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July 25, 2019

25 things to watch at 2019 Eagles training camp

Before the start of the Philadelphia Eagles' 2019 training camp, I wanted to put together a list of all the things I'd be watching. And so, why not also just publish it? Here are 25 of them.

1) Carson Wentz was great during spring, sans knee brace. He moved around comfortably, and looked a whole lot more like the 2017 version of himself. As a reminder, Wentz's was rarely a full participant in training camp a year ago. This year he will be, and the expectation is that he'll dominate often.

2)  Wentz aside, there are a handful of good, established players who have already been with the team for some time that we will rarely mention throughout camp, because you and I already know what they can do. They would be Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, and Jason Kelce.

Those guys just need to stay healthy.

3) This is Nate Sudfeld's third season with the team, but it's only his second training camp in Philly, as he was added to the team after 53-man cutdowns in 2017. His understanding of the offense should be at a high level by now. How will he execute it with all this experience in the system?

4) Watching a between-the-tackles banger like Jordan Howard during the spring, in shells and shorts, is something of a useless endeavor. He's not going to wow anyone with his speed or quickness, but I'm looking forward to see how physical he is with the pads on.

5) We didn't get to see Miles Sanders at all during the spring, aside from one day in a rookie camp, and he'll be an obvious player of interest to most reporters. I believe he'll be fine as a runner from Day 1, but in my view, he has three issues to clean up, based on his history at Penn State:

  1. Ball security
  2. Pass protection
  3. Catching the ball out of the backfield

I'll be scrutinizing those three areas.

6) Is Corey Clement healthy? Can he regain his 2017 form? The addition of Darren Sproles raises an eyebrow on Clement's well-being. 

7) I'm not overly optimistic on this one, and I'm not exactly watching for it, but will one of Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott, or Donnel Pumphrey show significant improvement, and demand attention?

8) In the spring, Wentz and DeSean Jackson began developing rapport, connecting on several deep throws. Deep-ball accuracy is one area where Wentz will need to improve if he's going to be a top 3 or so quarterback over the next decade, and Jackson will give him ample opportunities to air it out during camp.

9) Another receiver Wentz began developing rapport with immediately during the spring was J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. If Wentz and Arcega-Whiteside can perfect the back-shoulder throw the same way that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant did in Dallas, or Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson did in Green Bay, those two can be deadly. The work toward that starts now.

10) Nelson Agholor has been a steadily improving player throughout his career, and while this season may be his last in Philly, he has a chance to make an impact in the middle of the field with the threat of Jackson on the outside. The bet here is that he catches passes in volume this summer.

11) After a promising rookie season in 2017, Mack Hollins had a golden opportunity to break out last summer, when he was running with the first team throughout the start of camp. He was quiet during practices, and ended up on IR with a groin injury that he was still recovering from this spring. Now buried by four (or more) receivers, Hollins will have to re-build his value. That will begin with special teams, but he will ideally show something in the regular offense again as well.

12) Dallas Goedert looked awesome in the spring. Can he keep up that momentum?

13) Above, we didn't mention Jason Peters as one of the established guys we'll rarely mention throughout camp. Why? Well, he's 37 now and coming off an injury-plagued season. In years past, in individual drills, if Peters were going up against another established defensive lineman like Graham or Cox, they would typically just take it easy on that rep. When Peters was going up against a rookie or something, that's when he'd dish out a "welcome to the NFL" moment. Peters will get an abundance of rest in practice, like he has since Doug Pederson took over as head coach, but he could benefit this camp from being challenged in practice by the other good players when those reps occur.

14) After a solid half-season as the starter at LG in 2018, Isaac Seumalo has a chance to take his game to the next level. It's now Year 4 for him, and he has the length and athleticism to be a plus-starter at LG. So let's see it.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | G/C | DE | DT | LB | CB | S | S/T

15) IWhile Brandon Brooks was recovering from a torn Achilles this spring, Halapoulivaati Vaitai got first team reps at RG. In spring practices, there's very little to evaluate in shells and shorts. We'll get a better idea of how Vaitai looks at guard when the pads go on. If he's at least solid, he'll win that job. If he falters, Stefen Wisniewski would be the fallback until Brooks returns.

16) Andre Dillard showed impressive quickness in the spring, but again, we'll get a better idea of what he is when the pads go on.

17) This is big camp for Derek Barnett, who played very well during the 2018 season before he injured his shoulder. He did not participate during the spring, but there's optimism that he'll be good to go for camp. Entering the NFL, Barnett had an impressive dip around edge, but he lacked inside counter moves to complement it. He has worked hard toward adding a diverse repertoire of pass rush moves, and we saw some of the payoff on that last season. He'll no doubt be working toward adding more to that arsenal.

18) Josh Sweat had a good spring, at least in terms of his explosiveness and motor. When the pads go on, can he set the edge in the run game? Has he developed a repertoire of moves like Barnett did from Year 1 to Year 2? Can he be counted on to contribute in a rotational role this season?

19) Can any of Shareef MillerDaeshon Hall, or Joe Ostman put serious pressure on Sweat for the fourth DE spot?

20) And hey! There is a battle for a starting job, in my opinion. That would be Kamu Grugier-Hill vs. Zach Brown for a starting linebacker spot alongside Nigel Bradham. I personally have Kamu firmly in the lead right now on that one.

21) A season ago, the Eagles cut Corey Nelson, a player they signed on the first day of free agency. As a result, they secured an extra compensatory pick. L.J. Fort will hope to escape that same fate this year.

22) Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are the Eagles' two most experienced corners, and both aren't 100 percent. There will be plenty of reps to go around for the Eagles' younger corners -- Avonte MaddoxSidney JonesRasul Douglas, and Cre'Von LeBlanc -- all of whom are threats to make a leap this offseason. Maddox, I'll note, looked like one of the best players on the team during the spring. Clearly, cornerback is the most intriguing position to watch in camp this year.

23) Malcolm Jenkins has apparently reported to camp, so there will be no holdout. That's more of a "nothing to see here" point, for now. To be determined if he'll get a new deal done.

24) Otherwise at safety, Rodney McLeod will have to show that he has recovered fully from his torn ACL, while Andrew Sendejo, like Fort about, is competing against a compensatory pick. Tre Sullivan got meaningful snaps last year. Can he, or someone like Blake Countess or Deiondre' Hall emerge this summer as a competent third safety?

25) And yes, as always, we'll be watching Jake Elliott and Cameron Johnston more than we probably should.

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