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August 02, 2022

What they're saying: Eagles linebackers are finally good? Marcus Epps is too?

From an improved linebackers room to one of the best run-blocking groups in the league, a roundup of what's being said from camp so far.

Eagles NFL
TJ-Edwards-Eagles-training-camp_072722_120.jpg Colleen Claggett/PhillyVoice

Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards

Training camp is in full swing and, already, plenty of ground has been covered.

At PhillyVoice alone, we have Jimmy Kempski's notes and observations from each practice thus far (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4), a look at five players who haven't made too much noise just yet, defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson's insight on his corners and safeties, an early 53-man roster projection, and a check-in on camps around the rest of the NFC East.

Shamus Clancy is on Jalen Hurts Watch (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) and also has features on a list of players, positions groups, and talking points:

Interior pass rush

A.J. Brown's defense of Jalen Hurts

Haason Reddick's versatility

Miles Sanders' status as the No. 1 running back

Jordan Mailata's 'daily deposits'

Quez Watkins' speed

Jordan Davis' disruptive physicality

What else is out there? Let's take a look.

Here's the latest edition of what they're saying about the Eagles:

Light years ahead

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles' linebackers, on paper at least, don't look too bad all of a sudden.

After being a longstanding weak point, the team now boasts a linebacking corps of T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, Nakobe Dean, and Davion Taylor, with none older than 26. 

As Reuben Frank writes, the group is already far ahead of what it was this time last year:

The Eagles have four starting-caliber off-ball linebackers, and [Nick Rallis], the Eagles’ 29-year-old linebacker coach, said this group is light years ahead of last year. And that shouldn’t be surprising.

A year ago, the Eagles’ off-ball linebacker corps consisted of Edwards, Taylor, Eric Wilson and Alex Singleton. Wilson and Singleton are gone, Edwards and Taylor now have a year in Jonathan Gannon’s defense, Dean is a promising rookie and White is an established veteran with 37 NFL starts under his belt.

Yes, it seems like the team that never has good linebackers just may have a bunch of good linebackers.

Who could have imagined? [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

Confidence in Epps

EJ Smith | The Inquirer

The Eagles made a number of improvements to their defense in the offseason, but they noticeably left safety alone. 

They're putting a lot of stock in Marcus Epps, the 26-year old free safety who played an increasingly bigger role as the 2021 campaign went on, and now has the leg up on securing the starting spot.

From EJ Smith:

[Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon] said Epps has the makeup of a modern safety because of his ability to do different things within a multiple scheme.

“The first thing I look for in a safety is reliability,” Gannon said. “He’s very reliable, smart, tough, and he has got a very unique skillset that you need, in my opinion, to play safety in the NFL today. In 2022, the safety position looks different than when I got in the league in 2007. You have to be able to cover. You have to be able to tackle. You have to have ball skills. You have to play zone. You have to process. That’s a thinking position. He has all those tools.” [The Inquirer]

The longshot

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles have a couple of prospective receivers looking to defy the odds and make the team this year. One is Devon Allen, the track star who is seeking an NFL shot after years away from football. The other is 5'8" Britain Covey, a wideout out of Utah who is also taking the long way around to the pros with inspiration from his grandfather. 

From Reuben Frank again:

Covey, trying to make the Eagles this summer as an undrafted returner and slot receiver, is the grandson of Stephen R. Covey, who wrote numerous self-help books in the 1970s and 1980s, including bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which sold over 25 million copies.

And it was something Stephen R. Covey once told young Britain that’s stuck with him and helped him get to this point.

“There’s a quote my grandpa used to say that’s kind of been the motto of my career: ‘Build on your strengths and then organize to make weaknesses become irrelevant,’” Covey said after practice Saturday. 

“And that’s kind of been what I’ve done with my size and my career.” [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

Safe and secure

Sam Monson | Pro Football Focus

The Eagles' offense succeeded in a run-heavy attack last season thanks in large part to one of the best offensive lines in football, and with that group returning, 2022 should present more of the same opportunity for Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenny Gainwell.

PFF definitely thinks so, as it ranked the Birds as the third best blocking environment for running backs heading into 2022, behind only Dallas and Cleveland.

From Sam Monson:

The Eagles have quietly assembled one of the NFL's top offensive lines, a unit better at run blocking than in pass protection. Injuries last season meant a lot of players gained valuable starting experience, leaving Philadelphia unusually well provisioned in terms of depth.

No team in the NFL averaged more rushing yards before contact than the 1.9 yards the Eagles did, and while having a rushing threat at quarterback certainly helps, they remain at the top spot looking at just carries by running backs. Miles Sanders was something of a fantasy football disappointment last season but still averaged 5.3 yards per carry behind this offensive line, with less than 3.0 of those yards coming after contact. The Eagles had 16 rushing touchdowns scored by running backs, and Sanders didn’t get any of them. Heading into a contract year, he could be an excellent candidate for a career season. [PFF]

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