The Eagles head into their second preseason game after a couple inter-squad scuffles this week. The dog days of summer hit the Birds hard and the players are chomping at the bit to go up against someone else. Enter the Jaguars this week followed by some joint practices before their third preseason game next week against the Ravens.
Some younger players have adjusted nicely to the NFL and continue to make great strides. Dallas Goedert is transforming into a young star and Andre Dillard looks very smooth in his pass protection and improved in his run blocking. Those are two significant draft picks panning out towards the Eagles future success.
Most of the starting 22 players on each side of the ball are set with some depth players locked in to make the roster as well. The over-crowded backfield and secondary have been the focal point for roster cut conversation this training camp. With limited time before final cuts are made, key depth positional battles will play out over the next few weeks.
Miles Sanders saw plenty of reps in his first preseason action but did not flash as many expected. However the way in which the Eagles utilized him as a third down back on one drive and primary back the next shows what Dougie P thinks of the rookie. The trust the coaching staff has in his ability to be a triple threat back (run, catch, pass protect) is apparent and he was on first team punt coverage.
Jordan Howard provides that physical, north south runner and is willing to force contact and get some extra YAC yards. An interesting stat displayed during last Thursday’s broadcast showed Jordan Howard ranked third in rushing yards since 2016, trailing on Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley.
Howard and Sanders complement each other’s abilities well in terms of a physical runner and someone more agile in space. Also Darren Sproles is locked into a roster spot as a punt returner and situational third down back. While the Eagles realistically could keep five running backs on the roster, injuries to other positions may prevent them from doing so. It looks like only one spot will be available for Corey Clement (still recovering), Josh Adams, or Wendell Smallwood with a lot of time left to showcase their potential.
With KGH’s recovery lasting well into the regular season, the Eagles are looking for a coverage linebacker to fit next to Nigel Bradham. While Zach Brown manned the MIKE position and remains the run thumper the Eagles expected, LJ Fort stole the spotlight with his execution in pass coverage.
Nathan Gerry also played alongside Zach Brown and appears to be in the mix for that coverage spot as well. Fort holds the slight advantage because of his better overall run stopping ability along with his improved pass coverage. In my opinion, it looks like it will be Zach Brown in the middle with Bradham playing the strong side and LJ Fort at the SAM position.
No. 4 Defensive End
Jim Schwartz defensive scheme is predicated on pressuring the quarterback with hopefully just his defensive line. That means fresh bodies rotating into the game constantly. Josh Sweat and rookie Shareef Miller have been battling for a rotational defensive end spot, and in my opinion Sweat holds the upper hand right now. Last year’s fourth round pick showed flashes of his potential as a pass rusher and force against the run.
Another name to keep an eye out for is Daeshon Hall. His mix of speed around the edge and power to throw off blockers to corral ball carriers was on display last Thursday. Hall finished with a strip sack, six tackles, and disrupted the quarterback on multiple occasions. At 6-6, 271 pounds, he consistently beat his man around the edge with incredible bend and his long arms helped him get to the quarterback or force him outside the pocket. Watch out for #74 to keep wreaking havoc as he climbs the depth chart.
Andrew Sendejo came on strong in the Eagles first preseason game. He looked great against the run, shedding blocks and making tackles down the line of scrimmage while providing blanket coverage. Sendejo’s greatest trait is his veteran presence for the young secondary if a player like Rodney McLeod or Malcolm Jenkins goes down. Sendejo also has the skill set to play as a situational “third linebacker” in Jim Schwartz’ scheme or as a spell safety.
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside is going to be a stud wide receiver. The main talking point coming out of college was his red zone ability but his speed and quickness out of breaks make him a dangerous threat on the outside.
- Hassan Ridgeway will be a key rotational component as the No. 4 defensive tackle. He suffered a concussion that will keep him out during a crucial period of time, but he forced a couple arrant throws from his pass rushes up the middle. While Ridgeway is sidelined, Treyvon Hester will have a terrific chance to show out and possibly make the 53-man roster.
- Jeremiah McKinnon may work his way onto the roster as the No. 5 cornerback. If the Eagles use Sendejo as a “hybrid linebacker”, they can afford to keep five cornerbacks with the versatility in that group. Avonte Maddox proved he could play safety, and carrying another outside cornerback like McKinnon benefits the overall depth of the roster.
- One very underrated player on the Eagles last season was punter Cameron Johnston. The 27-year-old Australian punter continued to be a field-flipper in the Eagles preseason opener. Johnston punted six times, averaging 49 yards per punt while landing three inside the opponent’s 20 and a long punt of 59 yards.
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