Training camp is just 11 days away (11 days!). While expectations are understandably reserved entering the 2021 season, there’s still a natural excitement that comes with each football season in Philadelphia.
This year’s training camp will be an interesting one for a number of reasons. First and foremost, is Nick Sirianni the man for the job? We may not find out during camp, but we’ll get a clearer picture as to what his true coaching philosophy looks like.
One aspect of that philosophy that he’s made abundantly clear is his emphasis on constant competition, and there should be no shortage of that at camp this year. There are several camp battles at numerous positions across the team.
Here are all the offensive camp battles to keep an eye on once camp rolls around at the end of the month.
The most talked about camp battle so far this offseason, Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata will duke it out for the right to protect Jalen Hurts’ blindside in 2021.
Following a solid outing as the starting left tackle, most fans expect Mailata to man the left tackle spot this year. In 733 offensive snaps, Mailata committed just three penalties and allowed seven sacks. His overall Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 was 70.3, ranking him 43rd among all offensive tackles in football last season. Not bad for a former seventh round pick who never played football before entering the NFL.
Dillard will have a tough road ahead of him. He didn’t play well during his rookie year. He allowed four sacks on just 183 pass blocking snaps as a rookie, and he finished the year with a PFF overall grade of 59.7. But Dillard has grown a lot since then, both mentally and physically.
Entering camp last year, Dillard had bulked up and looked prepared to step in as the left tackle of the future in Philly. An up and down camp culminated in a season ending injury for Dillard, as he tore his bicep before the year even began. At that time, Mailata wasn’t exactly the next man up. The team tried a few different approaches to fill the vacant left tackle spot before going to Mailata.
If Mailata struggled or never got his chance, this wouldn’t even be a discussion right now. Dillard would be the guy.
But, it’s also fair to point out that if Dillard wasn’t a first round pick, Mailata would be the starting left tackle heading into camp. Of course, Dillard was a first round pick for a reason, but on paper it just seems like his abilities won’t be able to compare to Mailata’s moving forward, especially if the former rugby player continues to develop at such a rapid rate.
Not only is this a battle that’ll determine the starter for this year, it’ll likely determine who the Eagles left tackle is for the next decade. It’s obviously the most important camp battle to watch this year.
Backup Running Back
Miles Sanders is going to be the starting running back in the Eagles backfield, but it’ll be interesting to see who will fill in behind him
Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, Kenneth Gainwell, and Jordan Howard will all fight for snaps during the preseason to determine who plays the role of Robin in this backfield.
Scott is likely a lock to make the roster. He’s played well during the past two seasons and there probably isn’t a clear upgrade on this roster at the moment. With the rest of the pack, one of them probably won’t be on the opening day roster.
It’ll come down to what kind of skill sets Sirianni wants out of his backs. With the current construction of the backfield, it seems like Sirianni wants dual threat backs to populate his running back room. Every single one of the Eagles backs fit that archetype except for one, Jordan Howard.
But, there’s a chance that Sirianni wants at least one back on his roster that’s a capable short yardage option. In that case Howard makes the cut, and either Johnson or Gainwell are the odd man out.
Third Wide Receiver
At receiver, the top two are essentially set in stone. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor will be the top two receiver options in Sirianni’s offense this season. But past them, it’s a crap shoot.
We know who will likely fill out the roster, but the battle for that third receiver spot will be telling. Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham will be the two going head to head in this battle — one is a proven slot receiver who can be relied upon, the other is a high-ceiling player who has a lot to prove.
Fulgham’s development will determine the winner here. If he worked on his game this offseason and comes into camp as a more consistent receiving threat, this third receiver job is his. Ward will be there regardless to provide depth, and he’s more than capable of being a starting slot receiver. Fulgham has the build and ability to play anywhere on the field, making him a much more valuable asset than Ward.
Ward is exclusively a slot guy, unfortunately. There isn’t much you can do with him other than putting him in the slot and letting him go to work. He’s serviceable in that role, but Sirianni has stated multiple times that he wants to move his receivers around the formation.
Fulgham is a true x-factor entering the year. If he plays well enough to get more snaps than Ward, this offense could be very exciting in 2021.