As camp kicks off, here are five stories I’ll be following throughout July and August as the regular season approaches…
continuity hurts 📕
Jalen Hurts has been put into many different offensive systems in his football career. Hurt started as a freshman in Alabama in 2016 when Lynne Kevin was the offensive coordinator at Crimson Tide. The following season, the Giants’ current head coach Brian Dabol was the OC. Hurts lost his first QB job to Tua Tagovailoa in 2018, a move that led to him moving to Oklahoma and playing under Lincoln Riley for the Sooners in 2019. As an NFL rookie in 2020, Hurts started the last game of the era Doug Pederson. In 2021, his first full year as a professional junior, he worked with new coach Nick Siriani.
For the first time in a long time, Hurts appears to have some continuity in training. This is not for making excuses. This line of thinking made someone like Sam Bradford get endless opportunities at the NFL level that were undeserved. It is more about urgency. Hurts on his second run as Birds’ QB1. There were mistakes that could be considered inexperience during his first two years at Philly under different coaches. This is no longer the case. It won’t fly, certainly not when he’ll throw to AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
“He has a new coach!”
“He doesn’t have enough help!”
None of this matters with the passing unit and offensive line in play under Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen once again. Get rid of excuses, burning ships, etc. It’s time for Hurts to clean up those little bugs, make big strides as a beacon and demonstrate mastery of the Birds playbook. Everything is in place so he can get out, and every media member of the NovaCare aggregator will have his eyes set on the pain whenever he comes back to pass over the next month.
stacked front 💪
Here are the Eagles’ top four defensive tackles: Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis and Milton Williams. Hargrave made the Pro Bowl in 2021. Cox is a multi-time Super Bowl and All-Pro champ. Davis won the Bednarek Award in Georgia last season as the best defensive player in college football. Williams was my favorite day two prospect in the 2021 draft, has similar Test numbers to Aaron Donald, and came in strong last year.
It’s an organizational philosophy that has persisted for more than two decades: build by trenches. Moving on to Davis is exactly what I would have done if I had been running a bird show during the draft. I can’t wait to see how Davis will face the super talented Eagles offensive linemen in 1 on 1 practice and how many reps he will have in full team situations. Jason Kelce is the best center in the NFL and Davis has at least three inches and 50 pounds on him (maybe an underestimate considering Kelce is listed at 295 lbs. Sounds pretty high). Landon Dickerson was a monster in Alabama and had fought with Davis before. Davis’ early camp success could go a long way for him to prove he can be a three-footed player in the NFL sooner rather than later.
WR depth chart 🎯
There are four site locks for my extensive list of receivers: Brown, Smith, Coys, Watkins, and Zach Pascal. These top three are the team’s starters and I imagine Pascal would get a great deal of movement given his acquaintance with Sirianni due to their combined time in Indianapolis.
I suppose the Eagles will have six poles wide on their menu after the final cuts. That leaves two places for Galen Regor, Britannia Covey, Greg Ward, Devon Allen, Dionne Kane, Josh Hammond, John Hightower and Keri Whitfall.
He has a rocky standing among Eagles fans, but I imagine Regor makes it. You never know!
The two players who could quickly become fan favorites in camp are Kofi and Allen. The Eagles have been starving for some juice in the return leg since the days of Darren Sproulis. Kofi earned three return distances to Utah in 2021 with an average kickback of 14.7 yards and an average kickback of 30.0 yards. It would only take one or two big camp hunts for Twitter to outsmart it. Allen is a two-time Olympic hurdler and a three-time U.S. national champion. He was a four-star recruit who graduated from high school and played football for Oregon with a seven-point season in 2014 which was his highest point. An Olympic athlete in a midnight green? Once again, it will take one Hurts deep ball for fans to summon Allen to build the roster. And you know what? good for them. Training camp is the perfect time for irrational noises.
For reference, when previewing the team’s bootcamp roster, our Jimmy Kempsky was using Brown, Smith, and Watkins as locksmiths. Pascal and Rigor were near the locks. Allen Ward and Kofi were bubble shooters with the rest listed as long shots.
tripping and falling without a safety net 🎵
Due to the fact that the safety of the Eagles was horrific for several years after they let Brian Dawkins go after the 2008 season, invitations to “Next Dawkins” became a meme for Birds fans. They were finally given one in the form of Malcolm Jenkins, the backbone of the 2017 Super Bowl-winning team’s defense who made three Pro Bowls in Philly. Searched the past two years to find “The Next Jenkins” now.
The idea of old-school training camp fights for starting jobs seems to have faded into the modern NFL. Teams will only grab two veteran quarterbacks and let them go into “Highlander” mode to see which of them will be QB1 in a mid-level team. I remember when Hank Fraley and Jamal Jackson were on the cover of Sports Illustrated together because of their camp fights:
Eagles training camp tomorrow makes me remember Hank Fraley and Jamal Jackson were on the cover of Sports Illustrated together in 2006 (also a Chase Utley scene) pic.twitter.com/y62vS7eM6Q
– Shamus (@shamus_clancy) 25 July 2022
The position of the eagles higher in the air is in safety.
Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps are currently selected as starters for the team, but that’s not entirely ideal. Of course, you can’t have any holes in your list, but it’s a talking point for a fan base that has more to do with Safety than anyone else. Third-year safety team K’Von Wallace played just 22 percent of defensive shots last season. Jared Maiden has played only six games in his NFL career, but he did give a solid performance in OTA sessions that were open to the media. Jaquiski Tartt is famous for dropping an intercept. Those guys featured on the roster are out of place, so the Birds will really take Epps to take a step forward in his 26-year season, and Harris will look just like the player he was in his Minnesota days.
The player who could get the most fan support in camp is definitely Wallace given that he was seen as a potential Day 2 prospect in 2020 who was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round and because he went to Clemson like another safe place.
Bulldog Packer 🐶
Who was the last great defender the Eagles drafted? Jordan Hicks and Michal Kendricks had some good moments and were Super Bowl contributors, but I’ll give Jeremiah Trotter that distinction. Nakobi Dean, who picked Round Three for starters, might be that dude to move on. Dean was a unanimous All-American and Butkus Award winner as the best LB in college football for this historically great Georgia defense in 2021. He slipped to the third round in the draft due to a chest injury Dean chose not to undergo surgery. The Eagles also didn’t feel like they needed surgery after the draft.
I’m totally on board with Eagles rolling the dice late on the second day of a Dean-caliber player. If he was on the field, I have no doubts he would excel in the NFL. Seeing the Number 17 jersey patrol the NovaCare Defense will be huge for the near and long-term future of the Eagles defense. Guys like TJ Edwards and Shaun Bradley have been in Philly for a while and Kyzir White has been a free agent signing with starting predictions, but we can see the first hints of Dean as the best Birds player if/when he’s out there this summer.
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