There are plenty of things to watch as Philadelphia Eagles training camp practice begins today. Here are some of the items that matter the most.
1 - No major injuries!
Getting through camp healthy is priority No. 1. We all know the Eagles have had their fair share of injury issues in recent seasons. Maybe they’re finally due for some good luck?
2 - Jalen Hurts’ accuracy
I’ve seen Hurts throw a football enough to know he doesn’t totally lack touch. But repetitive accuracy has been a big issue for him, as evidenced by the many poor metrics he posted as a rookie. It’ll be concerning if the ball is hitting the ground a lot in camp. I can’t help but think back to last year when Carson Wentz really struggled with accuracy issues and those carried over to the regular season.
Also: this may sound obvious but Hurts needs to throw the ball a lot in camp. He had a habit of running a little often in last year’s practices. So much so that defensive teammates even called him out for it. Hurts’ mobility is absolutely a weapon that should be employed in real games. But in a setting where no one is allowed to touch him anyway, we need to see him working on mastering his throwing ability.
3 - The imprints of Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon
It’ll be interesting to see how Sirianni runs camp and leads the team differently (or similarly) to his predecessor, Doug Pederson. We already saw some new tweaks during our limited glimpses at two OTA practices in the spring.
Moreover, it’ll be interesting to see what the Eagles’ offense is looking like. Are we going to see a shift away from such heavy 12 personnel usage despite Zach Ertz returning to camp? Will running backs be noticeably more involved in the passing game? Any other schematic changes?
Flipping over to the defense, what will we learn about Gannon’s system? The Eagles’ new defensive coordinator previously spoke about it being tailored to the strength of the players. That’s all well and good conceptually. But what exactly does that actually look like?
4 - The biggest camp battles
Left tackle: Jordan Mailata versus Andre Dillard. The former is the fan-favorite to win the job while the latter has much to prove after a poor rookie season and a concerning training camp last year before getting hurt. These players are expected to be splitting reps. Those will be monitored closely. As will be who gets the first crack at the left tackle spot. Pretty important for the Eagles to choose the right answer to the only unsettled position on their offensive line.
Wide receiver: Who are the three starters? DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor feel like locks in that capacity. Are the Eagles really going to run Greg Ward out there as the full-time starter in the slot? That’s where he was lined up during spring drills. But Ward isn’t one of the best three receivers on the team. Travis Fulgham is more talented. It’s reasonable for the Eagles to push Fulgham to play well and earn his playing time. One can hope that’s what’s happening here.
5 - Player development
The 2021 Eagles season isn’t entirely about 2021; it’s not a Super Bowl or bust campaign. It’s partially about building a foundation for future seasons. The Eagles need to come out of this year with some long-term building blocks. The aforementioned Smith already inspires a lot of confidence in that regard. But who else will step up? Can Miles Sanders get back on track in the passing game? Is Reagor capable of taking a big step forward? Is there any hope for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside? Will Derek Barnett blossom into a difference-maker? Training camp alone won’t give us answers to these questions. But it’d be nice to see some encouraging signs in practice from the young guys.