We’ve seen the 2020 Eagles on the field 10 times since the ramp-up phase of the NFL offseason allowed for padded practices.
Because of the cancellation of OTAs and rookie minicamps, the team went into the August practices with more question marks than a typical offseason. We previewed some of the biggest storylines going into camp, headlined by the uncertainty at left tackle, wide receiver, and the new-look secondary.
Here’s where each stands now:
The Eagles’ wide receiving corps was one of the worst groups in the NFL last season. In response to the lack of production, the Eagles used three draft picks, including the No. 21 overall pick on Jalen Reagor, to shore up the position for 2020.
The increase of speed has been apparent. Seeing Reagor and his fellow rookies John Hightower and Quez Watkins has given the Eagles’ offense a different look in camp. Reagor’s athletic ability is impossible to miss. He has speed and explosiveness to gain separation and has won one-on-one battles against veteran cornerback Darius Slay on a few occasions. Both Hightower and Watkins have flashed their potential. Hightower has made a handful of impressive catches, including arguably the best catch of the summer with Avonte Maddox draped all over him in the end zone.
Add J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has been a force in the red zone and third-down situations after a lackluster rookie season, and the Eagles’ receiver group is starting to look much better. A healthy DeSean Jackson, resurgent Arcega-Whiteside pairing with Greg Ward and DeSean Jackson is a respectable group for which teams will have to game plan. It will be important to see Arcega-Whiteside and Reagor translate their practice performances to games, but both players have given reasons for optimism.
Andre Dillard’s sophomore season is over before it started after suffering a biceps injury that will require season-ending surgery. Dillard will now spend the year watching Jason Peters, the player he was expected to replace, fill in at left tackle.
Peters spent the last two weeks taking reps at right guard, where he was expected to replace Brandon Brooks after Brooks tore an Achilles in the offseason. Now Peters is on much more familiar ground, preparing for his 17th season playing left tackle. Time will tell if Peters made any changes in his offseason preparation or training regimen that will complicate the switch back to his old position, but he was a quality left tackle last season even though he committed 11 false-start penalties.
The long-term viability of Dillard at left tackle will now have to wait until next summer. Dillard’s injury takes the onus off him and places it squarely on Matt Pryor, a sixth-round pick in 2018 who got his first start in last season’s wild-card playoff loss to Seattle, subbing for Brooks. Pryor will be the starting right guard in lieu of Brooks and now Peters. He’ll be sandwiched between Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, both All-Pro-caliber players. That should help.
Even if Pryor plays well, the team is lacking depth, especially at tackle. The Eagles had the luxury of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a fringe starting-quality tackle capable of playing on either side of the line. Vaitai secured a lucrative contract and starting job with the Detroit Lions, leaving the team with unproven options if and when the 38-year-old Peters needs a few plays — or games — off.
Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, and Prince Tega-Wanogho have been the backup tackles in camp. Mailata hasn’t played in a regular-season game and the other two are rookies.
The Eagles’ revamped secondary, led by newcomer Darius Slay and backed by Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills at safety, has done well against the team’s offense. Mills’ move from cornerback hasn’t led to any noticeable gaffes. He’s had a couple of interceptions, including a nice play when he read Wentz’s eyes and jumped a pass. Slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, another newcomer, has been one of the standouts in the last two weeks; he’s sticky in coverage and has hardly been beaten badly. Slay has looked the part in training camp for the most part, too.
The biggest question remaining with the secondary going into the season opener is not who will be the second outside cornerback, but how they’ll fare. Avonte Maddox, the frontrunner going in, now has the job firmly in hand. Whether he’ll be able to overcome his 5-foot-9 frame and leverage his quickness to break up passes is yet to be seen, but it could impact the team’s record this year.