We all knew immediately that Eagles new head coach Nick Sirianni had the energy and passion to be a good NFL head coach, but I’ve been impressed with his mindset and decision-making so far in this year’s training camp. Of course you continue to hear about his core-values: Connecting, Competition, Accountability, Football I.Q., and Fundamentals. has made regarding the Birds preparation for the upcoming season. This Eagles coaching staff didn’t waste any time of going through the motions in their first practice. After loosening up, they jumped into a competition in the red zone between the offense and the defense.
I like Sirianni’s emphasis on the running game. In Indianapolis, he and Frank Reich built their offense on their running game and I think he’s going to do the same thing here in Philadelphia. The young head coach and his assistant coaches encourage quarterback Jalen Hurts and the other quarterbacks to get the ball out of their hands with short or intermediate throws when possible. They want their quarterbacks to take what’s there and stay away from turnovers.
While the offense is staying away from turnovers, the Eagles defense goes after the football every chance they get. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has every defensive player in pursuit of the ball. They try to cause fumbles by ripping the ball out of the hands of ball carriers and they try to create interceptions by going after football when it’s in the air. Unlike Jim Schwartz defenses, Gannon has his secondary turning back toward the ball when It’s in the air. He has his defensive backs going up and trying to get the ball at the highest point.
Quarterbacks: Eagles number one quarterback Jalen Hurts is getting better on every day of practice. He started out the camp throwing nothing but check downs to the running backs and tight ends. Now he’s starting to throw the ball downfield much more and hitting his intermediate targets. The young quarterback seems to be getting more comfortable in the offense each day. Veteran Joe Flacco and the recently acquired Gardner Minshew are going to be the backups. (Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew) (3)
Running Backs: The Eagles have tremendous talent and blazing speed among their running backs. Of course we all know about Miles Sanders and he’s having a good camp as both a runner and receiver. The Birds have speed to burn at the position with Boston Scott and fourth round pick Kenneth Gainwell backing up Sanders. With speedy backs on the roster in abundance, if was a good move by Howie Roseman to sign an “In Between The Tackles” running back, Jordan Howard. Howard looks like he’s in great shape and ready to go. (Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenny Gainwell, Jason Huntley) (5) (8)
Wide Receivers: Number one pick Devonta’ Smith had been having a strong training camp with his route running, sure hands and sneaky speed, but with him sidelined with a knee injury, Jalen Reagor has become more of a target. Hurts has been connecting with last year’s number one pick on short, intermediate and deep routes. Hurts also hooked up with Quez Watkins as the young wide out showed off his blazing speed. The Birds are trying to utilize Travis Fulgham in a way to use his physical prowess to recapture the dominance he displayed for five games a year ago. Greg Ward’s route running and sure hands will likely be utilized in third down situations. John Hightower hasn’t been doing much so far this training camp. (Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside) (6) (14)
Tight Ends: Thus far in camp, the tight ends have been the top targets for Hurts and company. That’s one reason I hope Zach Ertz remains with the Birds. He and Dallas Goedert are both big targets with sure hands. so it’s no surprise that they are being utilized, but Tyree Jackson is a surprise. Nobody expected the former University of Buffalo quarterback, Jackson, to shine. He has done a great job of getting open and catching a large number of passes, but I still see them keeping Richard Rodgers. They definitely need to hang onto Ertz because their wide receivers aren’t dependable and Goedert hasn’t done much in the training camp. ( Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers) (3) (17)
Offensive Line: The battle at left tackle between Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard has been lopsided. Mailata has been dominant. He’s been consistent and he seems to be getting better after each practice. The former rugby player has an amazing combination of size and athleticism. Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat just flat out ran over Andre Dillard on one of their first days in pads. There’s no way an offensive tackle should be letting defenders run over him. I wanted to see Dillard get up and attack Sweat, but “He does not have that Dog in him”. Dillard played well against the Jets and that’s why I think he’s going to make the team. Second round pick Landon Dickerson is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered in college, so I don’t think he’s going to play in the 2021 season. (Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta, Andre Dillard) (9) (26)
Defensive Line: The Eagles defensive line has won the war so far against the Eagles offensive line in the one-on-one pass drills. Sweat has been dominant as a pass rusher. He’s using his amazing combination of speed and power to standout consistently day after day. Derek Barnett, who’s probably feeling the heat from Sweat, has been having an outstanding training camp of his own. Brandon Graham continues to demonstrate that he still has the ability to play at a hight level. Hopefully, they’ll all play as well during the regular season. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is having a tremendous camp so far. We need to see him take advantage of opposing teams double-teaming Fletcher Cox. I expect big things out of this defensive line. (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Tarron Jackson) (9) (35)
Linebackers: The Eagles linebackers have been visible, but they haven’t been able to show everything that they can do because the team is just starting to practice in pads. We’ve seen Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards, and Shaun Bradley getting their hands on passes on occasion. Davion Taylor has been sidelined for a few days after being nicked up. The team’s top linebacker from a year ago, Alex Singleton, is still being kept out of the work because of his Covid situation. I think he’ll find his way into the starting lineup along with Wilson by the time the season starts. (Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards, Shaun Bradley, Davion Taylor, JaCoby Stevens) (6) (41)
Cornerbacks: The starters at the cornerback position, Darius Slay and Steve Nelson have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the team’s cornerbacks. Avonte Maddox is at the nickel position and I think he will do well there. The Eagles have been very fortunate to be able to sign Nelson. He looks solid in coverage and seems to have a good understanding of where he needs to be. Birds rookie cornerback Zach McPherson could very well have picked off two passes and run them back for touchdowns, but he hasn’t been able to catch the football. He is having a very good camp so far and getting his hands on the passes consistently. (Darius Slay, Steve Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Craig James, Zach McPherson) (5) (46)
Safeties: At the safety position, Anthony Harris, who played in this system in Minnesota has been playing well. On one play, he came up and let Fulgham know that they had put on the pads. You can see that he’s got a good feel for the defense. Veteran Rodney McLeod seems to be making amazing progress on his rehab, and Marcus Epps is doing a good job in there as a backup. We need to hear from K’Von Wallace during this training camp and preseason. This group could be productive in forcing turnovers. (Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, Marcus Epps, K’Von Wallace) (4) (50)
Special Teams: The Eagles are solid in the special teams area with kicker Jake Elliott, punter Arryn Siposs and long snapper Rick Lovato. It’s going to be interesting what they do for kick off returning. The Eagles will hang onto backup running back Jason Huntley and utilize him as a returner, backup running back and backup wide receiver. (Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato) (3) (53)