Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Friday. In case you didn’t know, we’re just 13 days from the NFL season’s opening night. That’s only five more newsletters! The Eagles have an off day today after five straight days of practices, a couple of which were held on hot and humid days.
The team’s availability on Thursday had a sharp focus on the social justice issues brought back to the forefront because of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. It’s been a turbulent summer for the discussion of race in America, and the last few days have seen numerous sporting events boycotted and postponed. The Eagles decided to hold practice yesterday when a few teams canceled their scheduled activities in protest. Instead, they had team leaders Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, and Carson Wentz address the current situation.
Malcolm Jenkins’ departure from Philadelphia left a bit of a leadership vacancy in the Eagles locker room, especially in regards to racial injustice. It appears that the trio we saw today have stepped up to fill the void and have done so well. The team has formed a social justice committee, of which McLeod is one of the leaders. They’ll have a private meeting today, apparently, and will have Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and other team executives in participation.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We here at The Inquirer are an experimental bunch. So, let’s try a mailbag in which we answer your questions with 10 days of training camp now behind us.
Question: Think the obvious question is what will the new offensive line look like? JP back to LT? — from Marlin (@thereelmarlin) on Twitter.
Good question, Marlin. Andre Dillard’s season-ending injury will almost certainly move Jason Peters back to left tackle. To be frank, Peters might have ended up back on Carson Wentz’s blindside at some point this season regardless. Dillard was arguably the biggest question mark still looming through the first two weeks of training camp, although it’s only fair to acknowledge he was battling an upper-body injury even before hurting his biceps on Thursday.
I’d say it’s safe to project the starting offensive line for Sept. 13 against the Washington Football Team as follows:
LT Peters | LG Isaac Seumalo | C Jason Kelce | RG Matt Pryor | RT Lane Johnson
It’s worth nothing this is far from a bad group. Peters may not be an All-Pro talent anymore, but he was a quality starter last season and could be again. Pryor has looked decent in training camp, and he’s the only unproven player on the line, sandwiched between two All-Pro linemen who are arguably the best at their position. The real issue will come with the depth of this group. The Eagles will be choosing between Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, and Prince Tega-Wanogho for the backup tackle spots. That’s a far cry from having Halapoulivaati Vaitai on call for whenever Peters needs to shake off an injury or if Johnson misses time.
Q: Is Sidney Jones going to make this roster? Feel like Jim Schwartz is losing patience with the kid, and he can’t stay on the field. - from Corey D (@velocirapcor) on Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Corey. Jones’ stock has been on steady decline since the start of training camp. He needed to put together a solid camp to prove he could turn his career around and maybe even compete for the starting cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay. Instead, he’s been sidelined with a lower-body injury and has next to nothing to show for the last two weeks.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said time was starting to run out for Jones to prove himself worthy of significant playing time this year, and Jones hasn’t returned to the field since then. Whether or not he makes the team will be an interesting look at how the Eagles’ front office weighs potential value against production this season. It’s hard to argue Jones has earned a spot, especially considering his lack of contributions as a special teams player because of his slight frame. Can the Eagles cut their losses and abandon the hope of Jones reaching the ceiling they believed he had when they drafted him? My guess is they’ll cut him, but it’s likely going to be one of the decisions keeping Howie Roseman up at night before cut-down day.
Q: Who is going to win the middle linebacker spot? — from The Gold Surfer (@ab_pmv88) on Twitter.
Appreciate your inquiry, Surfer. The first thing worth noting is how little the Eagles will use conventional three-linebacker looks this season. I expect them to run out three corners in lieu of three ’backers almost all the time. When they’re running two linebackers, the early indications are Nate Gerry and TBD. It’s a competition between T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley, with Riley seemingly coming on strong as we progress through camp. Edwards has a bigger frame than Riley. He is 20 pounds heavier and it shows. That frame helps him hold up against the run better, but it also contributes to the question marks about him in pass coverage.
How valuable is a run-stuffing linebacker, especially when you consider the Eagles’ investment in defensive tackles, who theoretically will keep interior offensive linemen off the Eagles’ undersized linebackers? Still, I think you’ll see Edwards next to Gerry on early downs and Riley will still be a major special teams contributor and fill in as the third linebacker in the base defense.
Expect the Eagles to run a dime formation on obvious passing downs with just Gerry out there. They might get enough versatility out of Slay, Jalen Mills, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Will Parks, Rodney McLeod, and Avonte Maddox to make two-linebacker sets unnecessary.