Eagles OTA Preview: 5 underdogs to watch during the team’s upcoming practices

As the Eagles prepare for their mandatory minicamp, there’s a growing expectation surrounding this team and the 2024 season. Following the terrible collapse during the later part of the 2023 season, the Eagles looked as if they had lost their identity. The offense was in shambles and the defense was a mess from top to bottom. 

Now they get a restart with a new season approaching and more talent added to the roster. But with a talented roster like this, there will be players that can either get lost in the shuffle or stand out as the next guy. Here are five underdogs to watch during the Eagles’ offseason training activities:

Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle

New York Jets’ Mekhi Becton, left, talks with Connor McGovern during a practice at the NFL football team’s training facility in Florham Park, N.J., Thursday, July 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The former 11th overall pick of the 2020 draft hasn’t had the most success during this time in the league. After a terrible 2023 season where he allowed 12 sacks and 59 total pressures, Becton is looking for greener pastures. In this case for the Eagles, one team’s trash could be their treasure. Philadelphia has had one of the most consistent offensive lines since forever due to their talented offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland.

Becton could be a reclamation project for Coach Stoutland but it would be one that would further solidify his growing legend. Can Jeff Stoutland turn the 25-year-old tackle into a huge steal for the Eagles? That remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, the Eagles may have landed a stud that could help if Lane Johnson goes down due to an injury.

Gabe Hall, Defensive Tackle

The UDFA out of Baylor may not have the biggest uphill battle to make the roster this season. For the first time in a long time, the Eagles truly need depth at the defensive tackle spot. With Fletcher Fox retiring, Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, and Milton Williams are now the focal points of the group. This means that Hall has a clear path to take that 4th spot, but it won’t be easy.

The rookie defensive tackle has great arm length and strength that can help him stand out during these camp battles. But if he truly wants to stand out then it may take quite a change in his internal structure to do so but one way or another I would recommend keeping an eye on Hall.

Ben VanSumeren, Linebacker

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (10) runs for a first down in front of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Ben VanSumeren (57) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Ben VanSumeren has T.J. Edwards written all over him but is possibly a better coverage linebacker. He only played in 50 snaps last season but PFF graded his coverage snaps at a 69.7. His preseason film was more impressive. Ben has a nose for the football and is disciplined enough in his decision-making.

With the Eagle drafting Jeremiah Trotter Jr and signing Devin White, I can see BVS finding his way into that group and being the fourth or fifth LB under Vic Fangio’s scheme. You also have to factor in the bigger wild car in Zack Baun.

Nolan Smith, EDGE

Newly drafted Philadelphia Eagles’ Nolan Smith speaks during a news conference at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, April 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

I’m surprised to see so many people down on Nolan Smith after his rookie season. He struggled with injuries early on from the surgery needed to repair his pectoral injury to the nagging shoulder issue. Even so, Nolan had moments where he showed his potential. His ability to get off of the line of scrimmage so quickly should be exciting for Eagles fans in the wake of the Haason Reddick trade.

Smith finished last season with 9 total tackles, 1 sack, and 8 total pressures in 165 defensive snaps.

Trevor Keegan, IOL

Trevor Keegan is one of the 2024 draft picks that I am most excited about. He has Philadelphia written all over him and he’s what the Eagles would label as a “Red Star player”. The former team captain out of Michigan can give Tyler Steen a run for his money at the Right Guard position. Whether that is this season or the next remains to be seen but I see Keegan having a lasting impact on this team. 

Keegan finished his collegiate career by only allowing 3 sacks and 41 total pressures. He improved greatly each season since 2020 and finished his final season at Michigan with a PFF pass block grade of 80.7.

Which Eagles’ underdog are you excited to watch?

AP Photo/Seth Wenig