It’s officially training camp month! The Eagles will report to camp on July 28 and it will mark the beginning of what hopes to be a fun season for the Birds.
There will be a ton of stuff to watch during camp. How has Jalen Hurts grown as a passer, how do all the new pieces fit, are the offensive/defensive schemes going to look any different this year? These questions are on the top of every Eagles fans’ mind, but what about the guys fighting for a roster spot?
There are several of them, both young and old, who could be on the chopping block once the roster gets cut down to its final 53.
Here are five fringe roster players worth watching once camp gets underway later this month.
LB Patrick Johnson
Looking at the potential linebacker depth chart, it’s hard to say whether or not second-year backer Patrick Johnson will show enough to survive the final cut. As a seventh-round pick last year, Johnson played sparingly as the SAM backer during his rookie campaign. Genard Avery got the majority of reps there, even though he didn’t really do much to earn the spot.
Johnson logged just 111 defensive snaps as a rookie, compiling 17 total tackles and 1 tackle for loss in the process. Pro Football Focus handed Johnson an overall defensive grade of 66.6 for his efforts.
Although last year’s SAM, Genard Avery, is no longer with the team, sack artist Haason Reddick is now in town, along with sixth-round rookie Kyron Johnson. Reddick is the unquestioned starter and the rookie has some intriguing traits that could give him the slight edge over Patrick Johnson.
When it’s all said and done, the team could opt to keep both Kyron and Patrick Johnson just as depth pieces, but it’s not a foregone conclusion given the amount of legit linebacker talent the team added this offseason.
The Johnson v. Johnson camp battle could turn out to be one of the most interesting competitions during camp this year.
CB Tay Gowan
I’d imagine most fans will be more interested in watching Zech McPhearson at the cornerback position, given the fact he was actually drafted by the team and could be a future starter. But we can’t forget about Tay Gowan, one of the assets acquired in the Zach Ertz trade last season.
He barely played as a rookie and didn’t suit up for his final year in college due to COVID, but he has some real potential as an NFL cornerback. In 2019, Gowan’s last full year in the FBS, the UCF corner allowed a passer rating of 26.2 in single coverage, the second-best mark in all of college football that year. During the same year, Gowan allowed a completion percentage of 40% and managed to snag 2 interceptions.
Heading into the 2021 draft process, PFF designated Gowan as a second-round talent, but his lacking experience caused him to drop all the way to the fifth.
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Gowan play football in a meaningful game but there’s reasons to believe he can actually become something with the right coaching and development. Only time will tell.
EDGE Tarron Jackson
Given the lack of depth at the defensive end position, Tarron Jackson is almost a lock to make the final roster. Regardless, his performance during camp could go a long way in determining the long-term outlook for the EDGE position.
Aside from Josh Sweat, the Eagles don’t have much young talent at defensive end. Brandon Graham will likely be done in a year or so, and while Derek Barnett is still only 26 years old, his future with the team is still very much up in the air.
During his rookie season, Jackson played 23% of the team’s defensive snaps, racking up 18 combined tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack in his limited exposure.
Whenever you’re watching a rookie and his playing time is sparse, you’re hoping to just see flashes of potential. Jackson certainly had those moments in 2021, like this play against Washington late in the season.
He plays with nice power for the position and has some savvy pass rushing moves in his arsenal. Jackson will be a pivotal rotation piece for Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line in 2022. Hopefully, he takes a leap in development and proves he can be more than just a depth piece moving forward.
CB Jimmy Moreland
Acquired off waivers earlier this offseason, Jimmy Moreland adds another body to an already crowded Eagles cornerback room. They currently have a staggering 13 corners on the roster. Several of them won’t end up on the opening day roster. As for Moreland specifically, his versatility and experience could give him an edge over some of the young pups.
Moreland’s role will likely be in the nickel as Avonte Maddox’s primary backup, but he does have some experience playing on the outside. His best season came in 2020 as a member of the Washington Football Team, where he allowed a completion percentage of 67.7% and a passer rating of 74.1 on 65 throws into his coverage. He also notched his one and only interception of his career that season. Ironically enough, it came against the Eagles.
If Moreland shows up during camp, he’ll be the frontrunner to earn a roster spot as one of the nickel corners. Having quality depth at the cornerback position is invaluable. Moreland is one of the only depth corners on the roster who actually has legitimate experience playing the position at this level.
RB Kennedy Brooks
The top-three backs on the Eagles roster are already set in stone — Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, and Boston Scott. Behind them, undrafted rookie Kennedy Brooks and perennial camp star Jason Huntley will duke it out for the final spot on the RB depth chart.
I wouldn’t be surprised with whomever the team decides to keep around. It’ll just depend on what Nick Sirianni wants from a skill set perspective. If he’s looking for a potential Jordan Howard replacement, Brooks will be the guy.
Brooks is a north-south runner who rarely goes down upon first contact. He possesses good vision and he has enough burst to hit the hole effectively.
Given how effective Howard was in the Eagles running game last year, Brooks could probably be just as productive. And he’ll provide the team with a long-term power option in the backfield.
Brooks’ performance during camp will go a long way in determining who earns that final roster spot. Brooks v. Huntley figures to be one of the best camp battles this year.
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