Philadelphia Eagles News

Some Position Battles To Consider

Tuesday is a players' day off for the Eagles, so now is a perfect time to get some clarity on roster battles as the team continues its 2016 Training Camp with an eye on a more physical portion of practice ahead and the preseason opener not too far away.

Head coach Doug Pederson encourages competition across the roster, and while it's fair to say that some positions are etched in as much stone as is possible in the NFL - Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback, Jason Peters is the starting left tackle, Fletcher Cox may earn some playing time at defensive tackle, for example - there are some battles to keep an eye on as the month of August separates the roster contenders.

LEFT GUARD: Does Barbre Stay As Starter?

Allen Barbre is the incumbent and he's lined up as the starting left guard. In the one-on-on work against the defensive line, he looks like he has a strong hold on the position. Barbre is stout and he's powerful. The Eagles want to play some power football and Barbre has the kind of still set to win the job.

There is some competition, however. Third-round draft pick Isaac Seumalo is still rounding into form after missing most of the spring workouts and he just doesn't look like he's settled in quite yet. That's understandable. Missing the spring is a huge setback for every rookie. Stefen Wisniewski has taken a lot of good reps at both guard positions and could make a push during the preseason games. 

The Eagles would ideally like to have the position settled early in the preseason to build some continuity, and Barbre is the best bet to win the job at this point. If anything is going to happen with a change, we'll likely see it in the next couple of weeks in those opening two preseason games.

WIDE RECEIVER: Who Starts Among The Crowded Field?

Jordan Matthews has had a terrific spring and summer. He's catching the ball well and he's very explosive in and out of his cuts. Matthews is the go-to wide receiver, whether he's in the slot or playing outside. Look for him more on the inside, where he can use his size against smaller slot cornerbacks.

Beyond Matthews, everything is on the table at wide receiver. Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff and Chris Givens have gotten a bunch of reps and moved throughout the formation. There may be no "true No. 1" wide receiver here, but there is some versatility. Randle and Matthews have the big bodies. Agholor can get down the field and run away from defenders with the ball in his hands. Huff can be a catch-and-run player to move the chains. Givens has the most pure speed and could be the stretch-the-defense threat.

We shall see. The Eagles are going to use a lot of personnel combinations. They're going to use a bunch of different formations. They want to take advantage of matchups. Look for a spread-it-around philosophy in the passing game.

The Eagles need these young receivers to catch the ball consistently and to play with confidence. We'll see how it shakes out.

DEFENSIVE END: Working The Rotation

There is Connor Barwin, making the transition back to an edge rusher with his hand in the dirt. Brandon Graham returns to his NFL roots. Vinny Curry is in line to play the most snaps of his Eagles career. For this defense to work, the Eagles need all three to win the edge and wreak some havoc in the offensive backfield. There is going to be a rotation and all three are likely to play both sides. Curry will move inside to tackle in the nickel to get more pass rushers on the field, and the Eagles feel good about that trio.

Who is the fourth end here? Is it former first-round draft pick Marcus Smith, who has shown some flashes in camp? Could it be Steven Means, who looks the part and who at one time in his career when he was in Baltimore appeared to be on track to make an impact off the edge? Where does Bryan Braman, a standout on special teams, fit into the equation? How about seventh-round draft pick Alex McCalister, who is all legs and arms and raw ability?

It's going to become clear later in the summer, but those are the names to consider. The Eagles need depth at defensive end. The old saying in the NFL is that teams can't find enough pass rushers. The Eagles know they have three of them on the edge, and they want one or two more for this defense.

PLACEKICKER: It Comes Down To Preseason Games

It's going to come down to Cody Parkey, a Pro Bowl kicker in 2014 who was injured in 2015 and sent to Injured Reserve, or Caleb Sturgis, who replaced Parkey last season and showed a very strong leg that improved as the year progressed.

Both have NFL ability. Both have kicked the ball well in Training Camp. It's going to be all about the preseason games for this job.

CORNERBACK: Very Competitive On The Island

The only thing for certain is that not much is for certain at cornerback. Leodis McKelvin seems to have a firm handle on one starting job. Eric Rowe has been on track in the last few days after an up-and-down spring. Ron Brooks is pushing for playing time outside and in the slot. Nolan Carroll has come back and is showing tenacity after his injury last season. Rookie Jalen Mills is pushing and showing consistency every day. JaCorey Shepherd, Denzel Rice, Randall Evans, Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith are flashing for the coaching staff.

There is excellent competition here. Much like the wide receiver position, there isn't a "shutdown" player here, per se, but the Eagles are really happy with the level of competition and the determination. It will sort itself out through the preseason games because, frankly, the Eagles' cornerbacks are sick of seeing the Eagles' wide receivers and the feeling is mutual.

This could be a good group, if not widely known. The tough grind of the summer is about to begin with "live" periods in camp due to start this week and the preseason schedule only a handful of days ahead.

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