August 26, 2021
Philadelphia Eagles 2021 training camp is over. The team will play its final preseason game against the New York Jets on Friday, and then cut the roster down to 53 players on Tuesday. And so, let's hand out 10 awards from this year's camp.
No player in Eagles training camp helped himself this year more than Watkins, who was realistically the fifth or sixth wide receiver in the pecking order entering camp, but is now probably second, behind only tenth overall pick DeVonta Smith.
Watkins improved his route running over the winter and spring, and it paid off during the summer, as he was consistently able to get open for easy catches, and then also make a number of impressive contested catches when necessary. And of course, as you all saw in the game against the Steelers, Watkins is fast:
He'll likely start Week 1 in Atlanta against the Falcons.
Sweat had something of a breakout season in 2020, when he had six sacks and three forced fumbles. Those six sacks weren't cheapies, by the way, and he beat a number of very good left tackles:
In 2021 training camp, while he may have cooled off a smidge near the end of camp, Sweat was consistently disruptive, outplaying co-RDE Derek Barnett, and putting himself in a position to gain more playing time in a contract year.
Sweat always had elite athleticism:
But now he's also refining his game.
No player did more damage to their standing with the team this summer than Dillard, who entered camp in a competition with Jordan Mailata for the starting LT job. It became clear almost immediately that Mailata was the much better football player, and the competition was essentially over after just a few days. (We'll note quickly here that the Eagles have not yet publicly awarded Mailata the job, but he very obviously will start Week 1 in Atlanta.)
But worse than simply losing the starting job competition, because his play was so alarmingly bad, Dillard may not even be a backup worth keeping on the roster, given the following:
A fresh start in a new city would probably be best for all involved.
A year ago, Ertz's mind was on contract negotiations that weren't going the way that he would have preferred, and there's probably an argument to be made that it helped lead to his poor play during the 2020 season. This year in camp, sporting a new look (blond hair), Ertz has been dialed in, and he has played well all summer.
Keeping Ertz on the roster this season doesn't make any sense to me, which we laid out in detail a few weeks ago. It feels clear that he doesn't want to play in Philadelphia anymore, and the team can make better use of the $8.25 million they would save by trading him, perhaps on a player in 2022 free agency that can be a long-term piece.
Then again, Howie Roseman has demonstrated in recent years that he overvalues his own players. So, we'll see, I guess.
Projecting the 53-man roster this year is by far the hardest year that I can remember, because there are so many different ways it can go. Normally, at this time of year, I'm just trying to figure out if the team will keep a fifth safety or a sixth cornerback, or whether the UDFA WR who made some plays is worthy of a roster spot.
This year those same types of questions persist, however, there are a slew of other possibilities to consider, such as:
There could be some really bad scores this year on the beat writer 53-man projection competition.
We can all agree that the strength of the Eagles' roster is in the trenches, right? Offensively, as long as they get some injury luck that has eluded them over the last few year, the offensive line has the potential to be a top 5 kind of unit. Defensively, the line is stacked with talent and quality depth.
In training camp, both units looked good, but it was hard to see at times which unit had the edge, because they were up against each other. In joint practices, it was clear that the Eagles were outplaying their counterparts in the trenches.
Perhaps the biggest theme in the infancy of Sirianni's tenure with the Eagles has been competition, and he has gotten it. While there were certainly days during training camp when practices weren't sharp because guys weren't playing well, there was never a question of effort. The Eagles generally had spirited practices, most notably in joint practice sessions when they had more competitive juice than the Patriots and Jets.
Perhaps shorter practice sessions had something to do with that, but Sirianni has to feel good about the overall effort and "buy-in" that he has seemingly gotten from his players early on.
In 2020, the Eagles were without the following players Week 1 against Washington:
And, if you'll recall, they lost that game, and many more as the season progressed. One of the main objectives of this camp was to remain healthy, and as of the morning of August 26, every starter (with perhaps the exception of McLeod) should be good to go.
No player was watched more closely this camp than Hurts, of course, since he's, you know, the quarterback replacing Carson Wentz. Everything Hurts did was evaluated, from his throws, to his on-field leadership, to the words he spoke during interviews.
After some early practices in which the offense looked ugly, Hurts settled down and improved quite a bit as camp progressed, as he threw more accurately and his command of the offense grew.
Some players can handle that kind of intense scrutiny. Some can't. Hurts did.
The Eagles still haven't named Jalen Hurts the starter of this team yet, despite the fact that he has taken literally every first-team rep during practices this summer. He's very clearly the starting quarterback of this team, but they refuse to acknowledge it. Why is that? 🤔
Well, maybe we just spent the last month obsessing over Hurts' every throw, quote, and mannerism, only to see him included in a deal to bring Deshaun Watson to Philly? Until they definitively name Hurts the starter, speculation will not (and should not) die on the Watson rumors.
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