The first week of padded practices are in the books and there is plenty of Eagles news to talk about. Let’s dive right into the top 10 takeaways from the first week of training camp.
Avonte Maddox is the unchallenged CB2
There was rampant speculation about who would win the outside corner job opposite of Darius Slay. Many were bullish on Sidney Jones to finally have the breakout year we have all been waiting for. But if week 1 of training camp is any indication, there isn’t even a battle for CB2. That job is firmly in the hands of Avonte Maddox, who has been unchallenged thus far into camp. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising; Maddox was a standout last offseason before his season was cut short in the Packers game. Maddox has a lot of versatility and the biggest hurdle to him being effective outside is his size. Fortunately, the Eagles will be able to dictate matchups by placing Darius Slay on larger receivers who may pose mismatch problems for Maddox.
The receivers look great
DeSean Jackson hasn’t lost a step at all. It is anyone’s guess how long he will be able to stay healthy, but when healthy he will pose a huge threat to opposing defenses. Jalen Reagor has flashed athleticism and the YAC-ability that led him to be selected in the first round. John Hightower has made some great highlight-reel type plays. Quez Watkins has flashed his athletic ability. Greg Ward and Deontay Burnett have both proven to be productive out of the slot. Even JJAW has gotten in on the action, making some nice plays and proving that maybe he does belong in the league after all. Maybe, just maybe, the oft-maligned Eagles receiver group is poised for a leap in production in 2020.
The offensive line is struggling
The Eagles have had arguably the best offensive line in the NFL over the last several years. Regression was expected heading into this year, but the results so far have not been promising. Andre Dillard still struggles to anchor against power rushers despite his added bulk and seems to let mistakes compound on themselves. Jason Peters is making a very difficult transition from LT to RG and has been in and out of the lineup throughout training camp. Jordan Mailata has been a disaster to the point that it is highly unlikely that he will make the 53 man roster. On the plus side, the snapping woes that plagued the 2nd team last offseason seem to have been resolved, so the team can feel more comfortable about its position should something happen to Jason Kelce. This unit needs to continue to gel and get right before week 1.
The defensive line is dominating
Related to the point above, the defensive line has dominated throughout training camp. With the amount of money the Eagles have invested on the defensive line this was to be expected, but it is still exciting to see. Fletcher Cox being great is expected. Malik Jackson has looked fantastic lining up next to Cox. Josh Sweat has really flashed opposite Brandon Graham. Even Hassan Ridgeway has looked very good. The Eagles have. without a doubt, the most talented and deepest defensive line in the NFL.
Carson Wentz has struggled
Carson Wentz has not looked good thus far. Sure he has made some highlight-reel plays, but overall something has just been off. Perhaps it is related to the number of new faces at WR, or the struggles of the offensive line, or some combination of both. Wentz isn’t some rookie that needs to show out in camp to solidify his spot. He is entrenched as the starter for the foreseeable future, but you would like to see him look a little bit sharper over the next couple of weeks.
Jalen Hurts has been impressive
Reports out of Eagles camp have been glowing about Jalen Hurts. According to Daniel Jeremiah, the Eagles have been ‘blown away’ by Hurts thus far. He has proven to be particularly effective in the redzone, where his combination of mobility and size has made him a huge threat on the ground and through the air. The QB power running game was especially effective for Hurts at Oklahoma near the goal line. Wentz is very good in that area himself but Hurts may be forcing the issue. I wouldn’t expect for Nate Sudfeld to remain the QB2 for long at the very least.
Shaun Bradley could push for a starting job
The Eagles drafted a linebacker that might actually push for a starting job this season and his name isn’t Davion Taylor. Shaun Bradley, a 6th round pick out of Temple, has really impressed throughout training camp. He has a nose for the football and seems to always be in a position to make plays and has started to get a lot of recognition from coaches.
I wasn’t thrilled with the Bradley pick when it was made. At the time I wrote:
Bradley is probably my least favorite pick from day 3. He was a 3 year starter for Temple and is a slow processor from the LB position. His lack of instincts make him way too easy to block at the 2nd level and he struggles to shed blocks once engaged. He is an okay athlete but I really don’t see him ever doing anything besides playing special teams.
We will just mark this down as one of those times I am very happy to have been proven wrong.
Jalen Reagor might not be a special teams ace
An added bonus of the Jalen Reagor selection was his special teams’ prowess. Unfortunately, that has not manifested itself on the field. Reagor has really struggled fielding punts, muffing several of them so far. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands, but if you can’t trust him to field punts cleanly you simply can’t risk putting him back there.
Sidney Jones might not even make the roster
Some people thought this was the year for Sidney Jones to break out. On the contrary, I think this might be the year Sidney Jones gets cut. He hasn’t even remotely pushed Avonte Maddox for a starting job and is once again sitting out of practice with an injury. Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Cre’von LeBlanc are all clearly ahead of Jones. Rasul Douglas could even be ahead of him. With 4 safeties that are guaranteed to make the roster (Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace), all of whom have corner experience in their background, I think it is unlikely the Eagles will carry 6 corners into the season. Jones might just be the guy on the outside looking in.
Injuries are all that really matters
For all the previous discussions about what camp has looked like so far, none of it is relevant to an extent. Remember Henry Josey? He was a preseason darling in 2014 before being cut. What about the Nate Sudfeld to Shelton Gibson bombs? Remember how amazing Mack Hollins looked in his first preseason? Every year there are players that shine in camp and never even make an impact on the roster.
On the flip side, who can forget Patrick Robinson? Robinson signed in the 2017 offseason and was so bad in training camp that everyone thought he was probably going to get cut. But, he defied expectations and made the roster. He then proceeded to be one of the best nickel corners in the NFL that season en route to a Super Bowl ring.
So, nothing really matters except injuries, of which the Eagles have several:
- DT Javon Hargrave – Hargrave has never missed a game in his NFL career. He signed with the Eagles and got injured in their first practice and is officially questionable for Week 1 with a pectoral muscle injury.
- DE Derek Barnett – At least Barnett always gets hurt so this was somewhat to be expected. Barnett injured his ankle and is also questionable for Week 1, but seems more likely to play than Hargrave.
- Miles Sanders – Sanders had a lower-body injury and will likely be done for the rest of camp, but the feeling is that the team is just being cautious and there is no danger of Sanders missing Eeek 1.
Dallas Goedert fractured his thumb, Boston Scott has a lower-body injury, Zach Ertz has an upper-body injury, Jason Peters has been in and out of the lineup, and Sidney Jones has missed several practices due to injury.
Every team has injuries in camp and they tend to be very cautious when dealing with those injuries. Time will tell how serious these ailments may be and how the missed time will impact the squad.