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Early Thoughts On What The Eagles Have

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

We're fewer than two weeks away from the preseason opener on August 11 and the Eagles have not -€” as of this writing -€” put on the pads and tackled a single ballcarrier to the ground, so why not jump the gun and talk about what might be for this team in 2016? All for the fun of it ...

  • The strength of this team appears to be at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I've talked to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland throughout the spring and he's excited about the upgrades in his room. Having Fletcher Cox as the headliner for a deep and hungry group is a good way to start for the defensive line. Within that, some things to watch: Allen Barbre is the starter now at left guard, but rookie Isaac Seumalo is going to challenge him. Seaumalo has a lot of athleticism and is a smart kid with strength and size. How quickly he can make up for lost time from the spring is the key to his rookie-season contribution.

  • Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are the top three edge pass rushers and they'll split time with Curry sliding inside to tackle when the defense is in the nickel personnel package. Who is the fourth defensive end? It could come down to Marcus Smith or Steven Means, who is a powerful and explosive player.

  • Ryan Mathews is going to be OK as he recovers from his pre-camp ankle injury, but what about his chances of staying healthy throughout the season? It's a huge key for the offense. Mathews has played in all 16 games in only one of his six NFL seasons, so can he stay healthy in 2016? Mathews is going to rotate at running back as the Eagles work in Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood. This is shaping up to be a running back-by-committee approach in the backfield.

  • It's been fun watching the offense take shape. What can you expect? A lot of formations, a lot of different personnel packages and way more variety from the offense than the Eagles showed the last three seasons. This is a lot like the Andy Reid offense, yes, but there are some differences -€” an expansion of the passing game, some plays built in for the quarterback to get out of the pocket, a return to the screen game, to name a few.

  • So far, rookie cornerback Jalen Mills has been the real deal. My sense is that Leodis McKelvin has the best chance to be a starter on one side. Ron Brooks could be the starter outside and he's challenging there, but he is also a very strong candidate to play the nickel cornerback spot inside. Eric Rowe? He's got to go get the job. Nothing is being handed to him at all, so the second-year cornerback has some pressure. There may not be a "star" corner here, but the Eagles are going to have more tenacity here than they got from Byron Maxwell last season.

  • Do the Eagles have enough depth at linebacker? Valid question. Najee Goode is the fourth linebacker and seventh-round draft pick Joe Walker is the No. 5. That's not enough, so it's a legitimate concern.

  • Quarterback drama? Where did it go?

  • Jason Peters is on the top of the list for my Most Important Eagle and we all wonder what kind of football he's got left in him at the age of 34. A new scheme that offers help to both Peters and Lane Johnson will help. Huddling will help. A day off from practice during the week is going to help keep him fresh. The Eagles think Peters is ready to play great football this year? Can he stay on the field for all 16 games? It's huge for the offense.

  • Can't wait to see safety Rodney McLeod when the pads go on and in the preseason games. The Eagles have been searching for the right combination at safety for many years and they think that McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins will team up to become one of the best duos in the league. The Eagles gave up a franchise-most 36 touchdowns passes last season, so having two safeties who can cover sideline to sideline would be a large boost for the D.

  • The Carson Wentz Report: The kid has it all, including quite a bit of room to grow. He's got to make the jump from North Dakota State to the NFL and the Eagles are hoping to use this season to bridge that gap. The plan hasn't changed: He's going to be the No. 3 quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. They want to have Wentz ready to start should he be needed. He has all the tools and intangibles. All he needs is time and some growing pains to overcome.


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