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Eagles training camp preview: Position battles to watch at the start of summer practices | Early Birds

New coach Nick Sirianni has harped on the importance of competition leading into camp, so it’s safe to assume that will permeate through much of the summer sessions.

Eagles Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard will battle for the starting job at left tackle.
Eagles Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard will battle for the starting job at left tackle.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans! Did you miss us? Wednesday marks the true start of Eagles training camp, with the first practice scheduled for 10 a.m.

Although new coach Nick Sirianni has run a few practices during minicamp and OTAs, Wednesday will offer an early indication of what his training camps will look like compared to Doug Pederson’s. Sirianni has harped on the importance of competition leading into camp, so it’s safe to assume that will permeate through much of the summer sessions.

There will be several position battles worth monitoring over the next few weeks, most notably the one taking place at left tackle. Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard split reps on Jalen Hurts’ blindside during OTAs and are expected to continue doing so once the pads come back on. Dillard has been sidelined since last training camp, when he suffered a season-ending biceps injury. He went into last summer with the left-tackle job all but secured, but an iffy camp performance combined with a strong showing from Mailata late last year has opened up things.

There are also plenty of snaps up for grabs in the running-back room. The Eagles have a handful of backs, including Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, and Kerryon Johnson, who figure to vie for playing time as the complementary back to Miles Sanders.

On the defensive side, there’s an outside chance fourth-round rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson will play his way onto the field with the first team, although the Eagles’ signing of veteran corner Steven Nelson on Sunday will make that a bit more challenging. It will also be interesting to see if second-year linebackers Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley can earn more prominent roles in a linebacking corps now centered around free-agent signee Eric Wilson.

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What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Wondering where the Eagles stand with Jalen Hurts, or why Zach Ertz is still on the roster? Our newest Eagles beat writer, Josh Tolentino, answered the burning questions going into camp.

  2. After an offseason of upheaval, expectations are low this season for the Birds. Mike Sielski explains why, even if the Eagles have a down year, it doesn’t have to last long.

  3. The Eagles signed a proven veteran cornerback just in time for training camp. Steven Nelson, 28, should be a significant upgrade to the outside cornerback spot.

  4. Former Eagles assistant coach Eugene Chung stands by his claim that he was told he “wasn’t the right minority” during a job interview with an NFL team. Tolentino has the details from Chung’s Monday news conference.

  5. The NFL unveiled its rules surrounding coronavirus-related cancellations. As Les Bowen explains, it strongly incentivizes players to get vaccinated.

  6. For those of you setting your calendar for the next month, Rob Tornoe has all the key dates from training camp and the preseason.

From the mailbag

If healthy, will Josh Sweat be a starter? Is Avonte Maddox now strictly a slot corner or will he be the third CB when needed? — from Flyer88 (@Flyer883) on Twitter

Thanks for the question, Flyer. I would say there’s an outside chance of Sweat becoming a starter this year, although I think this is the best opportunity he’s had to earn a starting role out of camp in his career. Coming off a six-sack season and with a new coaching staff detached from sentimentality, Sweat will likely have a chance to compete with Derek Barnett for the defensive-end role opposite Brandon Graham.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s still Barnett’s job to lose. He’s coming off a season in which he logged 5.5 sacks and is better than Sweat against the run. The most likely outcome is Barnett starting and playing early downs, with Sweat coming in as a situational pass rusher.

Maddox is probably the first-team slot corner this week and moving forward, unless he struggles mightily. As far as who will be the primary backup on the outside, camp will likely determine whether Maddox, Craig James, Zech McPhearson, or Michael Jacquet earns that role.