Now that the Philadelphia Eagles are halfway through their first 10 training camp practices, let’s assess the biggest winners and losers so far.
Wentz hasn’t been otherworldly spectacular or anything but he has been good. I’m not including him here for his performance so much, though. He makes the winners section because it looks like he might actually have some wide receivers to work with this year. Of course, it’s far too early to say that the young guy are definitely going to pan out. But they’re at least providing some cause for hope.
Hurts is the No. 3 quarterback for now but it’s only a matter of time before he claims the No. 2 job. He’s impressed both throwing and running the ball. Hurts should be the Eagles’ quarterback if Wentz has to miss any kind of extended period of time.
Reagor made a strong impression in his very first practice. He’s caught everything thrown his way and you can see the juice he runs with after the catch. Reagor has been lining up with the first team offense so the plan is for him to be a Day 1 contributor. Still waiting on him to catch a deep ball touchdown but that’ll come.
Jackson’s still got it despite coming off surgery and turning 34 this year. Durability is still very much a concern with him but he’s going to have a very productive season if he can manage to stay healthy. Wentz loves throwing to No. 10.
The Eagles’ 2020 fifth-round pick flashed early in the week before turning in a really strong day of practice on Thursday. Hightower has demonstrated good hands (can’t recall any drops), crisp route-running (beat Darius Slay and Rasul Douglas in 1-on-1s), ball tracking (had a diving over the shoulder catch), and speed (deep touchdown reception). He’s not going to be in the starting lineup but he could be a role player or valuable backup.
The bar was low for JJAW coming into camp following such a disappointing rookie season. He hasn’t looked amazing by any means but he has made some nice catches over the past couple days after missing practice due to injury earlier in the week. The Eagles are lining up JJAW as their first team X receiver. He’s on track to start for them against Washington in Week 1, though Reagor rotating in can/will eat into his playing time.
On one hand, hard for Watkins to be a big winner with Jackson, Reagor, JJAW, Hightower, and Greg Ward arguably ahead of him. But the speedy Watkins has seen some first team reps in Jackson’s spot when the veteran has been resting. Watkins has also seemingly earned som level of trust with Wentz, who has targeted him a number of times. Watkins previously became a roster lock with Marquise Goodwin opting out but he’s only cemented his status on the team.
No one wants to hear “I told ya so.” You don’t want to be the person saying that. And yet, here I am, telling you that I was right about there being no real competition for the starting cornerback spot across from Darius Slay. Such a notion was always farcical. Maddox has been the only guy taking reps there. And he’s looked good, too. He’s not perfect, no. There are obviously going to be times when his diminutive size works against him. But Maddox’s coverage in camp has been very sticky and he’s made some plays on the ball. He’s the best starting option at CB2.
Still need to see how Mills handles the transition from cornerback to safety when the real games start but he’s off to an encouraging start. I haven’t noticed him involved in any blown coverages or getting burnt by anyone. He made a big play earlier in the week with a pick six on Wentz. The Green Goblin is also taking on more of a leadership role; Mike Garafolo recently reported he asked Doug Pederson if he could address the entire team. Mills is doing his best to try to fill the very big shoes that Malcolm Jenkins left behind.
I know everyone wants to see K’Von Wallace on the field and that still might happen in some capacity because he’s made some plays as well. But Parks is going to be the Eagles’ third safety. The Philly native has flown around and looked good on both defense and special teams. He plays with that confidence and swagger that Jim Schwartz loves to see from his defensive backs. Parks could be a real nice role player for this team. He figures to be a significant upgrade on previous third safety options like Corey Graham and Andrew Sendejo.
NRC looks like he’s locked in as the Eagles’ starting nickel corner. He’s made a number of plays on the ball, sometimes even deep down the field while covering Jackson. NRC has also been taking some outside corner reps with the backups in order to prepare him for having to move there if/when Slay shadows a top receiver into the slot.
Ridgeway’s looked good in both offensive line versus defensive line drills and full team drills. The fifth-year defensive tackle has managed to regularly generate pressure from the interior. He’s going to be the Eagles’ fourth defensive tackle behind Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson. Good to have depth at this spot, especially with Hargrave already banged up.
Bradley’s managed to stand out on most days of practice. The Temple alumnus hasn’t been afraid to be physical, he has athleticism to cover, and his position coach lauded him for taking on a leadership role when it was only the rookies in the building. Bradley’s not going to be in the staring lineup but he’s showing promise as a backup.
Ding him for beating inferior competition if you must but other guys aren’t always doing the same. Ostman has a legitimate case to be the fifth or sixth defensive end on the roster. He might not make it with the Eagles potentially leaning in a different direciton. But Ostman is producing and the Eagles are working him in that Joker role again.
Arnold might be the undrafted rookie free agent with the best chance to make the 53. He drew praise from Howie Roseman and Rodney McLeod before even camp started. He showed good physicality and positioning with the Eagles tackling to the ground on Friday. The Eagles could afford to hang on to a developmental safety with Mills and Parks playing on one-year deals and McLeod, 30, only signed through 2021.
So, I don’t think Herbig has actually looked very good. I’ve seen him get beat in 1-on-1s and he had a bad snap over Hurts’ head. But he makes this section because his spot on the roster seems to be relatively secure. The Eagles had him lining up at first team right guard when Peters and Kelce both weren’t practicing. Herbig has also been utilized as the sixth offensive lineman in heavy sets. The Eagles liked Herbig enough to stash him on their roster last year and I don’t think they’re ready to give up on him. Keep in mind that he only turned 22 last month.
I can’t say that JP has been bad. But I don’t love how he missed the first couple days of practice and then he was in and out on Friday. Just wonder if he’s truly getting all the reps he needed to effectively transition to right guard. Perhaps I’m making too much out of this but my conversation with Tra Thomas leads me to believe it’s fair to harbor concern. Also should note that the Eagles’ offensive line as a whole has had two straight bad days when Peters has been in at right guard. It’s unclear how much of that, if any, is his fault. Still, not great.
Sudfeld had his best day of practice on Friday and he seems poised to start the season as the No. 2. The Eagles are preparing him for that role. But he’s clearly just less talented than Hurts, who has out-shined him overall. As I wrote earlier, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before Hurts leapfrogs Suds. It’s a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’
I’m not ready to give up on Barnett just yet but this is a huge year for him. And the big point of emphasis was how he was going to be entering the season healthy after missing all of camp due to injury last year. Now Barnett might be in the same situation again this season as he misses the majority of practices due to an ankle issue. One can only wonder if this injury will linger and hamper his effectiveness. That’d be disappointing. The Eagles need Barnett to make a big leap in Year 4.
Jeffery seems bound to miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season while potentially starting out on reserve/PUP. Will there be a natural spot for him in the offense when he’s ready to return? It’s entirely possible. Injuries and/or young receiver struggles could have the Eagles happy to welcome him back into the fold. But what if the offense is really clicking without him? If the young guys are playing well, why take snaps away from them for a player who likely won’t be returning next season? The Eagles could be slow to activate Jeffery if they don’t feel like he’s needed.
Back in June, I asked BGN readers if they were buying or selling #SidneyJonesBreakoutSZN. The results:
Hard to be buying right now with Jones missing three straight days due to injury. Availability has obviously always been an issue with him.
Not to mention that Jones struggled when he was healthy earlier in the week. He got burned by Robert Davis at one point and gave up another big play to Josh Perkins. Not exactly household names there.
Even if Jones gets healthy and bounces back, he’s still not going to be starting across from Slay. Maddox is the man for that job.
It hasn’t been all bad for Douglas but he’s had more losses than wins. He’s still very much susceptible to getting beat deep, as seen by Hightower running by him on the first day of camp. Douglas’s lack of versatility also stands out when pretty much every other corner is able to play either inside or outside. I really don’t think Douglas is a lock to make the 53. He could be traded or cut.
The Mailata experiment might be coming to an end. He hasn’t had a very good camp; there might not be enough progress made to justify keeping him on the 53. On one hand, the Eagles might not want to give up on the 23-year-old after investing a couple years into him. On the other hand, they have some new developmental tackles who are further along in Jack Driscoll and Price Tega Wanogho.
Just haven’t noticed him do anything in camp and I made an effort to hone in on him on Friday as he went up against Mailata. Whereas Ostman was destroying the Australian sensation, Avery couldn’t do jack against him. Avery’s bound to be the fifth defensive end at best with Barnett, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Vinny Curry locked in as the top four. And I think Ostman and even Shareef Miller have shown more than Avery. That trade is looking like a total waste of a fourth-round pick.