Jump to content

How much will Eagles rookies play in 2021?


Recommended Posts

How much will Eagles rookies play in 2021?


The Eagles walked away from the 2021 draft with nine picks but there’s no guarantee all nine will get playing time as rookies or even make the roster.

Here’s a look at this year’s draft class as we attempt to figure out how much these guys will play in 2021:

1-10: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Of this year’s draft class, Smith is the only no-doubt-about-it starter of the bunch. Not only is he the No. 10 pick and an incredibly accomplished player at a major program, but he also steps into a position room with the Eagles that is incredibly inexperienced.

The Eagles have 10 receivers on their roster and all of them are 25 or younger. The oldest players at the position are Greg Ward Jr. and Travis Fulgham. Ward is by far the most experienced of the bunch. After getting called up from the practice squad in 2019, Ward has played in 23 games; he has 81 catches for 673 yards and 7 touchdowns.

So there’s no question that Smith is going to start and play a ton as long as he remains healthy. We’ll see which position he ends up taking but you can expect him to be a starter along with last year’s first-round pick Jalen Reagor and maybe Ward. The Eagles also have Fulgham, Quez Watkins, John Hightower and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as returning players in the mix.

Last year as a first-round pick, Reagor played 66.8% of the Eagles’ snaps in games he suited up. Remember, Reagor was battling through injuries and also wasn’t producing at a very high level and he still played that much. So you can expect Smith to play an awful lot in 2021, especially if he’s putting up numbers.

The over/under number for Smith’s receiving yards is 750.5, according to PointsBet. That type of season would put Smith in the top 10 list for Eagles rookies all-time:

DeSean Jackson (2008): 912

Jordan Matthews (2014): 872

Keith Jackson (1988): 869

Charle Young (1973): 854

Jeremy Maclin (2009): 773

* Smith over/under: 750.5

Fred Barnett (1990): 721

Don Looney (1940): 707

Calvin Williams (1990): 602

Reggie Brown (2005): 571

For reference, that over/under number of 750.5 is the same as No. 4 pick Kyle Pitts and more than the 725.5 for Smith’s former teammate and No. 6 pick Jaylen Waddle.

2-37: Landon Dickerson, iOL, Alabama

Even if he’s healthy this season, Dickerson doesn’t project as a starter as a rookie. He’s good enough to start — he’s a first-round talent without the injury history — but the Eagles’ offensive line is pretty set right now.

LT: Jordan Mailata/Andre Dillard

LG: Isaac Seumalo

😄 Jason Kelce

RG: Brandon Brooks

RT: Lane Johnson

If Dickerson got healthy enough, could he perhaps beat out Seumalo for a starting job? Maybe. But he’ll likely be too far behind because he’s coming off an ACL injury. When he’s 100%, though, Dickerson will presumably be the top interior backup lineman.

But we still don’t know when he’ll be completely healed. At last week’s rookie camp, Dickerson participated but just in walk-throughs.

"Not going to set a timetable on Landon and his return, but he is working hard,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. "We've got a great training staff and great strength staff that are working hard with him to get him ready to go as soon as he's able to.”

When he’s back, chances are Dickerson will play at some point; injuries happen. He’ll likely be active on game days and will play special teams unless there’s an injury in front of him. After last season, it would probably be foolish to expect all five linemen to play all 16 games.

In 2020, former UDFA Nate Herbig came into the year as a deep reserve and ended up playing 891 offensive snaps, second to just Kelce.

3-73: Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech

The Eagles are pretty loaded right now at defensive tackle. Williams won’t be a starter this season because the Eagles still have Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. After that, Williams will be battling for snaps with Hassan Ridgeway and fellow rookie Marlon Tuipulotu, who was a sixth-round pick.

Under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles rotated a ton on their defensive line. While we don’t necessarily know how Gannon will utilize his rotation, we are getting hints. The fact that the Eagles keep bringing in defensive linemen in the draft and free agency shows they are going to use a rotation again.

Here’s a look at the defensive snap counts for the Eagles’ top three defensive tackles last year:

Cox: 746 (68%)

Hargrave: 600 (54%)

Malik Jackson: 537 (49%)

The Eagles went into last season with Ridgeway as the fourth DT but he went down for the season in Week 7. But before that, he had a decent role. Through the first six weeks of the season, Ridgeway played 130 of 432 defensive snaps (30.1%).

For what it’s worth, the Colts and Vikings — Gannon’s last two stops — have also utilized heavy rotations on their defensive lines.

So after Cox and Hargrave, there will be roles for the next players on the depth chart. We’ll likely see Williams, Ridgeway and Tuipuloto (and maybe T.Y. McGill if he sticks around) competing for those snaps.

4-123: Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech

The only thing we know for sure about the Eagles’ cornerback situation is that Darius Slay is CB1 and the only obvious starter. After that, things get a little cloudy. Avonte Maddox is the incumbent CB2 and while he didn’t really do anything to keep that role going into 2021, the Eagles didn’t make any moves that will obviously bump him from that spot. They did trade for 2020 fourth-round pick Josiah Scott, who is a nickel corner at 5-9.

This whole cornerback position still seems unfinished, even after the addition of Scott. There’s a chance that a lurking Howie Roseman isn’t done yet. There are still a couple notable free agents available — Steven Nelson, Brian Poole, to name a couple — and there’s the possibility of another trade. "There are other ways to skin a cat,” Roseman said during the draft.

So there’s a chance that McPhearson could be bumped down the depth chart by a player who isn’t yet on the roster. But for now, he’s going to have a chance to compete for real playing time as a rookie. He could even end up as a starter. If McPhearson outplays Scott, then the Eagles should have no problem playing him as a rookie. The last time the Eagles used a fourth-round pick on a corner it was when they took Maddox in 2018. He ended up playing 540 defensive snaps (52%) that season at multiple positions thanks to injury.

All we know is that Slay is the CB1. Maddox is the next most experienced so perhaps the Eagles might use him outside on early downs and slide him inside on nickel downs as a way to get McPhearson on the field. If the group stays like this — they still have guys like Craig James, Michael Jacquet and Lavert Hill on the roster — maybe we’ll see some different combinations in the secondary at training camp.

5-150: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

The Eagles bring back Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Jordan Howard for 2021 and they also added Kerryon Johnson as a waiver claim. But Gainwell might still have a chance to see significant playing time as a rookie.

When the Eagles drafted Gainwell, it was impossible not to compare him to Nyheim Hines, who flourished under Frank Reich and Sirianni in Indianapolis. The Colts took Hines in the fourth round back in 2018 and played him a lot as a rookie. In 2018, Hines played in all 16 games, started 4 and played 499 snaps (44%). That might be pushing it for Gainwell, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him play a lot as a rookie.

And you have to remember, running back is a position where guys tend to play right away in their careers. Some positions lend themselves to a quick transition and running back is one of them. In the last 10 years, there have been 29 running backs drafted in the fifth round or later (including UDFAs) who have rushed for over 300 yards as rookies.

Here’s a look at notable Eagles’ running backs in the last 10 years who were drafted in the fifth-round or later and what they did in their rookie seasons:

2018: Josh Adams (UDFA) — 511 rushing yards, 3 TDs, 58 receiving yards

2017: Corey Clement (UDFA) — 321 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 123 receiving yards

2016: Wendell Smallwood (5th) — 312 rushing yards, 1 TD, 55 receiving yards

2012: Bryce Brown (7th) — 564 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 56 receiving yards

2011: Dion Lewis (5th) — 102 rushing yards, 1 TD

6-189: Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC

The Eagles were able to get Tuipulotu in the sixth round and many people thought that was a steal. Tuipulotu likely fell for some medical concerns, which he neglected to get into on draft night. In any case, he’ll be added to that rotation with Cox, Hargrave, Ridgeway and Williams, the third-round pick.

While Williams is the more explosive athlete with the higher ceiling, he’s a little more raw. Williams played at a lower level of competition and just moved inside in 2020. Meanwhile, Tuipulotu played at a big school and was a three-year starter for the Trojans as an interior lineman. So there’s a chance he’s actually more pro-ready than the Eagles’ third-round pick. They’re also very different players. Williams is around 285 pounds, while Tuipulotu is a stout 307 and more of a traditional nose tackle.

At the very least, Tuipulotu can be a functional rotation piece for the Eagles. In recent seasons, undrafted players like Destiny Vaeao, Raequan Williams and Bruce Hector have found their way on the field. So a sixth-round pick should be able to crack the rotation as well.

6-191: Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina

With the addition of Ryan Kerrigan this week, the Eagles are now four deep at defensive end with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Kerrigan. That doesn’t leave a ton of meat left on the bone, especially when you consider that we might see more creative fronts from Gannon than we saw from Jim Schwartz.

Last season, the top snap-getters at defensive end were Graham, Barnett, Sweat and Vinny Curry. The fifth end on that list was Genard Avery, who played a total of just 127 snaps. Jackson has a chance to be the fifth guy in this rotation but that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be active on game days or even that he’ll make the initial 53-man roster.

Jackson was productive at Coastal Carolina — really productive — but there are obvious questions about how his success at that level will translate into the NFL.

6-224: JaCoby Stevens, LB, LSU

The Eagles are listing Stevens as a linbacker but it’s definitely fair to call him a hybrid or a tweener. At LSU, he was listed as a safety but ended up doing a lot of the same thing he anticipates the Eagles’ asking him to do at the NFL level. In a modern game all about matchups, having a linebacker with coverage skills is very important, so the Eagles might utilize Stevens in a role where he’s asked to cover backs and tight ends.

Even though he comes from a major program, Stevens will be fighting for playing time as a rookie and his best bet will be on special teams, where he will likely have a major role. After that, the Eagles might be able to work him in on some sub packages.

The Eagles are actually more settled at linebacker right now than they have been in other recent seasons. They have Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley and now the two rookies.

7-234: Patrick Johnson, LB, Tulane

Obviously nothing is really guaranteed for a seventh-round pick and it’s even harder to figure out Johnson’s role because we don’t know how he fits into Gannon’s defense. Johnson was an edge player at Tulane and the Eagles are listing him as a linebacker. It seems likely that they plan on using him as some sort of stand up rusher; we’ve also heard about the possibility of Avery moving to that type of role for 2021 as well.

If Johnson makes the team, he’ll have to earn playing time on special teams. If he doesn’t, he’s a candidate to end up on the practice squad and wait his turn.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, time2rock said:

The Eagles are pretty loaded right now at defensive tackle. Williams won’t be a starter this season because the Eagles still have Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. After that, Williams will be battling for snaps with Hassan Ridgeway and fellow rookie Marlon Tuipulotu, who was a sixth-round pick.

No they aren't. That's not loaded! Cox is older and does better (as do all players) when he's able to rotate a little. Hargrave improved last year as the season progressed but now has a new scheme to learn. Ridgeway has struggled to stay healthy and Tuipulotu is a sixth round pick from this year's draft. I don't think that's a loaded DT room. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, UK_EaglesFan89 said:

No they aren't. That's not loaded! Cox is older and does better (as do all players) when he's able to rotate a little. Hargrave improved last year as the season progressed but now has a new scheme to learn. Ridgeway has struggled to stay healthy and Tuipulotu is a sixth round pick from this year's draft. I don't think that's a loaded DT room. 

I was thinking that as well. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...