The first full week of camp is behind us, and with it we can make some somewhat definitive observations.
Great (early) expectations are being met
Don’t take too much from the early part of camp, but it is great to see that no one who this team is counting on to return them to the Super Bowl looks like they are hitting the ground stumbling. Even if someone was struggling, you could chalk that up to, you know, it being late July/early August. Those things happen. But that hasn’t happened. Instead we’re getting “this guy looks great” reactions from reporters who aren’t interested in hot takes.
Jalen Hurts is a video game character
Progression is not linear. Unless you’re Jalen Hurts. In 2021 it seemed like each month he showed off a new improvement, and then in 2022 he of course took a big step forward. And in the early days of camp it seems he’s upped his game again, getting praise for his improved accuracy and zip (not that they were major issues heading into the season). He’s like a player character in a video game, gaining experience points and then unlocking new abilities and attributes every time he levels up. Is there a level cap?
Smith wouldn’t be the first guy to start camp hot and then cool off as the calendar gets closer to September. But it sure seems like Sean Desai is going to have to find a way to get him on the field. Heading into camp I wondered if they would give him some time as an off-ball linebacker simply to get him on the field, because we should expect him to play only about 20% of snaps in relief of Haason Reddick. And then on Thursday it happened, Smith–weirdly along with Derek Barnett–saw some reps there. On Friday with Nakobe Dean on the sidelines nursing an injury, Smith and Christian Ellis played together at LB with the 1s, which does not bode well for Nicholas Morrow.
Additionally, with Kyron Johnson–at least to start camp–no longer getting off ball LB reps, there’s room to fit Smith in as a backup. More importantly, Haason Reddick openly talked about how he is underpaid (and he is correct), taking him off the field more in 2023 is not going to go over well with him, nor should it. But at LB… maybe there’s a place for Smith to get some snaps. We’ll see, but the first brick has been laid.
On the topic of Reddick… missing the first few practices and then getting a strip sack on his first snap… el oh el.
Eye on the O-Line
Another thing I wanted to see in camp was how the team would handle backup OT, would they keep the L/R split they had last year or go the more traditional swing tackle route. So far it’s unclear what they prefer, which is good! Now is the time to keep an open mind and see what works best.
I’ve Seen Enough
Meanwhile at right guard the competition already looks closed for business with incumbent who wasn’t actually the incumbent Cameron Jurgens winning the battle with rookie Tyler Steen.
Steen, who played left tackle in college, was getting reps at left tackle with the 2s in addition to reps at right guard. It never really made sense that the Eagles immediately announced that Steen would be competing at RG. A boilerplate “we think he has positional versatility” would have been just fine, fitting with their philosophy, and accurate. He was a 3rd round pick on an elite offensive line, no need to try to determine his best position before he puts on a practice jersey. So it seems they walked that back a bit. Which is good, but what if it turns out that Jurgens is too good at RG to move out? Isaac Seumalo was drafted as a guard who could slide over to center, he stuck at guard. Landon Dickerson was drafted as a center (he had also played right guard in college) and got moved to guard when Seumalo got hurt, and the team has never looked back on him being an option at center. It’s way, way, too early for any of this to be definitive but what if Jurgens is too good to move off guard? Nice problem to have.
When you reach the Super Bowl you usually don’t have a big list of players who are in need of a bounce back season. Quez Watkins entered camp at the top of that very small list and is answering the challenge. If this holds, and there’s good reason to think it will, a productive Watkins can help fight off whatever regression to the mean the offense has coming down the pipe.
Do they need to bring in a camp arm… at center?
The Eagles don’t have a “camp arm” this year, with incumbent 3rd string QB Ian Book in a legitimate competition against 6th round draft pick Tanner McKee for that spot. But do they need a body at center? Brett Toth is quickly climbing up the career worms burnt list, which is bad enough for a QB but unacceptable for a center, and he’s struggling with blocking. Other than that it is going great.
File under “interesting”
It’s a good thing that all the free agents the Eagles signed were on one year deals with low expectations because none of them have done anything positive yet.
The next off-ball linebacker to make a play will be the first.
Josh Jobe being the first man up at outside CB while Zech McPhearson sees reps in the slot.
Marcus Mariota is unofficially averaging one (1) good pass a practice and more than one (>1) bad pass a practice.
Greedy Williams is in the running for first guy cut.
Nicholas Morrow might not be far behind him.
Overreaction of the Week
Cowboys defense getting chirpy with Dak Prescott pic.twitter.com/9pEcnXzWZx— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) August 1, 2023
Ooh that’s spicy
Way Too Early Na Brown Award Watch
Joseph Ngata and Kyron Johnson