Last year, the Eagles were seeing big contributions from their rookie class early in the season. DeVonta Smith had established himself as the top receiver on the team almost immediately, Landon Dickerson was settling in at guard, Kenneth Gainwell was an established role player on the offense and Milton Williams was rotating into the defensive line. This year, it’s a different story.
There is a simple reason why: the Eagles began a rebuilding process in the spring of 2021, so young players were bound to see big roles last season. And now that the team has gone from plucky startup to legit contender, it is no surprise that the dynamic has shifted on the roster where first year players are contributing less. That being said, there are a few rookies to keep an eye on in the Eagles’ showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Rise of Jordan Davis
One rookie has undeniably been a difference maker and it is the most important rookie of the Eagles’ whole class. Jordan Davis looks better and better every week, providing instant impact run defense any time he is on the field.
The Cardinals offense has underachieved, but it is still a unit with explosive potential in the passing and running game. Davis will likely see early snaps as the Eagles will try forcing the Cardinals to get one dimensional and abandon the run.
Davis logged his first tackle for a loss against the Jaguars. Expect him to beef up his box score a bit more in the desert.
Where is Nakobe Dean?
Nakobe Dean was one of the most highly touted players coming out of college football last year and he is a non-factor on the Eagles defense. His last time playing with the defense was when he had three snaps against Detroit. He has since been limited to playing on special teams.
The Eagles have a good problem with Dean. For the first time in a long time, they are deep at linebacker. Kyzir White has been really solid while TJ Edwards has played out of his mind this year. The Eagles just do not need Dean to step up. Yet.
Among the Eagles linebackers, Dean is unique in the way his speed and aggressiveness allow him to be a defensive chess piece. With Haason Reddick playing more on the line, it would be fun (?) to see Dean thrown onto the field and used as a blitzer from the off-ball linebacker position. As the defense continues to get more confident, it would not be a shock to see Jonathan Gannon potentially get more exotic with the scheme. Dean could be a part of that shift.
Arizona might not be the opponent to get really spicy with it on defense, but given what Dean could be on this defense ... his involvement always warrants watching.
Will the Eagles need to dip into the young defensive back group?
Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox are still dealing with injuries. Slay is on track to play while it looks like Maddox could be out. It might be a chance for Josh Jobe to get some snaps at outside cornerback. Obviously Zech McPhearson held it down in the rain last week, but if the group gets further thinned out we could see the UDFA playing.