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Breaking down the Eagles' 10 hottest training camp battles


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Breaking down the Eagles' 10 hottest training camp battles

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published August 6, 2023


For a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles went into training camp with a ton of question marks and a ton of key spots up for grabs.

That was mainly because they lost so many important players this offseason. Both starting linebackers left. Both starting safeties left. A starting guard, a starting running back and the backup quarterback as well.

Combine all that with the natural competition that comes with players either coming off disappointing seasons, draft picks and free agents coming in and injury issues and you have a training camp with a rare amount of competition for a team coming off a 14-win season.

The Eagles reported for training camp 13 days ago and they’ve practiced seven times now. With the first preseason game just days away, here’s a look at some of the more interesting competitions and how they’re shaping up.

1. Starting safety: With Reed Blankenship firmly ensconced as one starter, veteran Terrell Edmunds and fourth-year pro K’Von Wallace have taken turns with the first defense, with rookie Sydney Brown getting a taste of 1st-team reps recently. Edmunds and Wallace are very close through the first couple weeks, but I’d say Wallace has been a bit more active and productive. The Eagles expect Brown to be the starter one day and I think that will happen, but right now, I feel like Wallace has a slight lead over Edmunds.

2. Backup nickel: Another wide open competition for what’s an important spot because Avonte Maddox has been hurt so much (and is still limited after February toe surgery). Zech McPhearson moved from outside corner to the slot at OTAs, and he’s been working with the 1’s while Maddox continues to recover. It’s significant that McPhearson is ahead of Josiah Scott, who played 328 slot snaps last year. Mario Goodrich has also worked in at the slot. Right now, the job belongs to McPhearson, who’s played exactly one regular-season slot rep in his career. Also important to note McPhearson – the No. 1 backup outside the last two years – hasn’t practiced at all outside this year. Looks like he’s the guy, and that’s big considering Maddox’s injury history and the fact that the slot is going to play 40 to 50 snaps per game.

3. Starting right guard: This is one competition that never materialized. Even though Nick Sirianni indicated in the spring that rookie Tyler Steen would compete with Cam Jurgens, that hasn’t happened. Jurgens has gotten every 1st-team rep and over the last few practices Steen began working as much at left tackle as backup right guard. If there were any chance at all Steen would win the right guard job he would be getting as many reps as possible at right guard.

4. Third quarterback: Tanner McKee and Ian Book get so few reps it’s really tough to separate them. And when they do get reps, it’s with the third offense, so they’re out there with the third offensive line and 3rd-team skill guys. The advantage McKee has is that the Eagles spent a 6th-round pick on him. The advantage Book has is that he was here all last year and is in his third NFL season. Both look OK so far. This competition will likely get settled in the preseason games, but all things being equal the job will likely go to McKee.

5. Third receiver: Quez Watkins quickly gapped Olamide Zaccheaus and he hasn’t let up. Watkins, coming off a nightmare 2022 season, has been outstanding this summer, and Zaccheaus has been just kind of OK. Zaccheaus is not even a lock to make the final roster thanks to his small one-year contract and minimal dead money ($650,000). Honestly, he hasn’t been one of the top five WRs in camp this summer, but his resume from Atlanta is outstanding so you expect him to start making more plays soon. But as for the slot or No. 3 spot? It’s not even close right now.

6. Fifth receiver: The Eagles have a very impressive group of camp legs, with guys like Joseph Ngata and Tyrie Cleveland and to a lesser extent Jadon Haselwood and Charleston Rambo all making plays. But this is Britan Covey’s job because of his punt return ability. He’s also looked really comfortable catching the ball out of the slot this summer, although I’m not sure a team with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Quez Watkins and D’Andre Swift is going to write up a whole bunch of offensive plays for their punt returner.

7. Starting off-ball linebacker: Nakobe Dean has one starting job locked up, but the second is up for grabs, with Christian Ellis and Nicholas Morrow taking turns with the first defense for a while and Nolan Smith now in the mix while Dean deals with an ankle injury. The fact that Smith and Ellis got starter reps Friday ahead of Morrow isn’t a good sign for the 28-year-old Morrow. I still think there’s a good chance Howie Roseman adds somebody before the season starts, but for now, Ellis is probably in the lead to start opposite Dean, only because I still think Smith’s greatest value will be in the edge rush mix while getting a handful of reps at off-ball linebacker. 

8. No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 Running back: Good luck sorting this one out. This is a crazy talented group of backs, and one of them won’t make the 53. I’d say D’Andre Swift has been the most productive, but part of that is just that they’re throwing so much to the backs that he’s going to shine. Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell are both having very good camps, and Trey Sermon and Rashaad Penny – who are runners first and receivers second – haven’t flashed as much but that’s because running plays are not going to stand out at a practice without live drills like pass plays. But both have been fine. Swift sure looks like RB1 or as close as the Eagles will have to one, and Gainwell looks like RB2. They are the only roster locks, but it would be hard to cut a healthy Penny. Which leaves Scott and Sermon. Scott is such a fixture here and a valuable, tough short-yardage runner, and it’s hard to imagine him getting released, but Sermon is younger and with his size and toughness a different sort of back than the others. If I had to guess, I’d say Sermon is the odd man out, but there’s a lot of preseason to go and this one will go down to the wire.

9. Third tight end: Kind of an under-rated battle here. Grant Calcaterra – a 6th-round pick last year - will almost certainly make the team because of his receiving ability, and the Eagles seem to really love Jack Stoll’s blocking – he played half the offensive snaps last year while catching just 11 passes. Veteran Dan Arnold is also in camp, and he’s a better receiver than Stoll but not an accomplished blocker. The wild card here is Tyree Jackson, who has been really good again and has stayed healthy. He’s just impressive, but I just don’t know where he fits in. I’d be surprised if Calcaterra and Stoll don’t wind up backing up Goedert.

10. Punter: I still think the opening-day punter is going to be someone who’s not here yet. Siposs has been booming punts all over the practice fields, but he did that the last two years as well. I don’t know how the Eagles can trust him when the weather starts to deteriorate or in high-leverage situations. Like 10 minutes left in a Super Bowl. Ty Zentner has looked fine after a slow start, but I just feel like a team with Super Bowl aspirations is going to want someone who’s experienced, consistent and fearless, and I’m not sure they have that on the roster right now.


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Hopefully they keep Sills at OG because we don't have an NFL quality back up there other than Driscoll who will be the swing OT.  The 3rd round OT has ability outside and with a year of seasoning may be a starter at RT when Lane can't go.  Maybe he will adapt to OG, maybe not.  But he can play OT in this league.  We may need to draft an OG in the 2nd or 3rd round next year unless Sills makes a big jump

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