The Philadelphia Eagles look to be on the come-up as they enter this year’s training camp at the NovaCare Complex. Coming off a playoff berth in the first year of the Nick Sirianni era, the Eagles took a tactical approach in upgrading their roster throughout the offseason.
After an onslaught of savvy moves by GM Howie Roseman, the Eagles seem primed to improve in Year 2 under Sirianni. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is facing a true make-or-break season, will look to take advantage of the upgraded talent around him while also attempting to improve his accuracy and overall pocket production.
The stage is set for a major run for the Eagles in the wide-open NFC, but the group will need to find its footing in training camp before shooting for the stars.
5 storylines to monitor during Philadelphia Eagles training camp
The Eagles were scrappy underdogs throughout most of last season. In the wake of the Doug Pederson era, the Eagles didn’t have a lot of proven talent and hired Sirianni and his merry band of inexperienced coaches to turn around a young roster. Despite the odds being stacked against them, following an awkward first half of the season, the staff and the roster found synergy and pushed their way to an improbable playoff berth.
After a shellacking in the Wild Card round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Eagles regrouped and reworked their roster on both sides of the ball. With Hurts and Sirianni — along with offensive coordinator Shane Steichen — having a year under their belt together, the offense should be able to progress nicely in Year 2. The same could be said for the defense, with coordinator Jonathan Gannon building off his experience from last year with a mightily improved defensive front.
Jalen Hurts needs to prove doubters wrong
Fair or not, Hurts will be under a microscope from now until whenever the Eagles’ season ends. Hurts isn’t a former first-round pick, so he doesn’t have a fifth-year option, which makes his third year a huge deal. The Eagles have two first-round picks in next year’s draft, so this is really it for Hurts.
If he can make the most of his call-back audition for the starting job, he will be rewarded with a contract extension and a longtime residency in Philadelphia. If he’s simply “fine” or worse, the Eagles will probably look elsewhere.
The Eagles have reshaped their roster, so Hurts can successfully steer the ship. For the first time since he was in high school, he will have the same offensive coordinator for more than one season. The team traded for his best friend, former Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown, and kept the offensive line intact. And while he won’t be directly impacted by the defense, the improvements made on that side of the ball should keep games well within reach for the dual-threat QB and his offense.
This summer, after all the hemming and hawing about Hurts’ future, he simply needs to play his role. He needs to be more accurate from the pocket and improve his overall vision of the field. Pro Football Network attended one of Philadelphia’s few open OTA workouts in June, and Hurts looked accurate throwing the ball down the field. He will need to continue that production in training camp to silence critics heading into the season.
How much will A.J. Brown improve the offense?
The Eagles pulled off a blockbuster trade in the middle of the first round of the draft in April. Philadelphia dealt first- and third-round picks to the Tennessee Titans for Brown. The trade was then paired with a mega-contract extension for Brown, who was the Eagles’ biggest trade acquisition since likely Hall of Famer Jason Peters was added during the Andy Reid era.
Brown has a long history with Hurts, dating back to the wideout’s high school days. The two have become best friends over the years, and they have worked out together since turning pro. Their chemistry will go a long way in turning the Eagles into a pass-first offense.
With Brown slotted as the traditional X receiver, last year’s first-round pick, DeVonta Smith, should be able to move to the flanker spot and get a bit more space off the line. Opposing defenses will need to choose who to double team, which should free up the other star wideout for success.
Brown and Smith can both play all three positions, but having Brown at X and Smith at Z should allow the Eagles to rotate an impressive depth chart of wideouts at the slot position. Along with the Brown, the Eagles added Sirianni favorite Zach Pascal in free agency, and he can also play all three positions.
But for everything to work out, Brown needs to be a game changer in Philly. Smith is going to be a very good wideout for years to come, but in order for Hurts to get to the next level, Brown needs to be a massive difference maker.
Who will start at right guard?
The Eagles will host a training camp competition at right guard this summer. Former starting left guard Isaac Seumalo is returning from a major foot injury and isn’t a lock to start training camp on the field. However, if he’s able to perform right away, he will compete with third-year lineman Jack Driscoll, who is also coming off a season-ending injury.
Seumalo hasn’t played much on the right side during his pro career, while Driscoll played the right guard position throughout most of last season. Still, neither player feels like a favorite heading into the battle.
Seumalo is playing a new position, while Driscoll has developed a reputation of being injury-prone. This battle should last throughout the majority of the summer and into the preseason.
The new look front seven could be special
The Eagles believe in building in the trenches, and that’s exactly what they did on defense this offseason.
In free agency, the Eagles quickly signed pass rusher Haason Reddick to bolster their new hybrid front. Reddick will join Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, and Taron Jackson on the edge. The Eagles are going from Genard Avery to Reddick at the SAM linebacker position, which is like going from an Applebee’s to a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in a matter of minutes.
The Eagles then traded up to select massive Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis with the 13th overall pick in the first round. Davis adds to an already scary group that features Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Milton Williams. The Eagles have arguably the best defensive tackle depth chart in the league heading into training camp.
At linebacker, the team also upgraded spots around incumbent starter T.J. Edwards, signing Kyzir White in free agency and stealing Georgia’s Nakobe Dean in the third round. The new duo will push Edwards while also carving out complementary roles on the depth chart. Gannon now has plenty of upgrades to run a unique defense.
What to make of the safety position?
If the Eagles have an obvious need on offense or defense, it’s the safety position. After letting longtime leader Rodney McLeod walk in free agency, Roseman and Sirianni consistently praised their overlooked incumbent safety group, headlined by Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps.
To say that notion underwhelmed the fan base would be an understatement of epic proportions. Harris struggled mightily at times last season, while Epps has mostly played a part-time role over the past two seasons. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s hard to fix every need in one offseason.
However, following OTAs, the Eagles signed veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. While he has a reputation for being a box safety, he also has the size and speed to play downhill from the free safety spot.
In theory, Tartt will push Harris and Epps for a starting job. If Tartt prevails, he’s an upgrade over the incumbents. If Tartt fails, the Eagles will get to see the tandem of Epps and Harris in the backfield.
Given the addition of James Bradberry at cornerback, opposite Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox, the Eagles probably have less to worry about at safety than if they were starting mediocre players at cornerback. Either way, the depth chart at the position might not be finalized just yet.