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Position-By-Position State Of The Eagles

Posted Jun 5, 2017

Two weeks remain in the offseason training for the Eagles, with OTAs this week and the mandatory minicamp next week and then ... a long break before Training Camp begins in late July. With that, let’s take a look at the team, position by position …

Two weeks remain in the offseason training for the Eagles, with OTAs this week and the mandatory minicamp next week and then … a long break before Training Camp begins in late July. With that, let’s take a look at the team, position by position.

QUARTERBACK

The Eagles are in great shape here with Carson Wentz leading the way. Wentz is the team leader, the face of the franchise, and he’s already extremely comfortable in the role. On the field, Wentz is quickly developing chemistry with a new-look receiver corps. Good progress is being made.

Nick Foles is an experienced No. 2 quarterback who knows the scheme and is much more physically capable of coming in and winning a string of games should Wentz become unavailable to play.

It’s unusual to have three quarterbacks with winning experience in the league, but the Eagles have just that with Matt McGloin in the mix. The former Oakland Raider is here to, he hopes, show that the Eagles are better off keeping a third quarterback on the 53-man roster. The team kept only two quarterbacks last season.

RUNNING BACK

Adding LeGarrette Blount makes such a difference with this depth chart. Now the Eagles have some diversity, some options. Blount is going to play a role – likely much of the short-yardage and inside-the-10-yard-line carries are going to him – and he’s going to have some help with the likes of second-year man Wendell Smallwood, veteran Darren Sproles, and perhaps a change-up in the form of rookie Donnel Pumphrey.

The Eagles needed some punch after the draft, and Blount provides that power with his running style. He’s 250 pounds and he’s a steamroller. So the Eagles are going to give Blount the ball for as long as he’s productive in certain situations. They haven’t had a hammer in many, many seasons. Blount is unique, so the Eagles will take advantage of the skills he brings to the table.

WIDE RECEIVER

A revamped group should be an upgrade over last season. Alshon Jeffery is the go-to receiver here. Lock it in. He’s motivated with a one-year contract and he has an opportunity to post some big numbers. Torrey Smith is here to help an offense that last season had trouble connecting on “chunk” plays. An NFL offense can’t continually drive 10 plays and 80 yards for touchdowns. Smith’s speed will help.

The Eagles also used two draft picks on Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, so we’ll see how they develop. In the meantime, the team welcomes back Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs, and Paul Turner. Not all of them will make the team. Younger veterans like Marcus Johnson hope to make a continued impression.

There is a lot of competition here. That should bring out the best of the best in all of these receivers.

TIGHT END

This is a position that seems as set in stone as you can have at this point in the season: three tight ends who look like locks to make the team are Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton. All three are firmly entrenched in the offense and understand their roles perfectly.

Who is a tight end, however, who can help in the future? Burton could be an unrestricted free agent next year. Who knows how much longer Celek wants to play? The Eagles have some young players in the mix, NFL-experienced Anthony Denham and rookie Billy Brown, who are hopeful to stick around this season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Of every position on the team, offensive line might be the most talent-laden top to bottom. The Eagles have beefed up their depth and they have starter-quality players as backups from tackle to tackle and everything in between.

There is still some intrigue at one position a far as a starting picture – who gets the job at left guard? Will it be second-year man Isaac Seumalo, who was impressive last season? Veteran Allen Barbre? Stefen Wisniewski, the handy do-it-all offensive lineman? Chance Warmack, here on a one-year deal trying to get his career back to where he wants it to be?

Otherwise, the Eagles are set with Jason Peters at left tackle, Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard, and Lane Johnson at right tackle. This should be an outstanding offensive line.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The new faces are really, really going to help. Tim Jernigan is a starter at one tackle spot, alongside Fletcher Cox. Brandon Graham is at one end spot. Vinny Curry, Chris Long, and first-round draft pick Derek Barnett are battling for the other starting job. Steven Means is in line to be the fifth end. Marcus Smith has been missing from the voluntary OTAs for a couple of weeks now, so he’s not helping his cause.

Rookie Elijah Qualls is unable to practice until his class at Washington graduates and combined with Beau Allen missing time with a pectoral injury, the Eagles signed Gabe Wright to take some reps and try to impress.

Destiny Vaeao at the moment is the top backup at tackle. The Eagles need to make sure they are deep enough there to hold up over the long season.

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LINEBACKERS

Jordan Hicks is making the kind of progress that leads the Eagles to believe he can be a very, very fine player in the middle of the defense for years to come. He’s had a terrific spring after a strong 2016 season. Nigel Bradham is in Year 2 as an Eagle and he should be an impact player at SAM. Mychal Kendricks, the subject of much offseason speculation about his future, remains an Eagle and is the starter on the weak side.

Draft pick Nathan Gerry is making the transition from safety in college to linebacker in the NFL. Najee Goode is the versatile reserve and core player on special teams who helps in so many ways. Kamu Grugier-Hill could be a key player on special teams, Don Cherry, who nobody talks about, continues to try to earn a roster spot and he may very well do it.

Joe Walker, coming back from a torn ACL that robbed him of his rookie season, hopes to be the No. 2 middle linebacker. He seems to be making good progress.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

There is a lot of the unknown here. Safety is stable, with Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod starting and with Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins, and Terrance Brooks as the reserves. Rookie Tre Sullivan is the long shot here.

At cornerback, though, it’s wide open. Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson and rookie Rasul Douglas have gotten the starting reps in the OTAs, but that is absolutely subject to change. Ron Brooks hopes to be healthy for camp and then he will be in line for the job in the nickel, at the very least. Veteran Dwayne Gratz is in the mix, along with players like Aaron Grymes and a handful of young players.

Second-round draft pick Sidney Jones continues to make good progress from his Achilles tendon injury, but he is a long ways away from getting back on the field.

SPECIALISTS

Placekicker Caleb Sturgis, punter Donnie Jones, and long snapper Jon Dorenbos are all signed and projected to be back in their familiar roles as starters. But there are some questions, notably Dorenbos coming back from a broken wrist that ended his ’16 season. Can he snap and protect with that wrist? We will see in the preseason.

Otherwise, this group is solid and in good shape looking ahead to the season.

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