Who knows what will happen between now and July 28, but as of this moment, that’s when NFL teams will be reporting to training camp.
We haven’t seen a training camp setup like this since the lockout in 2011. Teams haven’t been working out together, there haven’t been any OTAs or minicamps, so this will be the first time the entire team really comes together for any sort of organized activities this year.
That could lead to shaky product on the field initially, especially if the league decides to do away with the preseason entirely. But, the fact that none of these guys have gotten the chance to compete against one another could lead to some intense camp battles.
There are a handful of positions up for grabs entering this season. Here are the three camp battles every fan should be keeping an eye on.
With the departure of Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, the Eagles will have to depend on some unproven players to step up in his place. The team did re-sign Rodney McLeod to resume his role as the free safety, but we all know how important Jenkins’ role on the defense has been for the past several years.
It’s a hard ask of any player to step in and fill Jenkins’ shoes to a tee, but the front office went out and acquired a handful of versatile safeties, hoping at least of them can adequately play the Swiss army knife role for Jim Schwartz’s defense. Aside from re-signing Jalen Mills and promptly moving him to safety, the team also went out and acquired free agent and Philly native Will Parks, along with drafting Clemson standout K’Von Wallace in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
I would imagine Mills will get the first crack at taking the starting position, given his experience with the team and Jim Schwartz’s affinity for him. Parks and Wallace clearly present more upside, though.
Parks will be 26 heading into the season and has shown flashes of solid safety play throughout his career. Wallace was the steal of the draft for the Eagles and someone I could see contributing from day one. They’re both versatile guys who Schwartz will get on the field in some capacity this season.
For a more in depth breakdown of this position battle, check out my position profile here.
This job felt like it was about to be handed to Nate Sudfeld after the team re-signed him to a one-year deal this offseason, but the selection of Okalahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of this year’s draft throws that idea out the window.
Sudfeld will need to have a strong showing throughout camp to fend off Hurts from taking that backup role. Sudfeld is the more polished passer at this point in time, there’s no question about that, but for some reason Doug Pederson seems to be enamored with Hurts’ potential. So much so that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hurts as the team’s backup heading into the year.
A lot of fans have speculated that if Wentz didn’t get hurt during the wildcard game against Seattle, maybe the Hurts pick wouldn’t have happened. The way I see it, if Sudfeld didn’t get hurt during the preseason opener last year and actually staked his claim to the backup position, maybe the front office wouldn’t have seen the need to even address the quarterback position this offseason.
In other words, I don’t think the selection of Hurts was an indictment on the organization’s faith in Wentz, it was to solidify the backup position. The Eagles know more so than any other NFL team the importance of having a solid backup quarterback.
It’ll be interesting to see who claims the backup role heading into the season. Sudfeld has a grip on it for now, but one or two slip ups during camp could see Hurts elevated into that role.
The Eagles completely overhauled their wide receiver position this offseason. With Nelson Agholor now gone and Alshon Jeffery presumably starting the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, there’s a lot of question marks surrounding this group.
The only spot solidified at this time is DeSean Jackson’s. He’ll be the day one starter on the outside barring an injury (fingers crossed). The rest of the wideout depth chart is largely a mystery. First round pick Jalen Reagor seems like the ideal choice to start opposite of Jackson heading into the year. Pederson has already stated that Reagor will learn the position from Jackson, rather than trying to teach him multiple WR alignments.
This should ensure Reagor earning the starting spot opposite Jackson, unless he completely under performs during camp, which would be a gut punch for fans.
Then we have the slot position, which figures to be Greg Ward’s to lose. Fans tend to overlook Ward, and to an extent I get it, but he showed us some real potential as a productive slot receiver for this offense moving forward. In my bold predictions piece, I stated that Ward would lead all receivers in receptions in 2020. Here’s an excerpt from that article to better illustrate why I believe Ward could be a crucial weapon for this team:
“In the six games Ward played in last season, he totaled 28 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers projected over an entire 16 game season come out to approximately 74 receptions for 650-700 yards and 3-4 touchdowns.
Carson Wentz already has a level of comfort with Ward after targeting him 40 times in those final six regular season games last year. Ward caught 70% of his targets, both Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor caught under 60%. Ward also moved the chains 18 times on 28 catches, meaning he gained a first down on about 64% of his catches. Agholor only gained a first down 17 times on 39 catches, or 43% of the time.”
As for the rest of the team’s wideouts, they should all provide some great depth if the offense suffers the kind of injuries they did last season. Marquise Goodwin, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins and John Hightower is a solid crop of backup receivers.
Wideout was clearly the biggest area of need heading into this offseason, and Howie added several pieces to the group. Let’s hope injuries don’t completely ravage this position like they did last year.