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Spadaro: 12 questions to answer as Eagles Training Camp opens

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

Every team starts a season with an array of questions that take time to be answered, and that process begins as Training Camp begins at the NovaCare Complex. The players hit the practice field for the first time on Wednesday and will form the familiar cadence of Eagles vs. Eagles for two weeks before camp takes a turn for the preseason opener against the New York Jets and then off to the road for two days of practices and then a preseason game in Cleveland.

After a very quick return to Philadelphia – get some socks and T-shirts cleaned, guys! – the Eagles finish the preseason with two more days of joint practices, this time in Miami, before closing out the preseason schedule against the Dolphins on August 27.

Then it's time to cut the roster to 53 players and, welp, before you know it, the Eagles will have their game plan in place to play at Detroit on September 11 to start the regular season.

On your marks ... get set ... it's time to begin answering some of the questions about the 2022 Eagles ...

1. Who earns the starting job at right guard along the offensive line?

The offensive line has four starters returning fully healthy and intact from 2021 – Jordan Mailata at left tackle, Landon Dickerson at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, and Lane Johnson at right tackle. Isaac Seumalo took part in the offseason program and said he's expecting to be good for Training Camp, so he is certainly a contender to start at right guard. So is Jack Driscoll, a talented young player who has played well at tackle and at guard – he started eight games there last season. Sua Opeta is a contender with his physical style.

Are there others? Who knows what line Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland is thinking, but if his history is any indication, Stoutland will make sure that Andre Dillard, the 2019 No. 1 draft pick, will cross-train both at tackle and a guard and that No. 2 draft pick Cam Jurgens will be ready to help at both center and guard. Stoutland prepares for every scenario. This time is no different.

2. How has DE Brandon Graham recovered from his 2021 injury?

It was an awful sight to see Brandon Graham carted off the field in the second quarter of the Week 2 game against San Francisco at Lincoln Financial Field last season. He was playing well, the defense was dominating, and, well, he's just the kind of guy everybody loves and everybody roots for. Graham is back and he's bullish on his outlook having been a full-go at practice all spring. Now is a much better test, so let's keep our fingers crossed that Graham is all the way recovered from his Achilles tendon injury and is the same energetic chaos-maker that he's been throughout his fantastic Eagles career.

3. What does Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon have planned for pass-rushing standout Haason Reddick?

The Eagles list Haason Reddick as a strongside linebacker which means what for the defense and for his role? We really don't know. Maybe there will be some clues during the course of Training Camp and in the preseason, and maybe not. The Eagles want to keep the defensive approach shrouded in as much mystery as possible heading into the regular season, but this much is certain: Reddick is a premier pass rusher and the Eagles always look for ways to impact the quarterback.

With Reddick, Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, and some young prospects, the Eagles want to come at quarterbacks in waves off the edges. Reddick leads the way with his relentless approach, and the Eagles want to make sure to unlock him and give him a chance to shine in space as he did the last two seasons, recording double-digit sacks both years with Arizona and Carolina, respectively.

4. Where does the 2022 Draft Class fit in?

It's a five-player class, headed by No. 1 selection defensive tackle Jordan Davis. How does he earn playing time at the loaded tackle position? Can Jurgens force his way into the picture along the offensive line? Is third pick Nakobe Dean going to make an impact (more on him below)? What about linebacker Kyron Johnson and tight end Grant Calcaterra? Are they ready to contribute?

The Eagles were extremely pleased with the draft haul and the "experts" lauded the weekend. This isn't a short-term proposition, but we're going to find out pretty soon just how much "immediate impact" this draft class can provide.

5. In his second season in the offense, what kind of strides has QB Jalen Hurts made?

A big question, for sure. And we aren't going to know the full extent of it until the regular season, of course, but keep in mind that for the first time since high school Jalen Hurts is playing a second straight season with the same offensive coordinator. So, he knows the offense. He knows where to go with the football. He knows the coaches and their expectations. There's just a different level of comfort and confidence when you're doing it a second time, right?

Hurts was dynamic in his first full season as a starter in 2021, so the natural expectation is that he takes a big step forward in '22. The Eagles have a complete offense as it looks on paper with a running game that led the league last season and a wide receiver corps that is deep and very, very talented. The offensive line is great, as we all know. Hurts knows he has areas to improve upon and both he and the coaches have been open acknowledging that.

All eyes are on Hurts, but isn't that the case always with a starting quarterback? He thrives in the spotlight and so this is going to be a summer in which Hurts hopes to really take his game to a new level.

6. How does A.J. Brown's presence impact the offense?

Again, this is an answer coming in the regular season, but we will get a preview this summer as the Eagles' defense and the preseason opponents get long looks at Brown working with DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, and some talented receivers. Brown is different than what the Eagles had last year in that he's big and physical and can punish defenders after the catch. He's an alpha who helps the Eagles in so many ways. Every day will be a treat watching where the Eagles line him up and how they pair both Brown and Smith and see how their talents mesh.

7. Which player(s) come from nowhere (relatively speaking) to make this roster?

It always happens, doesn't it? A player not drafted shows up and there is just no denying that he earns a roster spot. The Eagles worked very, very hard to sign a promising post-NFL Draft class and they came away convinced of that after an impressive spring performance from the non-drafted rookies. Who are the players who make the impact this time around? A wide receiver? A cornerback? A lineman? A linebacker?

It's quite possible that a lot of the undrafted class will play a lot of preseason reps, so the opportunities are going to be there. Now, who steps up?

8. At a crowded weakside LB spot, how will the depth chart shake out?

Dean, the former University of Georgia standout, is a possibility. He dominated in college at the highest level, he has a high football IQ, he is a great competitor, and is super productive and physical and all of that. But he isn't alone here. Davion Taylor was making obvious strides in his second season until he suffered a knee injury that ended his 2021 campaign, so he needs to pick up where he left off and stay healthy. The Eagles signed Kyzir White in free agency after he led the Chargers in tackles last season.

Bottom line: This is a wide-open positional battle and it's going to be intense. The Eagles have some options and all of them are strong.

9. What will Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay learn about his group through the preseason?

It's really hard to get a handle on special teams until the preseason games, so those three games are extremely vital. In the meantime, Clay knows he has one of the game's best placekickers in Jake Elliott and a standout long snapper in Rick Lovato. Arryn Siposs had the typical ups and downs in his first full season as "the guy," but the Eagles are high on Siposs as both a punter and a holder for Elliott. Siposs is more prepared for the rigors of the long, long season.

The return game is an area where the Eagles want to be better and they've got a lot of prospects here, but how much can you really tell until the preseason games? Not much is the answer. Clay hopes for a lot of returnable punts and kickoffs in the preseason.

Training Camp is here! The Eagles arrived at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's first practice.

10. What will the QB position look like behind Hurts?

The Eagles have one of the best No. 2 situations in the league with Gardner Minshew, who won a key game on the road last year against the New York Jets. He's a starting-caliber player and a great support for Hurts. Will the Eagles keep a third quarterback? They'll look at Reid Sinnett, formerly of Tampa Bay and Miami before the Eagles claimed him off waivers last season, and rookie Carson Strong, who signed in the post-draft period after ripping it up at Nevada in his collegiate career.

It's fair to think that both Sinnett and Strong will play a lot in the preseason, which is where the third quarterback job, if there is a roster spot there, will be won.

11. How much does the combination of Darius Slay and James Bradberry change the picture of the CB group?

This much is certain: The wide receivers vs. cornerbacks drills are going to be must-see throughout Training Camp. Can't wait for those! Bradberry is a big, physical cornerback who complements the slick, fast, playmaking Slay perfectly. The Eagles have a tremendous set of outside cornerbacks with a very strong Avonte Maddox inside in the nickel position.

What having Bradberry does for Gannon and his coverage schemes and combinations remains to be seen, but Gannon certainly has some options and very good ones at that.

12. How much of a benefit will back-to-back road trips for joint practices mean to the chemistry of this team?

This is an intangible, but it's a good one: The Eagles are on the road for almost two full weeks in August and that time away from the NovaCare Complex means something. It's going to be turned into a positive by Head Coach Nick Sirianni, who relishes the chance to build some camaraderie from this kind of opportunity.

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