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August 03, 2018

Five players who have impressed through the first week of Eagles training camp

The first week of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is in the books, and the team will get a little bit of a breather over the next few days. Friday's practice is a shortened one (likely not in pads), Saturday is an off day, and Sunday is an open practice at Lincoln Financial Field, which tend to be less intense.

Since we have something of lull in the action, here are five players who have impressed me so far, relative to expectations.

G/T Matt Pryor

Pryor has been the pleasant surprise of camp, as he has dominated in OL-DL blocking drills every day, putting far more than his share of defensive linemen on the ground. He has also been sturdy in team drills, while being asked to learn two different positions (RG and RT) in the Eagles' system. 

Pryor was a sixth round pick of the team in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he looks like a find. If he plays in the preseason games the way that he has so far in camp, Pryor could be a versatile backup with future starting potential who could make one of the Eagles' veteran offensive linemen expendable.

It's not often that the second-team right guard grabs the attention that Pryor has so far, but that's just how good he has been.

CB Sidney Jones

The Eagles have moved Jones around, playing him both in the slot and on the outside. He has had some of the more impressive coverage moments in camp, as he's been able to suffocate shifty, athletic receivers such as Nelson Agholor for the entirety of their routes.

If the Eagles don't trade any of their corners, the guess here is that Jones will play in the slot in 2018, though I think he'll eventually move outside in 2019 and beyond. 

Jones has the highest ceiling of any of the Eagles' corners, with potential (can't stress that word enough) to be among the best in the NFL. As such, gaining some exposure in the slot could serve his long-term future well. Odell Beckham Jr. isn't just going to line up outside on every play. He'll move all over the formation, so for Jones to be a true "lockdown corner" who may eventually trail the opposing team's best receiver, he'll need to refine his technique both on the outside and in the slot. So far, he has had his share of impressive moments doing both.

RB Darren Sproles

When Sproles tore his ACL in Week 3 last year, I assumed his career was over. Having to rely on his quickness as such a small back, any loss of burst could really hinder his effectiveness. After previously saying that 2017 would be his last season in the NFL, Sproles decided he wanted to go out on his terms, so he rehabbed his knee and rejoined the team on a meager one-year, $1.415 million contract, with an additional $100K for each game he plays.

The story of camp so far has been Carson Wentz's play after returning from a torn ACL and LCL, but Sproles' recovery at the age of 35, at the position he plays, is extraordinary. He is playing without a brace, and he looks every bit as quick and fast as he always has in his time with the Eagles. He and Jason Peters are ageless marvels.

TE Dallas Goedert

You wouldn't expect Goedert to be a great route runner coming from a Division 1-AA school, but he has gotten open consistently, and has shown very good hands when the ball has come his way.

Goedert wears No. 88, and Zach Ertz wears No. 86. Both players' jerseys get scrunched up during practice, and they both look like No. 88. On at least a dozen occasions this camp, I've either confused Ertz for Goedert or Goedert for Ertz. That's how much they look alike both in stature and they way they play. The only discernible difference at times is an Allen Iverson-esque sleeve that Ertz wears on one of his arms.

Goedert is going to get his share of playing time as a rookie, particularly in the red zone.

CB Ronald Darby

In recent training camps, even with some pretty lackluster wide receiving corps, Eagles cornerbacks have often gotten toasted all over the field. That has not been the case this year, as the Eagles boast a very deep, young, and talented group at corner. The best of the bunch this camp, in my opinion, has been Darby, who has given up almost nothing when he has been targeted.

Darby has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, because (a) the Eagles have a lot of depth at corner, as noted already, and (B) Darby is on the final year of his deal. I would imagine that the asking price for Darby in a trade has risen since the start of camp.

To note, Jalen Mills has had a very good camp as well, but that has been sort of the norm for him, and he's a good practice player.

Honorable mentions (again, relative to expectations): Wentz, Peters, Nate Sudfeld, Toby Weathersby, Bruce Hector, Jordan Hicks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Mills, Tre Sullivan, Jake Elliott.

Players who have not impressed: Nick Foles (he even kind of admitted he's not a practice player, so please don't murder me and my family for mentioning him), Chance Warmack, Isaac Seumalo, Haloti Ngata, Cameron Johnston.

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