As the Philadelphia Eagles officially turn the chapter on the 2018 season from the OTA period to mini camps, some players showed why they will continue to have a significant role with the defending champions. Others, many of which Eagles fans probably haven’t even heard of made their name well known with their play at OTAs.
With Eagles mini camp officially underway, the likes of Devante Bausby, Markus Wheaton, and Kamu Grugier-Hill all played with the first team after strong performances at OTAs. Was it a sign of a potential long term shake up with the depth chart or is it just a flash in the pan for the majority of these players?
Quarterback (3): 1. Carson Wentz 2. Nick Foles 3. Nate Sudfeld
The quarterback depth chart is probably the easiest to figure out. Doug Pederson said it is too early to tell who starts Week 1 against the falcons but if Carson Wentz is healthy, he is the starting quarterback.
Wentz is six months removed from suffering a torn ACL and if you didn’t know he was injured, you wouldn’t be able to tell. The Eagles cleared him for 7 on 7’s and the former second overall pick looks sharp.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) June 12, 2018
Nick Foles, the 2017 Super Bowl MVP has had his share of eye popping throws, with some bad misses as well throughout the spring and summer. There won’t be any doubts however in his ability if he needs to play to start off the year, or Wentz were to get injured once again (knock on wood…dear god knock on wood).
Nate Sudfeld has had a strong camp and continued in the first day of mini camps throwing 3 touchdowns in 11 on 11’s. Makes you wonder if the Eagles made a mistake not taking the 35th overall pick for Nick Foles but having a strong third string quarterback will only help, especially with Foles likely becoming a free agent in 2019.
Running Back (4): 1. Jay Ajayi 2. Corey Clement 3. Darren Sproles 4. Wendell Smallwood
Duce Staley sounded like he believes Jay Ajayi will be the starting running back in 2018. In a Doug Pederson offense that features a running back-by- committee approach, that doesn’t carry as much weight. But Ajayi has looked great thus far. He looks to be in great shape and Staley praised Ajayi for the amount of time he puts in the film room. Expect him to get the most carries of the group and a lot of red-zone work.
Corey Clement is a favorite to have a breakout season in year two. Although Ajayi will likely be the featured back, Clement will most likely finish the season with a similar amount of touches that Ajayi will get. His ability to make plays down the field in the passing game wasn’t something the Eagles saw coming but Clement will be the featured passing back. Even over Darren Sproles.
Sproles is going to be used if healthy. He is the most explosive runner of the group but at 34 years old, it will be interesting to see how much he is utilized.
My pick to win the battle royal for the fourth and potential final spot at running back is Wendell Smallwood. Smallwood will be in his third year with the offense and offers the most compared to the other backs on the bubble. He showed flashes that he can produce (Steelers game in 2016, Chargers game last year) and has experience in the return game which could be the deciding factor with Kenjon Barner gone, and if the Eagles don’t want to use Darren Sproles as much for punt returns.
Wide Receiver (5): 1. Alshon Jeffery 2. Nelson Agholor 3. Mike Wallace 4. Mack Hollins 5. Shelton Gibson
The depth at wide receiver is underrated. Not only do the Eagles have a top notch #1 in Jeffery, one of the most efficient slot receivers from 2017 in Agholor, but they also upgraded from Torrey Smith to Mike Wallace this off season which should be significant. Wallace was the only bright spot in an abysmal Baltimore passing attack last year.
Mack Hollins should take a leap in his second year, especially with his wide receiver coach from UNC, Gunter Brewer taking over as the receiver coach in Philadelphia.
Expect the Eagles to go heavy in the secondary/linebacker so in this prediction they only keep five receivers.
Markus Wheaton has had a strong start to the summer but Shelton Gibson has also looked far more polished in year two as a route runner. That will allow him to play faster and utilize the 4.39 speed that made him an attractive pick for the Eagles.
Greg Ward Jr. or Wheaton could force the Eagles to keep six receivers but if it comes down to just five, Gibson would be the pick.
Tight End (3): 1. Zach Ertz 2. Dallas (Philly) Goedert 3. Billy Brown
Just imagine what the Eagles can do with all these weapons. Ertz and Goedert could be the best TE duo in the NFL if Goedert displays the jaw dropping catches he made in South Dakota.
Richard Rodgers loses out on the final spot to Billy Brown who has a much higher ceiling as a pass catcher.
Offensive Tackle (5): 1. Jason Peters, 2. Lane Johnson 3. Halapoulivaati Vaitai 4. Matt Pryor 5. Jordan Mailata
The Eagles are once again thin at the tackle position. Peters and Johnson are the best tackle combination in the league, Big V proved last year in the playoffs that he can hold his own against some elite pass rushers, but then it gets murky.
Rookie Matt Pryor’s versatility as a tackle and guard should earn him a roster spot, while Mailata and Taylor Hart battle for the final spot.
Although Mailata is adjusting from rugby to pro football, Taylor Hart was formally a defensive tackle so it is a battle of players brand new to the tackle position. Give me Mailata’s athleticism and upside.
Offensive Guard and Center (5): Brandon Brooks, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Issac Seumalo, Chance Warmack
The Eagles go with just two backup guards in Warmack and Seumalo. Matt Pryor can also play guard while Big V has experience inside as well if need be. Seumalo has taken the majority of his reps at center so he should be the primary backup for Jason Kelce.
Defensive End (5): 1. Brandon Graham 2. Derek Barnett 3. Michael Bennett 4. Chris Long 5. Josh Sweat
For at least one more year the Eagles will be stacked on the edge. Jim Scwartz will have no problem rotating this top four to wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks while 2018 fourth round pick Josh Sweat earns the fifth and final spot over Steven Means.
Sweat has an explosive, speed-centric approach that this group doesn’t really have. The Eagles could stash Sweat on IR with his knee injury from high school still not 100% but when the pads go on, expect Sweat to do some damage.
Defensive Tackle (5): 1. Fletcher Cox 2. Timmy Jernigan 3. Haloti Ngata 4. Elijah Qualls 5. Destiny Vaeao
What a set of names huh? With Jernigan potentially missing the first month of the 2018 season, the Eagles will rely on the seasoned veteran in Haloti Ngata, with inexperienced young players in Qualls and Vaeao.
Qualls has impressed throughout the spring and summer, showing an explosiveness inside as a pass rusher that Ngata doesn’t present anymore.
Michael Bennett will also see a lot of time inside as he did with Seattle.
Linebacker (5): 1. Nigel Bradham (MLB) 2. Jordan Hicks (Strong Side) 3. Corey Nelson (Weak Side) 4. Kamu Grugier-Hill 5. Nate Gerry
Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks is a dynamic 1-2 punch on the inside. After that…..not much to work with.
Corey Nelson showed flashes of being a good coverage linebacker with Denver when he played, and he has been the early favorite to replace Mychal Kendricks since OTAs and mini camps started up.
Kamu Grugier-Hill has been a special teams ace but he could finally crack the defensive lineup with a strong summer. Both Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry are likely to be big contributors on special teams again which gets them a spot over Joe Walker.
Malcolm Jenkins will also play a lot of LB as he did last year (played the majority of his snaps at dime LB).
Cornerbacks (6): 1. Ronald Darby (Outside) 2. Jalen Mills (Slot) 3. Sidney Jones (Outside) 4. Rasul Douglas 5. DeVante Bausby 6. Avonte Maddox
Probably the most interesting position this off-season for the Eagles is at cornerback. Nobody has any idea who plays where yet, in part because there are a lot of good options. It is the same problem of past Eagles teams, only nobody knew who would play back then because of how bad the options were.
Trying to replace Patrick Robinson, the Eagles have shuffled through almost everyone in the slot. Sidney Jones has held his own inside against Nelson Agholor. The Eagles gave Ronald Darby looks inside on the final day of OTAs, and Jalen Mills has experience inside from his LSU days.
The dark-horse candidate for the spot could be DeVante Bausby who has had a huge spring and summer so far. Bausby has gotten plenty of first team reps, creating plenty of turnovers against the offense.
2018 fourth round pick Avonte Maddox could be the long term plan in the slot but as of right now it seems like he is the fourth or fifth option.
Rasul Douglas will get snaps as well on the outside against bigger receivers but don’t be surprised if they use him at safety during the regular season if the safety depth struggles.
If the Eagles had to decide today, Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones are on the outside with Mills inside. Mills has the versatility to handle bigger slot receivers, contain faster ones, and contribute as a strong tackler against the run.
Safety (4): 1. Malcolm Jenkins 2. Rodney McLeod 3. Chris Maragos 4. Tre Sullivan
Tre Sullivan had a standout performance to open up mini camp Tuesday, showing strong plays in coverage which going on top of what we already know about Sullivan’s ability to make big hits in the open field, makes him a favorite to be the new Corey Graham (if Corey Graham doesn’t become the new Corey Graham).
It was tough deciding between Sullivan and 2018 UDFA Jeremy Reaves and perhaps the Eagles keep both, but the prospects of potentially bringing back Graham, Rasul Douglas’s potential moving to safety, and Sullivans strong play keeps Reaves off the roster.
Special Teams (3): K Jake Elliott, P Cameron Johnston, LS Rick Lovato
Stay tuned for the Locked on Eagles special teams podcast special!
Matchups to watch in Cleveland
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
A look at the key matchups for Sunday’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
How will the Eagles defend the Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt backfield?
Is this the game Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz finally get things right?
Wentz Wednesday: Week 11
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
Carson Wentz went from looking like Jameis Winston all year to Sam Bradford on Sunday
Evaluating the inconsistencies in Wentz’s throwing mechanics that were apparent against New York
Wentz deserves blame without always steering the attention to Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman
Doug and Howie on the hot seat?
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
Even in a first place position…..it is time to think big picture with the Eagles
Are Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman safe beyond 2020?
Should Jeffery Lurie continue to be patient or is a shake-up needed?