After what seems like an eternity we’re finally at the doorstep of football season.
So much has happened this off-season – the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham, signed Malik Jackson, brought DeSean Jackson home, traded for Jordan Howard and locked down the best quarterback in the division through the 2024 season. In the draft, Howie Roseman orchestrated one of the best drafts on paper the fans have seen by finding the left tackle of the future, a franchise running back and a game-changing wide receiver with the first three picks in Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside respectively.
With that said, it’s finally time to lace up the cleats, strap on the pads and helmets and see what the 2019 birds have to offer. Here are the training camp and preseason battles I’m most looking forward to.
Jordan Howard. Miles Sanders. Corey Clement. Wendell Smallwood. Josh Adams. Boston Scott. Darren Sproles. On paper, this is an embarrassment of riches. Howard is a two-time, 1,000+ yard rusher and finished last season with 935 yards, he is a workhorse who will receive the bulk of the carries for the Eagles. Scouts could have made the case that Sanders was the best back in the draft. Having someone like Howard in front of him could give the Birds a “Thunder and Lightning” tandem.
Here’s where things get interesting – with Sproles officially returning he should make the roster which leaves Clement, Smallwood, Adams and Scott competing for one spot on the team. Watching the competition for the fourth, or possibly fifth, running back spot will be fun to watch. Will Smallwood prove to be immortal to cuts? Will Clement come back healthy and blow the doors off the competition? Will Scott continue to impress enough to make the 53-man roster? How much did Adams improve this offseason? All answers we’ll have soon enough.
Prediction: If it were up to me, I’d keep four backs – Howard, Sanders, Clement and Sproles while trying to stash Scott on the practice squad or set him back with a phantom injury. I like Smallwood but he’s second to Clement in my opinion.
It’s no secret the Birds went light at defensive end this offseason. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Shareef Miller and Josh Sweat are penciled in to make the roster as it stands. The Eagles infamously traded Michael Bennett to the Patriots early this offseason which left the group thin.
Curry might be past his prime while Miller and Sweat are unproven commodities. The fact that Barnett is the second option and he’s coming back from a season-ending shoulder injury makes me a little uneasy. This camp and preseason battle isn’t quite as fun as the running back one, but it will be interesting to see how much Sweat improved, how much Curry has left in the tank and what Miller brings to the table.
It is worth noting, however, that the Eagles will provide enough interior pass rush from Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Tim Jernigan that the defensive ends could have some one-on-one matchups which could prove favorable.
Prediction: Sweat and Curry tandem for the third option off the bench, Miller has an up-and-down rookie campaign.
Much like the running back position, cornerback is seemingly a stacked position for the Eagles. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc man the unit and all could make a case to make, and impact, the 53-man roster.
With three, maybe four positions available it will be a dog fight to see who earns playing time for this group. With Darby on a one-year deal, he should surely see his fair share of time. Outside of that, it’s really up for grabs. Think of last season – in limited time Maddox, Douglas, and LeBlanc all made plays for the defense. Mix in the admiration Mills has of the coaching staff and the fact that Jones was a second-round pick a few years ago. The cornerback battle should be an “iron sharpens iron” battle which would make for amazing content.
Prediction: Darby is a lock at outside corner and Jones will have every chance to earn some time, whether or not he capitalizes is another story. After last season Maddox will find his way onto the field as will Mills. LeBlanc and Douglas will more than likely face uphill battles. The bottom line is that this is a deep group and I’m happy with that they have.
Which camp battles are you most looking forward to? Who has you excited this offseason? Let us know on social media.