With spring OTAs wrapped up in Philly, all we have to look forward to now is training camp in August. There may be a few more transactions made before now and then, like a Zach Ertz trade or release. But it should be relatively quiet around the Eagles for the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see the team go against one another in any 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills during OTAs. We were able to gather a little bit of information on potential starters from the position drills being run, but nothing totally concrete.
We won’t get the full picture on where the depth chart stands until training camp, where we’ll see a handful of position battles play out. Here are the two most prominent battles to keep any eye on.
Left Tackle: Jordan Mailata v. Andre Dillard
While many fans will write-in Jordan Mailata as the Week 1 starter at left tackle, it’s just not that simple. The front office spent a first round pick on Andre Dillard in 2019 and penciled him in as the starting LT heading into last season. A torn bicep derailed Dillard’s 2020 season, and led to Mailata’s coming out party.
It took him some time to settle in, but once he did, Mailata was arguably the best offensive lineman on the team last year behind Jason Kelce. In 502 pass blocking sets, Mailata gave up seven sacks and committed just three penalties. Per Pro Football Focus, Mailata finished with an overall grade of 70.3 last year, ranking him as the 43rd-best tackle (either left or right) in 2020.
For a guy who’s never played organized football before entering the NFL, that’s pretty damn impressive. Couple that with his development over the season and his unworldly combination of size and athleticism, and you may have a franchise left tackle in the making.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s already a better left tackle than Dillard. Missing an entire season obviously threw a wrench in Dillard’s stature with the team, but he did have some bright spots during his rookie campaign.
In 183 pass block snaps, Dillard allowed four sacks and committed one penalty. He played relatively well at left tackle, it was when he was forced to play on the right side that his struggles started to occur. Most notably against the Seattle Seahawks, when he started at right tackle and was promptly benched in the second half in favor of Big V.
Personally, I think Mailata should have the first crack at the starting spot because he played a bit better in his time as the starter in 2020 than Dillard did the year prior, but it’ll undoubtedly come down to who plays better in camp. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland even said there was going to be an open competition there when asked about it during OTAs, stating, “Oh, there’s definitely one. And, I think any time there is a competition like that — and it’s that close — it brings the best out of both players.”
Stoutland then went on to say there’s no clear edge for either player entering training camp. It’s a full-blown competition. It should be one of the more interesting ones to watch unfold during camp, and certainly one of the most pivotal ones to the Eagles success in 2021.
CB2: Michael Jacquet, Zech McPhearson, among others
This camp battle likely won’t be between just two players. Rather, every corner on the roster will more than likely have a shot to win this thing. Unless the team goes out and signs one of the veteran corners still available on the open market, which could happen once Ertz’s money is off the books, but who knows at this point.
Reports out of OTAs indicated that Michael Jacquet was getting some run with the first team secondary during position drills.
Yeah, that’s not ideal. But out of all the corners on the roster not named Darius Slay, Jacquet may be the best option. It’s a sad state of affairs for the Eagles cornerback group right now.
Jacquet did struggle during his starts last season, most notably against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16. Remember this glorious graphic from that Sunday afternoon?
It wasn’t all bad for the undrafted rookie, though. The week prior against Arizona, Jacquet actually impacted the game in a positive way multiple times. He forced a fumble, recorded a sack, and had two pass deflections.
Standing at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, Jacquet has the desired length to play in cover 2 zone scheme — which is what will likely be run by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. That alone may give him the edge to start at the second cornerback spot. Avonte Maddox is primed to shift into the nickel this year, while Zech McPhearson, Craig James, and Kevon Seymour are all shorter than Jacquet is.
If I had to guess, I’d say the CB2 job will come down to either Jacquet or McPhearson. And I think McPhearson can win the job outright if he performs well enough during camp and the preseason. He has nice ball skills and his selection in the fourth round was labeled by many scouts as a steal.
The Eagles pass defense has been horrendous over the past few seasons. Hopefully, this camp competition can produce a diamond in the rough for this secondary.