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Updates from Week 4
The Eagles got walloped 48-10 by the Miami Dolphins in the preseason finale, but the score doesn’t mean much since the Dolphins played their starters while the Eagles played their roster hopefuls and longshots, for the most part. Jalen Hurts didn’t play, as expected. He finished the last two practices of the summer on a down note. Brandon Lee Gowton has the 16-day tally as five “stock up” days (good), five “stock even” days (neutral), and six “stock down” days (bad). What does all this mean for the regular season? Probably nothing. Hurts remains a streaky passer, and even with A.J. Brown aboard, there will be stretches when the quarterback’s passing frustrates. But between his legs and experience in Nick Sirianni’s system, his erraticism shouldn’t overwhelm what looks to be a balanced, explosive offense. Backup Gardner Minshew has had a disappointing summer, but not enough to worry about his roster spot. He started against the Dolphins, completing 6-of-9 passes for 48 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Reid Sinnett’s hope of sticking on the 53-man roster may have been done in by a bad performance in the finale. He only completed 12-of-22 throws for 104 yards, with zero touchdowns and an interception. He also fumbled.
We should view the running back position as a work in progress. Based on the current 80-man roster, the depth chart is clear with Miles Sanders as the No. 1, Boston Scott as the No. 2, and Kenneth Gainwell as the No. 3. But given Sanders' current hamstring injury and Gainwell’s uninspiring camp, don’t be surprised if the team bolsters the position after 53-man rosters are finalized around the league. It’s unclear whether Sanders’ current injury will keep him out of the Week 1 lineup, but the team has nearly two weeks to update us and make plans for the alternative.
There are four sure-fire roster locks at receiver. A.J. Brown has been stellar in his first Eagles camp and should be the focal point of the passing attack, barring injury. DeVonta Smith has come roaring back from some missed time a few weeks ago and reminded everyone he’s far too talented to be ignored. He won’t have the volume to put up big numbers weekly, but he should be one of the better No. 2 receivers in the NFC. Quez Watkins fought tooth and nail to make the team a year ago but has consistently practiced as the third starter and vertical threat this camp. He won’t be targeted frequently but will occasionally take the top off defenses. Zach Pascal came from the Colts and is a Sirianni favorite; he’ll play a lot in 3- and 4-receiver sets. The central question is what the team does with Jalen Reagor. After two massively disappointing seasons, he looks like a different player this summer. But he’s buried on the depth chart and could have a chance to play major snaps on another team. Look for the Eagles to trade Reagor soon; otherwise, he's looked too good to cut. If the front office does find a trade partner for Reagor, special teams ace Devon Allen could slide into the initial 53-man roster configuration.
Assuming the Eagles only keep three tight ends, it should be Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, and rookie Grant Calcaterra. Goedert will be the second most important piece of the passing attack most weeks and a consistent red-zone threat. Stoll is a blocker, and the team needs to ensure they have another quality blocking tight end tucked away on the practice squad since neither Goedert nor Calcaterra is a difference maker in protection.
As we discussed last week, Brandon Graham has defied expectations by returning quickly from an Achilles injury; he was arguably the most consistent and impressive lineman on the team this summer. Josh Sweat’s arrow is also pointing up. Derek Barnett always looks like a stud-in-waiting until the regular season penalties pile up. The defensive tackle spot is so deep that the team may have to release someone who will start elsewhere. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are the disruptive incumbent starters, and mammoth rookie Jordan Davis will have splashy moments. But don’t forget about Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu. Will the team keep more than four linebackers? T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White will play as many snaps as they can handle, and Nakobe Dean will hopefully continue improving after a mediocre first training camp that ended on a high note. The starting cornerback trio of James Bradberry, Darius Slay, and Avonte Maddox is near elite, at least if they can maintain the level of play they showed all summer. Safety is the only concerning position. Expect GM Roseman to add a veteran or two before the season opens.
Rookie Britain Covey was drawing rave reviews for his special teams work in camps and was in a great position to earn the return specialist job, but torn ligaments in his right thumb leave him unlikely to make the final roster. Instead, the Eagles will probably roll with the reliable– but uninspiring– Jalen Reagor.
Updates from Week 3
Jalen Hurts had an up-and-down start to the week, particularly in early team drills. But he turned things on against the Browns in joint practices before this week’s preseason game. Through fourteen camp practices, Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton gives Hurts five “stock up” days, four “stock down” days, and five “stock even” days. In other words, it’s been a mixed bag. Gardner Minshew continued his rough summer with two bad days against Cleveland in joint practices but looked like a new man in the preseason tilt. He started the game, completed 14-of-17 passes for 142 yards, and led two touchdown drives in three possessions.
Miles Sanders is out with a hamstring injury, and the coaches haven’t offered a timetable for his return. Boston Scott put on a one-man show in the opening drive against the Browns. The veteran touched the ball 11 times on the first drive, racking up 44 yards and capping things with a 1-yard touchdown. Not to be outdone, Kenneth Gainwell took over on the second drive and was equally productive. The second-year tailback ran the ball 11 times for 46 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown. Seeing the No. 2 and No. 3 running backs handle heavy workloads in a dress rehearsal is particularly encouraging given the nebulous state of Sanders’ health. Doubly so when you consider they ran behind the backup offensive linemen. Gainwell’s dynamic drive helps soothe concerns about a quiet summer and continued troubles handling blitz pickups. Jason Huntley took over in the third drive and found less running room (22 yards on eight carries), with rookie Kennedy Brooks handling cleanup duties.
DeVonta Smith returned to practice after missing ten days with a groin injury and looks like a new receiver. The first few weeks of camp heavily favored A.J. Brown, but Smith made dynamic plays in nearly every team drill since returning. The second-year receiver was characteristically humble about his strong week. “I wouldn’t say it was the plan,” said Smith. “Just the coverages the defenses played, I happened to be in position where the ball was coming to me.” In joint practices against the Browns, the starting trio of Brown, Smith, and Quez Watkins dominated the Browns' cornerbacks. Neither Smith nor Brown played in the game, allowing Zach Pascal (1 catch for 15 yards) and Jalen Reagor (2 for 17) to join Watkins (2 for 19) in the opening lineup.
Long-time Eagles beat writer Bo Wulf reminds everyone there’s more to the passing attack than A.J. Brown. “Dallas Goedert has been overshadowed by Brown throughout the summer, but he’s been as consistently good as the Eagles would expect from their big-ticket tight end.” Converted receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside faced long odds on making the 53-man roster but gets a new lease on life in Seattle after being traded for defensive back Ugo Amadi. Rookie Grant Calcaterra returned to practice late last week after missing nearly a month with a hamstring injury. He’ll need to turn on the afterburners to secure a 53-man roster spot. Jack Stoll played 30 of 33 snaps with the starters in the game but only ran eight routes and wasn’t targeted.
Nakobe Dean was quiet through two weeks in camp, but he’s making his presence felt of late. While still officially running as the second-team linebacker, he’s doing enough in drills to justify rotating him in with the starters. Zach Berman and Bo Wulf made note of Dean’s ascension in their breakdown of the joint practices with Cleveland. “The Eagles are going to have a difficult time figuring out which linebacker to keep off the field between Edwards, Kyzir White, and Dean. Dean could be the odd man out early on, but the Eagles will likely rotate all three.” Big-prize free agent edge rusher Haason Reddick has had a quiet first Eagles camp, which is to be expected as edge rushers aren’t given many opportunities to wreak havoc on their own team’s quarterbacks. But it’s encouraging to hear coordinator Jonathan Gannon is tailoring his game plan to suit Reddick’s preferences. “Haason is so smart. Just because I want to do something, if he doesn’t want to do it, we’re not going to do it,” said Gannon, “or if it’s not the best thing for the team, we’re not going to do that.” In the game, the Browns offense had its way with the No. 2 defensive linemen, including mammoth rookie Jordan Davis. Cleveland ran for nearly 200 yards on 22 carries and scored on its first three drives despite having No. 3 quarterback Josh Dobbs under center.
Center Jason Kelce underwent elbow surgery early in camp, which the team described as a minor clean-out procedure. Kelce is 34 and grades as the league's best center. In his place, second-round rookie Cam Jurgens (Nebraska) was impressive in the preseason, showing a knack for getting out into space and finding defenders to block. Still, Kelce remains in the model. He's the player to miss August, only to show up with a massive elbow brace on opening day. The rest of the line is stacked, and they carry the top grade in the rankings.
Updates from Week 2
As we noted last week, Jalen Hurts has had ups and downs during camp, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Most importantly, his performance has improved as camp goes along, and he had arguably his best practice of the year on Wednesday – the final practice before the preseason opener. Fun fact: Brown has completed as many passes to A.J. Brown in team drills as he has to everyone else combined, per Bo Wulf. Hurts suited up against the Jets, and things couldn't have gone better. He completed 6-of-6 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown to Dallas Goedert; and then called it a night, leaving with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Before tossing the 22-yard touchdown, Hurts had scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty. Gardner Minshew hasn't had a good summer, but he looked okay in relief against the Jets; he completed 8-of-12 passes for 81 yards and ran for 11 yards. Reid Sinnett has outplayed Carson Strong in camp and played the second half with mixed results. He completed 9-of-17 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown but was also sacked three times.
Every team takes a different approach to preseason depth charts, and Coach Sirianni opted to list both Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell as the No. 2 tailback. At the same time, Jason Huntley and Kennedy Brooks are co-listed as "Other." This probably means that the coaching staff views both No. 2s as important contributors, who will each have roles in a few sub-packages. Notably, Miles Sanders is listed alone atop the depth chart, further putting to rest fears he would be relegated to a committee back. It is worth acknowledging Sanders' struggles as a receiver, though he encouragingly caught two passes on the opening touchdown drive against the Jets. With neither Scott nor Gainwell playing, it was the Jason Huntley show. He played most of the game (41 snaps) until Kennedy Brooks spelled him late in the fourth quarter. Huntley ran 16 times for 48 yards, caught four passes for 39 yards, and scored a touchdown. For now, he looks to have a commanding lead on Brooks for the No. 4 spot.
It continues to be the A.J. Brown show in camp, particularly with DeVonta Smith missing a week and counting with a sore groin. The Athletic's Zach Berman reiterates how exemplary Brown has been all summer. "There’s a rinse-and-repeat element to continuing to mention Brown highlights in these practice reports, although that should give you an indication of what’s happening this summer. He’s been everything the Eagles could have wanted.” Two seasons ago, the Eagles had the least productive receiving corps in the NFL, but the front office appears to have done a masterful job of bolstering things. While Brown sits atop the group, and Smith – when healthy – is entrenched as a good No. 2, the encouraging thing is how well Quez Watkins (No. 3), Zach Pascal (No. 4), and Jalen Reagor (No. 5) are performing. Pascal has been injured more than healthy, but Coach Sirianni recruited him from the Colts and trusts him. Reagor seemed like the odd man out entering camp but has looked immensely better and more focused after two disappointing years. He’s not yet a lock but has done everything right to make the 53-man unit. He was also listed as the No. 1 kickoff and punt returner on this week’s unofficial depth chart. Against the Jets, Smith sat out (expected), and A.J. Brown was on the field for the opening drive but wasn’t targeted. Watkins had two receptions, including a 28-yarder to open the game. Pascal (2 for 41 yards) and Reagor (3 for 26 yards) were featured early, too.
Dallas Goedert’s role as an offensive centerpiece has been evident throughout camp. He needed one drive in the preseason opener to cement his status, catching a 22-yard touchdown from Jalen Hurts in their lone series. Given the depth concerns, it was encouraging seeing Jack Stoll make a catch in the same drive, although his value will primarily be as an in-line blocker.
The team signed Jaquiski Tartt right before camp, and most considered him the favorite to start at safety alongside incumbent Anthony Harris. But Tartt’s injury history reared its ugly head again, and Marcus Epps has taken control of the competition. Adding Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean to the linebacking corps amounts to a massive upgrade, but returning starter T.J. Edwards isn’t ready to acquiesce. USA Today’s Glenn Erby labeled Edwards the best player on defense through two weeks. The defensive line has been a priority throughout GM Howie Roseman’s tenure, and the cupboard is full again in 2022. Brandon Graham’s miraculous return from a torn Achilles continues; he’s been one of the best linemen in camp. And the continued excellence of Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave allows the coaching staff to use mammoth rookie Jordan Davis as a rotational player. In the preseason opener, White intercepted Jets starter Zach Wilson, setting up the Eagles with a short field and a 14-0 lead. Dean played with the backups and racked up five tackles but also had a missed tackle in the open field.
Receiver Jalen Reagor has been a bust offensively. Still, he's served as a steady but unspectacular presence on special teams, fielding nearly all the team's punts and leading in kickoff return attempts, too. The entire unit was subpar, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL, and Reagor's hold on the job is tenuous. Rookie Britain Covey was drawing rave reviews for his special teams work in camps, but Covey tore ligaments in his right thumb in the Eagles preseason opener, an injury that leaves his roster spot in doubt.
Updates from Week 1
Jalen Hurts was inconsistent through the first week, but there were more highs than lows. He wasn’t taking good care of the ball in early practices but improved his ball security in recent days. The young passer isn’t showing a willingness to challenge defenders vertically yet, but he and the coaches insist it will be a more significant part of the playbook as the summer unfolds. Long-time beat writer Brandon Lee Gowton summarized Hurts’ performance halfway through camp: “Zooming out a bit as we’re halfway through Eagles training camp, there are no signs of Hurts being a significantly different player from last year. This isn’t to suggest he’s been awful by any means; there are some areas where he has made positive strides. We’ve talked about his progress when it comes to throwing over the middle and getting the ball out quicker on certain plays. But there are still issues with accuracy and holding on to the ball for too long. No one can argue it’s been a strong camp for the offense as a whole, which certainly doesn’t reflect well on the starting quarterback.” Gardner Minshew hasn’t been great thus far, but his starting experience with Jacksonville credibly positions him as one of the better backups in the NFC.
Miles Sanders is one of the hardest players to get a read on, with camp reports all over the map. He endured some turnovers, including a key fumble at the start of 11-on-11 drills a few days ago. But he’s also looked fast, healthy, and explosive during quite a few drills. On the other hand, he ran with the second-team offense at least once last week. But head coach Nick Sirianni defended Sanders to beat writers. “It just so happened to be the way the numbers worked a little bit. But Miles was in with the ones as well, and Miles is our guy,” said Sirianni. “There is no secret. Miles is our guy, and we like to rotate our backs. But he’s the guy.” Kenneth Gainwell is the No. 2, but we need more simulated game action and preseason tape before knowing whether he’ll see more snaps this year. Boston Scott is out with a concussion, but his role as the No. 3 tailback remains safe.
A.J. Brown is the offense's focal point, unsurprisingly. Not only is Brown dominating in both team and individual drills, but the coaches are also adapting the playbook to his benefit. The team rarely used in-routes last year, but in recognition of Brown’s size and ability to make plays after the catch, Sirianni emphasizes in-routes nearly every practice session. DeVonta Smith missed time this week with a groin injury, but it’s not considered significant. Smith is being asked to play a complementary role in Year 2 after being featured as a rookie. Quez Watkins remains the No. 3, while Sirianni-favorite Zach Pascal should be a roster lock if (a big IF) he can stay healthy. Undrafted rookie Britain Covey is making a case for one of the final roster spots. Although nothing is set in stone, he’s showing well as a slot receiver with the second-team offense and in the running for the punt return duties. Jalen Reagor is fighting hard to regain the coaches’ trust, but he could be on the outside looking in when rosters are finalized.
It’s Dallas Goedert and then a bunch of question marks. Goedert’s role as a key offensive cog was cemented with last year’s trade of Zach Ertz. He’ll be on the field most of the time. But if the Eagles hope to have two tight-end sets as a viable option, the puzzle has yet to be deciphered through a week-plus of practice. Rookie Grant Calcaterra, who retired from college football a few years ago because of injuries, is out with a hamstring problem. Tyree Jackson is on the PUP list, Jaeden Graham was placed on season-ending IR, and Richard Rodgers just got off the PUP. Jack Stoll is penciled in as the No. 2, but he’s limited in both phases of the game.
Long-time team leader Brandon Graham tore his Achilles last season, and many feared it would end his tenure in Philadelphia. But the veteran is already back on the practice field and performing well as one of the key cogs in Jonathan Gannon’s defensive front. Free agent linebacker Kyzir White shook off early practice inconsistency and looks like an upgrade in recent sessions, particularly in pass coverage. When the Eagles gave Haason Reddick $30 million guaranteed, it was for his exceptional pass rush abilities. But Gannon is talking Reddick up as a three-down player. “He’s a really good cover guy, so sometimes that’s a matchup-driven thing,” Gannon said. “He knows that when he would be dropping, like all our overhang players, there is a reason why we do that — flexibility within the defense. Depending on what the offense does, that’s the kind of spacing we want to play, and it helps his teammates win some one-on-one battles. So, that’s a process with all those guys that we are figuring out now.” Nakobe Dean, the University of Georgia’s defensive captain last year, was noticeably quiet through the first week and a half of practice; he rarely saw meaningful reps with the starters. But he’s getting worked into the starting rotation more frequently of late. InsideTheBird’s Adam Caplan believes cornerback James Bradberry is the best player on defense.