Eagles: Players to watch at each defensive position during training camp

On Monday, we focused on the offensive players to watch once the Philadelphia Eagles start training camp. Today, we key in on the defensive side of the ball.

Howie Roseman did a fine job rejuvenating his defensive talent this offseason; adding numerous impact players at important positions. Nevertheless, Jonathan Gannon’s group still has more question marks than the offensive side of the ball.

Let’s take a look at each defensive position group and pinpoint which players are worth keeping tabs on during camp next month.

EDGE: Brandon Graham

We all know what Brandon Graham brings to the field when he’s healthy. He’s been one of the most consistent forces along the Eagles defensive line for the past decade. At 34 years old and coming off a torn Achilles, it’s fair to have some concerns with BG entering the 2022 season.

During OTAs, we heard Graham looked great and didn’t have any limitations with on-field activities. That was a great sign and hopefully that carries over to training camp. But it would still be reassuring to see him in live action.

The good news for the Eagles is they won’t have to rely on Graham to play the vast majority of defensive snaps this year. Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Derek Barnett will all get ample playing time along the edge, which will allow all of the pass rushers to be at their best.

We all assume BG will be just fine once the season gets underway, but we won’t know for sure until we see him at camp.

Defensive Tackle: Jordan Davis

One of the main attractions for the Eagles during camp will be their first-round pick, defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Not only because he’s a mammoth of a man, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 340 pounds — we need to see how Gannon plans on utilizing his abilities.

There were plenty of scouts who designated Davis as a nose tackle only coming out of college. While there were a lot of people arguing against that notion, we don’t know exactly how the coaching staff feels about him. Training camp will give us a clearer picture on that.

Linebacker: Davion Taylor, Nakobe Dean

The future of the Eagles linebacker position looks bright, but they still have a ways to go before reaching their ceiling. The two young building blocks of the group, Davion Taylor and Nakobe Dean, will draw the most attention during camp this year.

Taylor looked much better in his second season in 2021. His mental development was evident and it allowed him to utilize his athletic ability to the fullest. His season ending injury really put a damper on what could have been, but there’s no doubt that Taylor’s ceiling is still fairly high.

As for Dean, I’d argue he’s already the best linebacker on the team. But as we all know, he’ll have to prove that on the field before he gets legitimate playing time. Camp will be his first opportunity to do so.

Cornerback: Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan

Until the team acquired James Bradberry, it seemed like Zech McPhearson and Tay Gowan would duke it for the right to start opposite of Darius Slay. Although that opportunity won’t be there now, it’ll still be interesting to watch how much these two young corners have developed over the offseason.

McPhearson had some nice moments during his rookie campaign, but with only 179 defensive snaps under his belt, it’s impossible to get a real gauge what he can be at the NFL level. Gowan got even less playing time last season, though, that can be attributed a little to the fact that he was a midseason acquisition.

Slay will enter the year at 31 years old and Bradberry is only under contract for one year. Gowan and McPhearson could very well be the future of the cornerback position in Philly. Their development behind the starters will be key to the team’s long-term outlook.

Safety: K’Von Wallace

We’ve talked a lot about the safety position this offseason, speculating whether Marcus Epps was ready to start or breaking down what Jaquiski Tartt brings to the table. K’Von Wallace has gotten lost in the shuffle a bit and could be entering a make or break year.

Wallace entered last season as the primary third safety in Gannon’s defense, until injuries pretty much derailed his season. He only played 183 defensive snaps last season, logging just 15 total tackles. Regardless of the small sample size, Pro Football Focus still graded him highly against the run, handing Wallace a run-defense grade of 74.1 for the year, along with a tackling grade of 88.5 — the highest tackling grade of any safety on the roster last season.

If Wallace can stay healthy during camp and show the same sort of flashes he did during camp last year, don’t be shocked if he’s able to carve out a role for himself in Gannon’s defense.


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