(94 WIP) Throughout the spring and early summer, coaches around the league make sure to point out that jobs are not really won-or-lost during OTAs and minicamps. That is debatable, but one thing is absolutely true — jobs will be won and lost once training camp begins on Thursday.
The Eagles enter training camp with one of the best rosters in the NFL, and as a result, roster spots and playing time are going to be hard to come by. Almost all of the starting jobs on the Eagles are locked up. Of the 53 roster spots, roughly 45 of them are already locked up as well.
That means the majority of the important training camp battles will focus around playing time, as the backups compete to get onto the field and make an impact on what should be a Super Bowl contending roster.
Here is a look at five players that need to really impress during training camp:
Cre’von LeBlanc: The competition at cornerback is going to be intense and should be the best of all the positions at training camp. LeBlanc’s situation might be the most interesting of all the cornerbacks. There is no question that LeBlanc earned a chance at playing time by helping to fix a broken secondary last season. If minicamp and OTAs were any indication, however, he might not get one. LeBlanc ran exclusively with the second-team defense during OTAs and minicamp, the only healthy cornerback of the top six that was healthy that didn’t get in with the first team. That could change during training camp, but it is clear that LeBlanc is going to need to really impress to get an actual shot at earning the starting nickel job.
Josh Adams: The addition of Darren Sproles means that making the roster is going to be even tougher for Adams. The second-year player is now competing with Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Boston Scott for a spot on the roster. If the Eagles keep five running backs, those four players will be competing for two spots. If the team keeps only four, that leaves only one spot open for a group of players who were all on the roster last season. Although he played well last season when he got the chance to start, the harsh reality is that Adams might be at the bottom of the totem poll entering camp. Adams had trouble staying on the field during training camp last year, part of the reason he was originally cut. The talent is there for Adams. Now that he is very much on the roster bubble, however, making sure he is healthy throughout camp and on the field to practice will be key.
Sidney Jones: Of all the players on this list, the most pressure is without question on Jones. That is just the reality of having a high-second round pick invested in a player that has played in just 10 games since being drafted two years ago. Where Jones is on the depth chart right now isn’t clear, but it is safe to say it isn’t where he wants to be. He appears to be behind Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby on the outside, based off of last-year’s depth chart and how the team lined up during minicamp. He is likely behind Maddox and LeBlanc at nickel as well. Jones was viewed as a prospect coming out of Washington two years ago that had the talent to be better than all of those players. After two years basically on the sideline, it is now time for him to prove it.
Josh Sweat: The Eagles are very high on Sweat, and view last year as more of a red-shirt year than a disappointing one, considering he didn’t really play. They backed up much they believe in him by trading Micheal Bennett and telling Chris Long his role from last season wouldn’t be here in 2019. Sweat is the fourth defensive end on the depth chart right now, but that is essentially a starting position on the Eagles considering how much they rotate their defensive ends in-and-out. Free agent Conor Barwin has made it pretty clear he wants to come back to the Eagles, and it sounds like that could happen if the Eagles don’t like what they see from the younger defensive ends on the roster during camp. At the top of the list of players who need to fight off the team signing Barwin is Sweat.
Mack Hollins: Hollins has become a bit of a forgotten man on the team, considering he missed all of last season with a groin injury and then didn’t really practice during OTAs or minicamps either. A year ago at this time Hollins was viewed as one of the best young players on the team, a title that might have been premature even when he was healthy. Now that he is coming back from an injury and hasn’t played in a year, Hollins might very well be fighting for a roster spot. He is firmly behind Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor on the depth chart, and very well might be behind rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as well. Hollins could make the team due to special teams, but entering his third season, it is safe to say that he wants to be more than just a contributor on special teams. Earning that playing time begins in training camp.