With training camp for the Birds starting this week, that can mean only one thing: we’re one step closer to the NFL season, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Howie Roseman has assembled perhaps the deepest team in the NFL heading into 2019, which means there should be a number of fun position battles to keep an eye on during camp. The starters across the board, for the most part, are set in stone already, but I’m anxious to see who makes the final cut to fill out the rest of the roster.
Here are three of the most intriguing position battles to watch throughout camp.
The three-man pass rushing rotation will consist of Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry. But as we know, Jim Schwartz rotates his defensive ends quite often, and throughout most of his years here, he’s had at least four solid pass rushers to work with.
Heading into camp, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut favorite to snag that fourth spot. Sure, we’ve heard the rumors about a reunion with Connor Barwin, but the team doesn’t appear to have as much interest in him and he does for Philly.
It would be great to see Barwin back in midnight green, but the coaching staff seems to have faith that second-year man Josh Sweat will step up to the challenge. If he can stay healthy and proves he can deliver in pass rush situations, it’s his job for the taking.
The defensive coaching staff has also been impressed by Daeshon Hall and Joel Ostman, who both showed some pass rushing promise during the spring practices. Rookie Shareef Miller feels like more of a project at this point and he’ll more than likely end up on the practice squad at the end of the summer.
The Eagles’ defensive end position isn’t as deep as I’d like, especially after being spoiled with at least four solid pass rushers during the past two seasons. After Schwartz sees what he has with his younger ends, I have a feeling Barwin may get a call. I wouldn’t hate that move by any means, I just wish Roseman would have put a bigger emphasis on it this offseason given how valuable our pass rush has been for the team over the past few seasons.
Like defensive end, the top three wideouts are already solidified with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor leading the way. After that, you’re looking at a lot of young and unknown players.
Second-round rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside has gotten a lot of praise from the coaches since mini camp, most notably for his leaping ability and red zone potential. He’ll likely slot in as the fourth guy.
After JJ, we have Mack Hollins, who was in a position to contribute last season before getting injured and missing the entire year. Shelton Gibson also showed some promise during the preseason last year, but it wasn’t enough to carve out any substantial playing time at wideout once the regular season started. And then we have Greg Ward and Charles Johnson, both of whom played their last football in the AAF.
Who ever is able to snag the fifth spot on the WR depth chart will need to find ways to contribute on special teams as well. Because of that, I envision Hollins taking that final spot. He was coveted as one of the best special teamers coming out of college, and he also displayed some of that great play during his rookie season when he was healthy. The only thing holding him back from a roster spot is his health at this point.
I’ve already written on the bloated CB room this offseason, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to projecting the depth chart there.
Ronald Darby seems like a lock to start on the outside after Howie signed him to a one-year deal this offseason, and after avoiding the PUP designation going into camp, he’ll be ready to go sooner rather than later.
Jalen Mills on the other hand wasn’t able to avoid the PUP and there still isn’t any timetable for his return. Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas received first team reps during the first day of camp. If Mills doesn’t return to the field soon, his starting job could be jeopardy. I believe both Maddox and Douglas have higher ceilings than Mills, so if they do enough to impress the coaching staff during the early stages of camp, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mills gets traded or released.
The CB position is loaded with depth, so cutting ties with Mills isn’t that far fetched. Especially if second-year man Sidney Jones is able to bounce back after a disappointing 2018 campaign. His potential may be the highest of all the corners on the roster.
He has the physical ability to be a great corner in our defense, he’ll just need to make the most out of his opportunities during camp and the preseason. His athleticism lends itself to the nickel position, and I believe that’s where most of Jones’ snaps will come when the season starts.