5 Eagles players that could step into larger roles this season

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Some players fly under the radar every season, contributing to a team’s success more than originally expected. The Eagles can look back to their Super Bowl season where they overcame numerous injuries and the players expected to be backups contributed to their first-ever Lombardi trophy. Names like Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Dannell Ellerbe, Corey Clement, and Nick Foles.

Which players could take on a larger role to help the Eagles win their second title this season?

Mekhi Becton

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)

Mekhi has the talent to be one of the 5 best OLs on the team. At tackle, he would only play due to an injury, but if he can transition inside, he could end up competing for and taking the job at right guard. 

Ideally, he remains the swing tackle and will only get a few, if any, snaps this season. However, Eagles OL Coach Jeff Stoutland may have bigger aspirations for Becton in 2024.

Whatever role he ends up with, Becton is enjoying his time in Philadelphia thus far. 

“I am loving being here in every way. I feel like I’m in a family. I really mean that. The way people have welcomed me here, it’s been great. And I don’t think people understand what that means for a player.

Isaiah Rodgers

FILE – Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers Sr. (34) stands on the sideline during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots on Nov. 6, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. Rodgers did not practice with his teammates Wednesday, June 7, 2023, two days after the team said it was aware of an NFL investigation into gambling allegations about one of its players. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Isaiah played some first-team reps opposite Big Play Slay during OTAs and handled the position well. He also received some praise from Eagles start WR AJ Brown.

“For a guy that has not played football for a year, and coming back he looks like he’s been playing non-stop, honestly.”

In addition to playing cornerback, Rodgers also provides versatility. He averaged 27 yards per KOR with the Colts, including a 101-yard kick return for a TD. With the new kickoff rules, he could be even more dynamic in that role if given the chance. 

Rodgers has a great chance to make the 53-man roster, but he also has the talent and opportunity to be one of the opening-day starters at corner. 

Kelee Ringo

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Much like Isaiah, many thought Ringo would be a backup once the Eagles drafted Quinyon Mitchell, but he showed up to OTAs strong, and determined. During the open minicamps, Kelee impressed during the 7 versus 7 drills and showed sticky coverage defending deep routes. He also added a couple of nice PBUs. It would have been great for his development had he been given more playing time last season, but the experience he did get is already showing on the field. 

Zack Baun

Many thought he would be a rotational edge rusher, but at OTAs, he played inside linebacker with Devin White. This could have been due to Nakobe Dean being out still recovering from an injury, or a sign of things to come. Baun has stated that the defense that Fangio is installing is similar to the one he played in at Wisconsin in 2019. Coincidentally, that was his breakout season where Zack finished the year with 12.5 sacks. He can play edge or off-ball and will be an interesting chess piece in Vic Fangio’s defense. 

Nolan Smith

Nolan Smith
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)

The Eagles starting edge rushers are likely Bryce Huff and Josh Sweat, but if either falters, Nolan Smith could take over one of those spots, and the larger share of those snaps. He showed up to minicamp heavier, reportedly 245 lbs, and visibly stronger. 

He has also bought into the culture of the team and the city. 

“Whatever they tell me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. One, because I love football, & two, because I love the Eagles & Philadelphia. I’d do anything for this city.

Last season Nolan finished with an impressive 9.4 pressure rate and a 10.7% run-stop rate over 203 defensive snaps. If he can provide those same rates or better while doubling his snap production, he could be one of the bigger breakouts of the NFL season. 

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AP Photo/Derik Hamilton