The NFL is entering its lull period of the offseason. No more draft speculation, very little free agent speculation. There won’t be much to discuss until we draw closer to training camp. But one thing we can speculate on, is who will start at each position once we get to August.
The starting 11 on both sides of the ball will look somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in recent years, but there are a handful of new faces who should step in and start from day one in Philly.
Let’s get right into it.
- Jalen Hurts
- Joe Flacco
- Jamie Newman
This one is the easiest position to predict. Unless Hurts gets injured before camp, he’ll be taking first team snaps right away. Joe Flacco was brought in to a veteran presence and reliable backup if Hurts does go down. And undrafted free agent Jamie Newman is the only other quarterback on the roster at this point.
Newman feels like a developmental piece who may not even suit up on Sundays. But his skill set is intriguing enough to at least keep him around on the practice squad.
- Miles Sanders
- Boston Scott
- Kenneth Gainwell
- Jordan Howard
Sanders is the clear starter of this bunch, but I’m sure both Scott and fifth round pick Kenneth Gainwell will have their fair share of touches throughout the season. While Scott will walk into camp as the first back off the bench most likely, don’t be surprised if by season’s end Gainwell leap frogs him and gets the majority of third down snaps.
Gainwell is a polished receiver out of the backfield who has a skill set that can make an immediate impact in the NFL.
As for Jordan Howard, he felt like an insurance policy signing at the time. And now that Gainwell is in the backfield, I’m not so sure Howard will even make it the entire season with the Eagles. His best bet to have an impact is to embrace the short yardage, power back role. Miami utilized him in that role during his short stint with them last season, scoring four touchdowns with a measly 1.2 yards per carry average.
Z: DeVonta Smith, Travis Fulgham, J.J Arcega-Whiteside/Trevon Grimes
X: Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Jhamon Ausbon
Slot: Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Khalil Tate
The Eagles have a very promising young group of wideouts on their hands heading into the 2021 season. DeVonta Smith should step in from day one and give Hurts a legit weapon on the outside. Reagor should benefit greatly from Smith’s presence on the opposite side. Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins all showed flashes last season in their limited time on the field. And we can’t forget about Greg Ward manning the slot position.
There are a few wildcards at play when you look at this WR depth chart. The first one being UDFA Trevon Grimes out of Florida. He’ll more than likely beat out JJAW during camp this year and take that third Z spot. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he outperforms Fulgham either — Grimes’ has great ball skills and is coming off a pretty productive season at Florida.
The other name to keep an eye on is Quez Watkins. I thought he showed more promise than Hightower did last season, and he’s dynamic enough to play on the outside or in the slot. If Ward struggles, the shifty Watkins could find himself taking snaps from the slot throughout the year. His versatility sets him apart from some of the other depth pieces behind Smith and Reagor.
- Dallas Goedert
- Zach Ertz
- Caleb Wilson
- Jason Croom
Chances are, Zach Ertz won’t be with the Eagles once training camp rolls around. But as of right now he’s an Eagle, so I included him on this list. Regardless if he’s here or not, Dallas Goedert should be the tight end getting the most targets.
Behind those two, we have Caleb Wilson and Jason Croom. Between them, they had a total of 22 offensive snaps played last season. Not ideal for an offense that we assume will use a lot of two tight end sets. Richard Rodgers is still a free agent, so don’t be surprised if he’s brought back when/if Ertz is gone.
LT: Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Brett Toth
LG: Landon Dickerson, Isaac Seumalo, Sua Opeta
C: Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Nate Herbig, Luke Juriga
RG: Brandon Brooks, Nate Herbig, Matt Pryor
RT: Lane Johnson, Jack Driscoll, Matt Pryor
If this offensive line combination can stay healthy — and that’s a big ‘if’ — this should be the starting five we see in Week 1. Some may project second round pick Landon Dickerson as the heir apparent to Kelce, but in year one he’s a clear upgrade over Seumalo at left guard, so I have no issue having him start there during his rookie year.
Mailata and Dillard will likely battle it out in camp for the left tackle job. After seeing the strides Mailata took last season in Dillard’s absence, he has the ability to be a solid starting left tackle in this league for years to come. The same can’t be said for Dillard at this point. We just haven’t seen enough of him.
As for Kelce and the right side of the line, they’re all penciled in as starters when healthy.
DE: Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Taron Jackson
DT: Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, T.Y. McGill
DT: Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway, Marlon Tuipulotu, Raequan Williams
DE: Brandon Graham, Patrick Johnson, Tarron Jackson, Joe Ostman
There won’t be many changes at all to the starting four along the defensive line this year. Graham, Barnett, Cox, and Hargrave all started in some capacity last season. The rotation of lineman behind them is where it gets interesting.
Josh Sweat carved out a role for himself last season as a situational pass rusher on the edge, recording six sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Expect him to see a similar workload this year, with the opportunity to jump in as a starter if he develops into a more complete end. Milton Williams should be used in a similar fashion along the interior — subbing in primarily in passing situations and causing havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
Seventh round pick Patrick Johnson also excites me as a situational pass rusher on the edge. He certainly presents the most upside when compared to the rest of the depth pieces at defensive end. He and Genard Avery are more comfortable rushing the passer from a standup position, so it’ll be interesting to see how Jonathan Gannon uses their skill sets in his defense next season.
LB: Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor
LB: Eric Wilson, Shaun Bradley, Joe Bachie
I’m not as down on the linebacking group as most fans are, but it’s far from a strength. Alex Singleton and newly signed Eric Wilson are good enough to hold down the position for the time being, and they’re both young with potential to grow.
T.J. Edwards is a nice run stuffing linebacker who should see time in short yardage situations or on the goal line. It’ll be interesting to see how developed both Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor are coming into this season. Two draft picks from last season, neither showed a ton of promise during their rookie campaigns. Taylor certainly has the athletic ability to be a good coverage linebacker on this team, but it’s unclear if he’s truly ready to get extended playing time just yet.
CB: Darius Slay, Michael Jacquet, Grayland Arnold
CB: Craig James, Zech McPhearson, Kevon Seymour
NCB: Avonte Maddox, Lavert Hill
The cornerback position was the biggest need facing the team entering the offseason, and it’s the biggest need as the team prepares for offseason workouts. I can’t imagine Howie Roseman doesn’t add to this group before the season starts. But as right now, this is what we’re working with.
Slay is a reliable veteran on the outside. While he’s getting up in age, he still had a relatively good season last year. I like Avonte Maddox sliding in to the nickel position. His skill set fits the archetype of a nickel much better than that of an outside corner. I think we could see a nice season out of Maddox from the slot this year.
As for the second outside corner position, it’s anyone’s job at this point. I’m sure Craig James, Zech McPhearson, and Michael Jacquet will all have their opportunity to stake their claim during camp this year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if McPhearson enters the year as the starter out there — assuming Howie doesn’t add anyone. But just because he’s an unknown at this point, I place James slightly ahead of him.
SS: Rodney McLeod, K’Von Wallace, JaCoby Stevens
FS: Anthony Harris, Marcus Epps, Andrew Adams
The safety position for the Eagles should be in good shape if both starters are able to stay healthy this season. McLeod and Harris is an upgrade over the duo from last season, McLeod and Jalen Mills, so I’ll take it.
It’ll be interesting to see how often the team runs three-safety looks with this group. Marcus Epps got a lot of playing time last season due to injury, but he doesn’t strike me as someone you want to play close to the line of scrimmage a whole lot. K’Von Wallace or JaCoby Stevens should be the first safeties off the bench in three-safety looks. Wallace will need to prove himself during camp and show that he’s capable of playing in that box safety role. As for Stevens, he already has a ton of experience as a box safety, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gets playing time in that role during his rookie year.
Andrew Adams feels like a special teams player, although he has been productive at the safety position at times during his career. The shifting depth chart at safety will be something to keep an eye on throughout camp.
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