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Weapon X Mailbag: Have your Eagles expectations changed since the preseason started?

Plus: Will Fulgham make the team?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

My take this week: cancel the preseason.

On to the questions from our loyal readers...

@OcaptMyObvious: Have your expectations for this season or for individual players/coaches changed now that we are getting to the end of preseason?

This may be cheating, but I’m looking at the preseason as the totality of the week leading up to the preseason, not just the games. Based on the Eagles’ joint practices, which the Eagles themselves seem to value more than preseason games at this point, this isn’t a bottom-tier team like they might be viewed nationally. They’re getting the best of the Patriots and Jets.

This is a top-10 defense with a potentially top-two defensive line. This is a top-10 offensive line and potentially higher with consistent health. That’s getting you near league average by default before even considering the upside of this offense.

I’m a Jalen Hurts believer. He struggled early in camp, but has gotten incrementally better and seems to have had his best practices in the last couple of weeks against legitimate opposing teams, not just the Eagles’ own D. DeVonta Smith will be the most exciting Eagles rookie since DeSean Jackson in 2008. Quez Watkins is blossoming.

Sure, I’m an Eagles homer, but I was ready to throw the entire team in the dumpster last September. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. In a normal division, this isn’t a playoff team, but I maintain that this team will have a record above .500 (lots of divisional wins down the stretch) and win the woeful NFC East.

I wanted to believe that before this month, but now I actually do.

@TuchelBrigade: Who’s your camp guy who you hope makes the team?

It was tight end Tyree Jackson before his back injury. Yes, he will likely make the team in some capacity still, perhaps going through a medical redshirt-type season, but it feels wrong to say someone who will miss a good chunk of time or possibly not play the entire season.

Here’s one: Jason Huntley.

Brandon Lee Gowton had him in his 53-man roster prediction over the weekend as the Eagles’ fourth running back. Huntley is entering his second professional season, ran a 4.37 40-yard dash coming out of New Mexico State and hit some electric runs during the early parts of training camp. The highlights and tweets from Eagles beat reporters have died down some, but I value his ability as a kick returner.

When’s the last time the Eagles had a good kick return? Josh Huff against the Vikings in 2016? Let’s add juice back there! Huntley averaged 25.8 yards per return during his collegiate career and had five touchdowns.

Despite Miles Sanders and his case of drops this summer and in 2020, the Eagles do have a tandem of talented pass-catching backs in Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell. Even still, Huntley had 126 catches during his last three years at New Mexico State. He would be yet another speedster on an offense full of them.

@eaglesburner_: Think that Howie will pick up some guys off of waivers like he usually does?

He has to, right? No executive is more active than Howie Roseman. He could look for help at offensive tackle in the event of an Andre Dillard trade. I’d check out left tackle and X receivers, maybe even try to find a developmental third quarterback for the practice squad.

Quick aside: how awful must have Jamie Newman been to get cut so quickly after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent? I was gassing him up before the draft as a Day 3 option at backup quarterback, amped when they gave him a contract and perplexed when it collapsed soon after. He felt like the ideal practice squad guy this year, but I guess not.

@FRESHticles: Who on the defense has the best chance to be the surprise/breakout player?

Is it even a surprise to name Josh Sweat at this point? Everyone’s saying him!

How about Alex Singleton? The 27-year-old linebacker, formerly a star in the Canadian Football League, led the Eagles with 120 combined tackles in 2020 despite starting only 11 games. He averaged roughly 10 tackles per game. That would put him on a 160-tackle pace if he had started 16 games (pretty simple math there!). That would’ve had him second among all NFL players behind the Texans’ Zach Cunningham (164 combined tackles).

He’s not a three-down linebacker, but maybe he finishes in the top five in combined tackles? He was 15th in 2020. Tackles aren’t a be-all stat for linebackers in the slightest, but it’d be noteworthy. An Eagles player hasn’t been in the top five since Byron Evans was third in 1992 with 175 tackles (pro-football reference doesn’t differentiate between total and solo tackles before 1994).

@IrishIggles: You think there’s a chance Travis Fulgham gets cut? He’s probably WR5/6 at this stage.

There are three absolute stone-cold locks for the Eagles roster at receiver: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. I’d assume Greg Ward makes it because of his ability to play in the slot and his baseline competency too.

BLG had the Eagles keeping six wideouts in his 53-man roster prediction. That feels about right. I’d say Fulgham is WR5 and is making the roster by default rather than achievement based on his summer and the way he fell off a cliff in 2020. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside probably grabs that last receiver spot? Yuck.