As Eagles training camp begins today, here’s a list of the players I’m most intrigued to watch.
1 - Miles Sanders
Sanders missed all of OTAs/minicamp with a hamstring injury. That’s hardly the end of the world but it’s not ideal for a 22-year-old rookie who needs to prove himself at the NFL level.
The good news is that Sanders is healthy now. He’ll have a chance to show off the talent that enticed the Eagles — who have previously been so averse to investing significant resources in the running back position — to select Sanders with a second-round pick (No. 53 overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It’s not always easy to gauge how running backs look in camp since the amount of real tackling is limited. Preseason games will also be a key part of evaluating Sanders. But Sanders should be able to show some kind of juice in camp. Especially since he’s projected to contribute as a pass catcher.
2 - Carson Wentz
I mean, duh. He’s the most important player on the roster.
Wentz looked healthy and sharp in the spring. Here’s hoping that carries over to summer practices.
I’ll especially be paying attention to Wentz’s accuracy, how quick he’s getting rid of the ball, and his connection with Alshon Jeffery.
3 - JJ Arcega-Whiteside
JJ was one of the standout players from OTAs/minicamp. He stood out in the way that he did at Stanford: making impressive, leaping jump ball catches. Now we’ll soon see if he can continue to look good with the pads going on. The Eagles’ defensive backs will be able to get more physical with him.
If JJ absolutely kills it this summer, will the Eagles really only keep him as the fourth receiver behind Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor? Or could he make the case for a bigger role?
4 - Josh Sweat
The Eagles lost a lot of pass rush production this offseason now that Michael Bennett and Chris Long are gone. Who’s going to step up to solidify the Eagles’ defensive depth?
It could be Josh Sweat. The potential is there. He only turned 22 in March and he’s extremely athletic. Sweat earned praise from Doug Pederson following mandatory minicamp.
Sweat needs to keep the positive momentum going this summer. I’ll be watching him to see if he can be a real contributor to the Eagles’ defensive end rotation. Beating Jordan Mailata over and over is fine but he’ll need to start winning some battles against stiffer competition.
5 - Corey Clement
The Eagles were high on Clement heading into 2018. But then he underwhelmed as he battled through injury. Looking ahead to 2019, Clement’s role is unclear ... as is his health status after missing spring drills. The Eagles re-signing Darren Sproles makes one wonder about Clement’s outlook since they’re projected to play a similar third down back role on offense.
It’d be great if Clement could recapture 2017 form. But is it possible that the former undrafted rookie free agent just isn’t as good as we all once believed him to be? Clement could use a good summer.
6 - Mack Hollins
Mack is already off to a strong start:
Hollins was STILL limited in spring drills despite being 15 months out from his original injury. The hope is that he’s going to be full go for training camp.
Barring a trade/injury to one of the players ahead of him on the depth chart, Hollins is likely going to be the Eagles’ fifth receiver in 2019. But while his role might be minimal, it’ll just be interesting to see where he’s at after missing so much time.
7 - Sidney Jones
There’s a wide range of possible outcomes for the Eagles’ 2017 second-round pick.
With Ronald Darby and/or Jalen Mills recovering from injury, Jones could step up and seize a starting job. The 23-year-old might really start to come on as he enters his second full NFL season.
It’s also possible Jones fails to impress and ends up as a fourth or fifth corner on the roster behind the likes of Darby, Mills, Avonte Maddox, and Rasul Douglas. Maybe he fails to stay healthy once again. Or maybe the Eagles decide it’s time to move on and trade him.
Jones saw a lot of first team reps in the spring with both Darby and Mills missing time. The same setup could exist in training camp. Jones needs to take advantage and make some plays. To this point, he just hasn’t stood out in the way that Maddox and Douglas have. It’d be nice to see Jones give people reason to get excited about him.
8 - Zach Brown
What’s Brown’s role going to be on this team? The Eagles primarily use just two linebackers. We know Nigel Bradham is going to be one of those guys. Is Brown the second guy? He has the track record, for sure. But based on how he was running with the second team during OTAs/minicamp, the Eagles aren’t just handing him a starting job with no questions asked. He’s going to need to make his case.
9 - Andre Dillard
Unlike other first-round picks, Dillard isn’t in the spotlight because he’s projected to be a backup as a rookie. But Jason Peters’ injury history suggests Dillard could get some snaps at some point(s) this season. Dillard will be an interesting watch when it comes to 1-on-1 offensive line versus defensive line battles in camp. Just how ready is he to contribute if he’s forced into action as a rookie?
10 - Nate Sudfeld
It’s impossible to expect Sudfeld to be as good as Nick Foles was in relief of Wentz. But can he at least be decent? Is he actually a legitimate No. 2 quarterback? Or is he just a No. 3 masquerading as a top backup?
I feel like I’ve already seen enough from Sudfeld to know what to expect from him in camp. He’ll be up and down. I’m more interested to see how he looks in live action during the preseason games.
- The battle for a sixth receiver spot that may or may not exist could be a little fun. Can Marken Michel build on a nice spring showing? Can Charles Johnson push for a roster spot? Is Greg Ward Jr. going to do anything?
- Clayton Thorson needs to have some good moments after stinking it up for most of the spring.
- The comp pick guys — L.J. Fort and Andrew Sendejo — will obviously bear watching. No good reason to keep them around and lose a 2020 fourth-round comp pick if they’re struggling.
- Can Tre Sullivan and/or Blake Countess and/or Deiondre’ Hall step up and make Sendejo more expendable?
- T.J. Edwards could be the undrafted rookie free agent with the best chance of making the 53. Will he still stand out when the pads go on?
- How much progress has Jordan Mailata made from Year 1 to Year 2?
- Can DeAndre Thompkins make any noise as a punt returner?
- Are Joe Ostman’s extremely muscular arms going to explode?