August 08, 2016
On Monday, the Eagles conducted their final training camp practice before their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the next two days off, now feels like a good time to update the Eagles' most contested training camp battles.
Jordan Matthews is clearly the Eagles' best receiver, and it's really not even close. When the Eagles are in three-receiver sets -- or any other formation where they'll have a slot receiver -- Matthews will play in the slot. While he won't often be on the outside, I can't imagine why he would be taken off the field in favor of any of the other Eagles' receivers, as Matthews is superior to them all no matter where you put him. We'll have to wait and see how Matthews is used, now that he'll be out for a few weeks with a knee injury.
Matthews aside, the other receiver spots seem to be up for grabs. Nelson Agholor is the top candidate at this point to be the No. 2 receiver, while Reuben Randle and Chris Givens are duking it out for that third spot. As we've noted, Givens is the fastest (4.41 40 at the 2012 Combine) receiver in the group contending for playing time, and thus the best option to stretch the field. Here's how Givens' YPC average compares with the rest of the Eagles' five main receivers:
This offseason, the Eagles were clearly trying to target speed receivers, and Givens has more deep speed than Randle. While Josh Huff may be rotated in on occasion, but he has not done enough in camp to warrant a starting spot.
My bet: Matthews, Agholor, Givens.
Allen Barbre has been the LG with the first-team offense for the entirety of camp so far. The Eagles have not rotated anyone else in there at all. Rookie third-round pick Isaac Seumalo earned praise early on from Doug Pederson and looks like a future starter, but he does not yet seem ready to overtake Barbre. If anyone has a chance at unseating Barbre, it would be free-agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski, who has stood out in camp, especially at RG with the first team offense while Brandon Brooks was out with a hamstring injury.
My bet: Personally, I'd go with Wisniewski all day, but the Eagles seem to really be set on Barbre.
For the entirety of camp, the starting corners have been former "Jim Schwartz guys" Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. It was clear to me in May that McKelvin would lock down one starting job. On the other side, however, it felt like Brooks was only in there because he knew Schwartz's defense. Maybe not. Brooks might have a major role on this defense. Not only might he start, but he may also move into the slot when the Eagles send out their nickel package. Outside corner and slot corner are two very different nuanced positions, which puts a lot of responsibility on Brooks.
Nolan Carroll is probably the most likely player to come in on those nickel sets, where he'll play outside. His stiffest competition will come from rookie seventh-round pick Jalen Mills, who is very clearly ahead of 2015 second-round pick Eric Rowe at this point.
My bet: McKelvin-Brooks-Carroll.
In the battle between Caleb Sturgis and Cody Parkey, Sturgis is clearly in the lead. Through the first two weeks, Sturgis is 28 of 31 (90.3 percent) on field goals, while Parkey is 23 of 31 (74.2 percent). Sturgis has also very clearly displayed the stronger leg, both on kickoffs and the distance with which he has cleared the crossbar on his field goal attempts.
The most important kicks will, of course, come in the preseason games themselves, but if Sturgis can remain even with Parkey in those games, he should win this job.
My bet: Sturgis.
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