelphia.

The returning Isaac Seumalo and Auburn product, Jack Driscoll will battle it out for the starting right guard spot. Rookie Cam Jurgens is also expected to compete for the position, although his long-term role is the heir apparent to Jason Kelce.

It’s well known how much the organization yields to OL coach Jeff Stoutland when making decisions along the offensive line and if Stoutland’s 2021 comments on Seumalo are any indicator, Seumalo will likely get first crack at the position.

The players in our room know the value that Isaac Seuamlo brings to this organization,” Stoutland said.

He knows every pressure that anybody runs that we present in our meetings. He’s brilliant…I can’t say enough about Isaac.”

There are also depth pieces up for grabs. Players such as Kayode Awosika, Sua Opeta, UDFAs Josh Sills, and William Dunkle are expected to compete for those spots.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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