There is cause for excitement after the Eagles first preseason game against Pittsburgh. Especially around the team’s first year players, following a relatively strong performance in their first NFL outing. With the Patriots up next, here are some rookie storylines to follow.
How much DeVonta Smith do we see?
DeVonta Smith’s health is trending in the right direction as he recovers from a knee sprain. The Heisman winner returned to practice this week and, by all accounts, looks excellent. Now, the Eagles could choose to keep him on ice for another week or for all of preseason entirely. After all, there is no point in risking his health over a preseason game if he isn’t feeling 100%.
If he gives himself the green light and is okayed by the team, however, things can get a lot more interesting. Everyone and their mother wants to see Smith take NFL snaps and show off the things that made him so dominant in college. If he takes the field tomorrow, every viewer will be laser focused on how he fares against a talented and deep Patriots secondary.
Big step for the young defensive lineman
Last week was a great showing from Eagles rookies Milton Williams, Tarron Jackson, and JaQuan Bailey. All three players flashed excellent disruption in the backfield and showed why they belong on an NFL team.
Meanwhile, rookie defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu underwhelmed and was constantly pushed around by the Steelers backup blockers. It is crucial he makes more of an impact this week.
Making a dent in the Eagles defensive line depth chart is no small thing and every snap will count for these young players if they hope to make the team.
Can Patrick Johnson keep impressing?
Eagles rookie linebacker Patrick Johnson looked excellent against Pittsburgh last week, but exited early after getting shaken up. Luckily, the injury was minor and Johnson was back at practice this week and looked like the player that balled out last week.
The Eagles’ linebacker situation is not amazing. It might be their weakest position. Patrick Johnson continuing his strong preseason won’t just lock him into the roster, but he could actually compete for playing time on defense.
Kenneth Gainwell getting a larger workload
Kenneth Gainwell had some small flashes last week, but ultimately did not see the ball enough to really impress. With Miles Sanders still looking iffy as a pass catcher in camp, the Eagles could really benefit from Gainwell stepping up as a third down back and a player who can line up at various receiver positions.
Gainwell getting the ball more as a runner and receiver should give the Eagles a better idea of what they have in the rookie and hopefully he shows it is something good.