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Eagles rookie intrigue in the preseason opener

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Keep an eye on Philadelphia’s 2018 NFL Draft class.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Training Camp James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Football is finally here! Kinda. We all know preseason isn’t the “real deal” when the regular season is still four weeks away. It’s like wanting a Coke and someone giving you RC Cola. However, the preseason still provides a lot of insight into where the rookies are in their adjustment to the professional game. Some of the rookies will be pushing for snaps during the season while others will be fighting for a roster spot. Here is what I’m looking for from the Eagles first year players today.

Dallas Goedert has all but secured the second tight end spot on the team. The team’s first pick in the 2018 draft has been having a phenomenal camp and does not have much competition on the roster to get snaps behind Zach Ertz. Richard Rodgers and Billy Brown were on the team before Goedert came in, but he has seemingly seized the exit of Trey Burton to get a role in his rookie year. I am looking for how he looks in the speed of professional football. There is going to be a major disparity between practice ball and the intensity of preseason football. Coming from a FCS program, I am excited to see how he makes the next jump. A few catches tonight could show how comfortable he is when the guys on defense are on another team.

Avonte Maddox was a feisty, active cornerback in college and the team has been testing him as a nickel defender. Maddox has the physical profile to fit in the slot; being a smaller, quicker cornerback. However, he has struggled to make the adjustment in camp given the differences in footwork between outside defense and slot coverage. Maddox’ success will be predicated on his confidence and ability to keep swinging even after bad snaps. Tonight he will have a great chance to show off that swagger and athletic ability on defense and special teams. While Maddox might continue to have lapses, I will be interested to see how he rebounds from play to play. Also I expect one big hit out of him.

Josh Sweat, from a value perspective, was my favorite pick by the Eagles in the spring. Sweat is supremely talented and injuries hampered him at FSU from showing his true potential, but his flashes were exciting. The Eagles have one of the most crowded defensive line groups in the entire NFL. Sweat, despite all his talent, is battling for a roster spot. Tonight is his first big audition for the roster. With Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Michael Bennett and Derek Barnett ahead of him; he has to have quite the preseason. However, Sweat’s athleticism should give him a major boost in these games, especially against second and third stringers. I am hopeful he can make a lasting impression tonight and over the next few weeks, because his potential goes way beyond who he is as a rookie.

The Eagles drafted two offensive linemen for depth in 2018 in Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata. Mailata, notably, is a former rugby league player with no prior football experience but a massive physical profile at 6’8” and 350 pounds. Pryor is similarly massive at 6’7” and 330 pounds, but has experience playing guard and tackle in college. Pryor has apparently had a very impressive camp and will provide the team with immediate, quality depth on their line and a potential future starter. As for Mailata, the former Rugger has been having plenty of growing pains going through the Crucible of the Eagles defensive line. However, the team is high on his potential and considering he is the youngest player on the team, there is room to be patient. Hopefully, both will see the field tonight and we can get an idea of their growth with the team. I expect Pryor to have a really strong preseason and Mailata to struggle. However, seeing week to week improvement from Mailata will be the key to him making the team; so taking note tonight will be important.

The two undrafted guys I am really interested in are Josh Adams and Joe Ostman. The Eagles running back situation is a bit odd with a bunch of guys competing for snaps when Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement are locked into featured roles while Darren Sproles is expected to get snaps despite being older and coming off injury. Adams is a young, big back who has some potential to be an impact player down the line. However, he is going up against Donnell Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood for a roster spot. Adams, a local guy, will have his chances over the next few weeks to really show out in the second halves of these games. Making the most of every carry will be integral to him making the team. I’d love him to lower his pads tonight and use that rare running back size to run over some poor third string defenders.

As for Joe Ostman, the former CMU Chippewa will have something to prove after going undrafted despite a productive college career. Like Josh Sweat, Ostman has an uphill battle with the depth on the roster among defensive linemen. Unlike Sweat, Ostman doesn’t have the advantage of being a high upside draft pick. However, he has apparently been having a strong camp and could have some impact in preseason. If he carries practice success over to the games, it will be hard to cut him.