Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Wednesday. Eagles players are off on vacation, but there’s still plenty going on in terms of roster movement. Speaking of which, did you get your Nick Mullens jersey yet? If not, you better hurry.
We’re about six weeks away from the start of training camp, but it’s never too early to start setting the table for what’s to come.
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Most Eagles players are in deep offseason mode after their three-week stretch of OTAs concluded earlier this month, but there’s still work to be done.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said that, even though the players won’t be in the building, he expects them to return to the NovaCare Complex in excellent condition.
“The other thing we talked about … continue to practice good habits, stay out of trouble, and then be ready to come into camp in the best physical shape of your life,” Sirianni said. “Because when you’re in the best physical shape of your life, now your football IQ and your fundamentals can really show.”
For guys about to battle for specific roles, that directive will be all the more important. Below are three groups of players that fit that description.
Jordan Mailata vs. Andre Dillard
The competition for the starting left-tackle job has been the most discussed position battle so far, and for good reason. It’s not for lack of trying, but the team failed to transition seamlessly from Eagles great Jason Peters to an heir apparent.
Dillard was taken in the first round of the 2019 draft with the plan to develop him into Peters’ replacement, but Mailata looked significantly more adept in the role last season than Dillard did the year before.
Sirianni’s constant emphasis on competition might or might not prove to be completely the case later this summer, but it certainly seems as if Dillard and Mailata will actually get equal opportunity to secure the job. If Dillard, who missed all of last year with a biceps injury, has made the requisite progress on his strength and mental toughness, he could make a solid case for the job.
If Mailata can continue to show technical development to pair with his rare combination of size, speed, and power, it will be hard to keep him off the field.
Avonte Maddox vs. Zech McPhearson vs. a potential free-agent signee
A second outside cornerback was one of the Eagles’ biggest needs going into the offseason, but there’s no clear answer at the spot in the wake of OTAs.
At least not yet.
Whether the team brings someone in, keeps Maddox there, or throws McPhearson to the wolves early remains to be seen. At 5-foot-9 with short arms, Maddox is much better suited for a slot-cornerback role or even a safety alignment. Last season was his first time on the outside as a pro, and he struggled mightily.
Putting McPhearson, the team’s fourth-round pick, in right away would be an aggressive introduction to the league, especially considering that some viewed the Texas Tech prospect as a slot cornerback during the predraft process.
It’s still possible the team will sign a free-agent corner between now and Week 1. Steven Nelson is still available and could make sense. He spent the last two years starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was with the Kansas City Chiefs before then. He has started 15 games in each of the last two seasons, and earned a 68.1 coverage grade from PFF last year.
Boston Scott vs. a bunch of candidates for backup RB2 role
The Eagles stocked up on backup running backs this offseason, which means they’ll have some tough decisions to make come August.
Miles Sanders is the clear starter at the position, but Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, Jordan Howard, and Kerryon Johnson could all make a case that they deserve to be the preeminent change-of-pace back.
Scott held down the role last season, but Gainwell, the team’s fifth-round pick in April’s draft, figures to carve out a role as a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Howard, Johnson, Elijah Holyfield, and Adrian Killins will have to battle for the last roster spot or two assuming Sanders, Gainwell, and Scott are locks.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Tracy Rocker, the Eagles’ new defensive line coach, has coached almost exclusively in the college ranks for the last two decades. Paul Domowitch explains why he decided to take the Eagles’ job.
As mentioned, it seems Mailata and Dillard will have equal footing in the battle for the starting left-tackle job. Les Bowen reports on what offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said about the competition.
Speaking of assistant coaches, Brian Johnson spoke with reporters for the first time since becoming the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach. Domo details how Johnson hopes to turn Jalen Hurts into a franchise quarterback.
The team also signed veteran tight end Richard Rodgers. Yours truly has the story on why Rodgers is back with the team for a fourth season.
Less than half of the NFL’s player base has been vaccinated so far. Domo looks into why so many players are dragging their feet.
Damichael Cole tells the story of CJ Wolfe, a Philly native who quit his stable job to chase his dream of becoming a content creator.
From the mailbag
What will be the combined # of starts for this season’s rookie class? — Trey (@bigslacker321) on Twitter
Good question, Trey. Assuming good health for DeVonta Smith, you can count on 17 starts as the minimum. Aside from that — and this was one of the fair criticisms of the Eagles’ draft class — there aren’t many clear-cut starters in the class.
I could see Landon Dickerson starting around six games this season because of injuries on the offensive line, but he’d have to be healthy enough to do that. Milton Williams figures to be strictly a rotational defensive tackle this season, so it’s hard to project that he’ll start more than a couple of games. Same goes for Marlon Tuipulotu.
McPhearson could start some games, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll start double-digit games. None of the other Day 3 guys should see any significant playing time.
With all that figured out, I’ll put the over/under at 27.5. For the record, last year’s group got 27 starts. With the extra game added this year, this group should be able to at least match that total.