Eagles training camp at the NovaCare Complex is well into its second week, and we’ve heard new tidbits about practices every day.
The reviews from Eagles beat writers have been mixed. Some players have consistently underperformed, while others have been the center of praise all throughout camp so far.
Here’s a look at five players who have stood out during Eagles camp up this point.
A lot of Eagles fans were high on fourth-year defensive end Josh Sweat coming into this year. And so far, it appears he’ll be a vital part of Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line. He and Derek Barnett have been splitting snaps at right defensive end on the first team defense. While it may seem like a full-blown competition, Gannon has stated that he views both Barnett and Sweat as starters in his defense.
Several offensive players have taken notice of Sweat’s emergence. “He’s a damn good defensive end,” Jordan Mailata, one of Sweat’s primary opponents during one-on-one drills, said. Jalen Hurts shared the same sentiment, stating, “I think he’s a pretty damn good D-end in this league.”
At just 24 years old, Sweat’s potential is limitless. He’s an obvious breakout candidate for the 2021 season.
Speaking of Sweat’s primary opponent, Mailata has all but solidified his status as the starting left tackle. The camp battle everyone was waiting for at left tackle seems like it’s over, according to nearly every beat reporter who’s been in attendance at camp.
Mailata has also had his fair share of notable plays during camp, like pancaking 2020 Pro Bowl end Brandon Graham.
After seeing how rapidly Mailata developed last season and into this early portion of training camp, he could potentially earn himself a nice pay day by season’s end.
If the Eagles didn’t acquire Steven Nelson right before the start of camp, fourth round pick Zech McPhearson may have worked his way into a starting role. He’s having a great start to camp, and he’s really come alive during the second week of practice.
On Monday, McPhearson intercepted third string quarterback Nick Mullens, and he followed it up with four pass breakups and a few near-interceptions on Tuesday, according to Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton.
His instincts and twitchy play have been noticeable every day of camp thus far. It may be unlikely that he unseats Darius Slay, Nelson, or Avonte Maddox for starting spot, be he’s certainly proving himself to be a quality backup, and a potential starter down the line.
When I wrote about who the odd man out at running back is, I didn’t even consider Jason Huntley as someone who could possibly earn a roster spot. Based on reports out of camp, I was completely wrong. Huntley has broken off huge runs in nearly every team period during camp so far.
Could the Eagles potentially keep five running backs on the roster with Huntley’s emergence? Maybe. We know Nick Sirianni wants to run the ball heavily, but will Howie Roseman really afford him five roster spots for his running backs? It feels a little unlikely, but who knows. Maybe they only keep two quarterbacks and free up an extra spot that way.
Nevertheless, Huntley seems to have earned some sort of role with this team in 2021. He won’t take touches away from anyone in the backfield, but he could very well be the starting punt/kick returner this year. With his speed and break away potential, I’d give him a shot as the returner.
I was very high on Quez Watkins coming into this year. His raw athleticism and playmaking ability was evident at times last year, but he still clearly had flaws in his route running that needed to be addressed. According to several sources out of Eagles camp, it looks like those issues have been ironed out by Watkins.
With first round pick DeVonta Smith out for 2-3 weeks, Watkins will have an opportunity to shine, potentially as a starter. His fellow 2020 draftees, Jalen Reagor and John Hightower, have both struggled during camp this far. If Watkins continues to impress, especially during the preseason, his role in Sirianni’s offense should be defined.
He may not be a regular starter, but as long as Watkins sees the field for at least 30-40 percent of the snaps this year, he should have himself a nice little breakout campaign.