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Five position battles to watch as 2017 Eagles OTA practices begin

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Here’s what to watch for.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 OTAs practice schedule starts tomorrow on Tuesday, May 23. Head coach Doug Pederson will address media around 10:45 AM ET before practice begins around 11:15 AM ET. Tuesday marks the first chance we'll get to see the Eagles in their first full practice as a team this offseason. These drills are strictly non-contact (no pads allowed) so it's not quite real football yet by any means, but it's still better than nothing. Here are some key position battles we'll be watching.

Cornerback

The Eagles have lacked stability at the cornerback position for a long time now and that’ll be no different heading into the 2017 season. 2016 starters Leodis McKelvin (bless his soul) and Nolan Carroll are gone, which means Philadelphia will have two new starters on the outside this season. But who will they be?

As of right now, we still don’t know for sure. What we do know is the Eagles seem to be very high on Jalen Mills. That’s the message Malcolm Jenkins conveyed in a recent press conference. Mills will likely take first team reps on the outside this offseason. The former LSU defensive back struggled as a rookie after having a strong training camp. The Eagles are seemingly counting on him to step up in Year 2.

With Mills as a favorite to start, the other corner position will come down to a battle between third round rookie Rasul Douglas and veterans Patrick Robinson/Ron Brooks. Douglas is a play-making corner with starting potential, but a starting job won’t just be handed to him. He’ll need to outplay Robinson and Brooks this summer. Both veterans are coming off injuries so they’ll be out to prove they can bounce back from being hurt.

The feeling here is Mills and one of Robinson or Brooks will start at the beginning of the season. The other veteran not starting on the outside will play in the slot. And then Douglas will eventually replace one of the veterans on the outside once they struggled and/or inevitably get hurt.

Interior Offensive Line

I’m grouping the left guard and center positions together here because I don’t know where Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski will end up. Both players can play both positions. It’s possible both players will be starters in 2017 if the Eagles trade Jason Kelce. Until that happens, however, the Eagles will only be starting one of Seumalo/Wisniewski.

2016 starting left guard Allen Barbre could also be in the mix. And then there’s former first round pick Chance Warmack, who signed with the Eagles on the first day of free agency.

The Eagles have a lot of depth on the interior. Everyone will be quick to note the starting lineup Philadelphia uses on their first day of practice.

Running Back

LeGarrette Blount signed with the Eagles to likely be their 2017 version of Ryan Mathews. He’s a veteran stop-gap option who can handle a bulk of carries for Philadelphia. Despite adding Blount, however, the Eagles are still expected to mix other running backs into the rotation. Darren Sproles obviously has nothing left to prove at age 34, but the likes of Wendell Smallwood and 2016 fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey will be battling for playing time behind Blount.

Wide Receiver

Alshon Jeffery is the Eagles’ undisputed No. 1 wide receiver. How does the depth chart play out after that? The assumption is that Torrey Smith will be the Eagles’ other starter on the outside with Jordan Matthews getting work in the slot. That group is probably a safe bet for Philadelphia’s top three receivers in terms of snaps this season, but rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson will challenge for playing time. Not only are the young guys big play threats, but they can also contribute on special teams. So where does that leave Nelson Agholor? Is he even active on game day if he’s not a special teams contributor?

Defensive End

Brandon Graham is a lock to start at one defensive end spot. Who is the other starter? Is it Vinny Curry? You may not have read this anywhere before but he only played 43% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps last season and he only notched 2.5 sacks. Curry turns 29 this offseason so this year is really do-or-die for him. The Eagles don’t seem to have all the faith in the world in Curry because they signed veteran Chris Long and selected Derek Barnett with the No. 14 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Schwartz likes to rotate his defensive linemen so there’s little doubt everyone will get playing time. It’s just a matter of who will get the most snaps.

Other things to watch

  • There’s no competition at quarterback this year, but all eyes will obviously be on Carson Wentz in Year 2. Will he look any different than he did as a rookie?
  • What will Schwartz have to say in his first media appearance since the end of the 2016 season? (Schwartz speaks on Tuesday, May 30)
  • Are there any players with injury issues as the team enters OTAs? We'll be checking up on the guys who are coming off injuries such as Ron Brooks, Wendell Smallwood, Ryan Mathews (?), Matt Tobin, Jon Dorenbos, etc.
  • Is anyone skipping voluntary OTAs this year? Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles did last offseason.

Eagles Spring Practice Schedule

OTA Offseason Workouts: May 23-25; May 30-June 1; June 5-6, 8-9.

Mandatory Minicamp: June 13-15.

BGN Coverage: The following practices are open to the media: May 23, May 30, June 5, June 9, and June 13-15. I'll be at all of those practices. Follow me for live updates: @BrandonGowton.

Eagles Roster

Offense | Defense | Special teams | 53-man prediction