August 08, 2023
With just days before the Eagles' first preseason game down in Baltimore, young, up-and-coming players are going to be on my radar as this summer wears on. Two rookies coming from two way different trajectories stood out in Tuesday's practice down at the NovaCare Complex. From an undrafted signee to a prized first-round pick, these are the two Eagles players who get my "game ball" for the day...
When it comes to targeting players in the NFL Draft, I always look for archetypes. Defensive players from Georgia? Go for it. Running backs from Alabama? Call the pick. Wide receivers from Clemson also fit that bill. Guys from that program make an impact at the next level. Look at DeAndre Hopkins, Tee Higgins and Hunter Renfrow just to name a few. The Tigers consistently churn out good pros. That's why the Birds targeting Joseph Ngata as an undrafted free agent this spring was wise.
The early returns are about as good as can be expected for Ngata. If we were in the Lehigh training camp days with scores of Eagles fans watching practice, Ngata might have developed a Hank Baskett-esque cult following. He's hauled in everything that's come his way this summer and has developed a nice chemistry with backup quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ngata is a big-bodied wideout at 6'3" and 217 lbs., the biggest receiver who has a shot to make the 53-man roster. He used that strength and physicality to come up with a contested catch at one point with K'Von Wallace, who's increasingly gotten first-team reps at safety.
It'll only take a five-catch, 75-yard, one-touchdown from Ngata against the Ravens to ignite this fan base.
How will the defensive line rotation play out this year? Fletcher Cox will certainly be one of the starting defensive tackles and the Eagles have even used three-DT looks during first-team reps this summer. I don't know if he'll be an official "starter," but first-round pick Jalen Carter is going to be called upon to play an integral role, especially with Javon Hargrave departing in free agency.
Carter caught my eye in 1-on-1 drills. Carter blew up guard Josh Sills with a pure pass rush on one rep and then threw him to the ground in another. Carter's received fewer first-team reps than fellow Georgia Bulldog Jordan Davis in camp, but as the season progresses, I'd expect Carter to overtake Davis, particularly given his greater upside as a pass rusher.
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