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July 22, 2017

What they're saying about Eagles: Roster projections, Andy's impact and Blount's workload

The wait is nearly over. Eagles rookies and select veterans report to camp on Sunday with the rest of the team reporting on Wednesday. The first full-squad practice? Thursday.

And two weeks after that, the Birds will visit the Packers for their first preseason game. Basically, the regular season, the stuff that actually matters, will be here before you know it.

Before taking a look around to see what they're saying about the Birds, here's some of our recent coverage heading into training camp:

•  Training camp preview: S | CB | LB | DT | DE | Specialists [Kempski]
 Training camp preview: G/C | OT | TE | RB | WR | QB [Kempski]
•  Plenty of Eagles selected in MMQB's All-Time NFL Draft [Mullin]
•  Expect Pederson to remain aggressive on 4th down [Kempski]

And now, here's what everyone else is saying:

End of the line for two former first-round picks?

Tim McManus |

Like our own Jimmy Kempski, McManus doesn’t see former first-round pick Marcus Smith making the roster this year, losing out to guys like Destiny Vaeao and Steven Means. Here’s a look at which defensive lineman he sees making the Birds, according to his latest 53-man roster projection:

Defensive line (9): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Destiny Vaeao, Steven Means, Elijah Qualls

We’re projecting DT Beau Allen (pectoral) receives an injury designation to start the year. That could open the door for Qualls, the 6-foot-1, 321-pound rookie out of Washington. This could be the year the Eagles part with former first-round pick Marcus Smith.

As for the other side of the ball, McManus predicts another recent first-round pick, wideout Nelson Agholor, will be cut at some point:

Wide receiver (5): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins

Hollins, a rookie out of UNC, impressed in OTAs. Fellow rookie Shelton Gibson, meanwhile, had his share of struggles and will need to have a strong showing this summer to claim a spot. Marcus Johnson, a second-year receiver out of Texas, is a name to keep in mind if they go with six receivers on the 53-man. If this projection proves true, the Eagles will have only two receiver holdovers from last season -- Agholor and Matthews. Quite an overhaul for a unit that finished 31st in receiving yards and last in drop rate.  []

A surprise WR on final roster?

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Add BLG to the growing list of Eagles writers who believe Marcus Smith has played his last snap in Philly. But when it comes to his 53-man roster projection, he sees a slightly different group of wideouts making the team. Not only does Gowton think Nelson Agholor gets another chance, but he has a surprise name making the final cut.

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson

Jeffery is a legitimate stud No. 1 wide receiver as long as he can stay on the field. Smith is trying to revive his career after struggling in San Francisco. It was encouraging to see him look good in spring practices. People get upset when I mention JMatt might get traded so I won’t even bring that up at all. He’s a solid slot receiver whose efficiency could increase given the talent increase at his position. Agholor’s playing time figures to take a hit this season. He looked good this OTAs and minicamp but he has a long way to go before being a “sure thing.” Hollins should contribute on special teams right away. The Eagles like Johnson, who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, so keep an eye on his progress this summer. I’m projecting Shelton Gibson is this year’s Alex McCalister in the sense that suffers a “phantom injury” and ends up stashed on the injured reserve list as a rookie.  []

The BGN Radio guys – Gowton, John Barchard, James Seltzer, et al – had Marcus Johnson (the surprise name mentioned earlier) on for an exclusive interview. You can click over to listen or read the transcript, but here’s a small sample:

"I feel like my athleticism and the athlete that I am, as well as the football player that I am, is sometimes undermined and not really spoken about. And that’s fine. I truly pride myself on just going to work every day, building on it. I just feel like you’re getting a complete player in Marcus Johnson. You’re getting somebody who is gonna push his teammates, everyone around him. More than anything, I’ve really just been crafting. Working on my craft. Building on everything from last season. From being on the practice squad and just understanding the actual offense. I really pride myself on the work that I’ve put in for my routes. Just being a consistent pass catcher. I truly believe the coaches could fit me in wherever they feel."  []

One player to watch in camp

Eliot Shorr-Parks |

Agholor is going to have a lot of eyes on him this summer. A good camp could be the difference between him turning his career around or looking for a new job. In his recent training camp preview,’s Eliot Shorr-Parks identified the third-year wideout as the player to watch.

The furthest thing from a fan favorite, Agholor enters his third season with the Eagles fighting to save his career. Agholor has been a disappointment his first two seasons, and might have been released if not for the financial ramifications. 

The good news for the Eagles is that Agholor had an outstanding showing during OTAs and minicamps, and was in many ways the best receiver on the field. Agholor needs to show that can translate into games, however, and his slow climb from the hole he has dug himself begins with the preseason.  []

Shades of Andy at Camp Pederson

Reuben Frank | CSN Philly

Speaking of training camp, the Eagles suffered some injuries last year during a physical start to camp before Doug Pederson decided to back off the live hitting. And while there are some changes coming in Year 2, the physicality isn’t going anywhere:

The current NFL collective bargaining agreement limits how often teams can hit during training camp, and Pederson — who worked under Reid as a player or assistant coach with the Eagles and Chiefs for a total of nine years — said he prefers as physical a camp as possible within the current rules...

"I don’t want to do it a ton in camp, but at the same time, guys have got to feel contact, they’ve got to feel the ground. You know, injuries are part of the game. Whether it’s in training camp or in the regular season, obviously you don’t like to see it, but at the same time we can be smart about it, protect each other and still be in pads and get the work done."  []

Is that a good thing? This writer seems to think so.

The 300-carry concern

Tim McManus |

Only one NFL running back carried the ball 300 times last season (Ezekiel Elliott) but new Eagle LeGarrette Blount was close, finishing the season with 299 carries. If he’s going to be the workhorse the Eagles signed him to be, he’s going to have to overcome a bit of history:

The odds are strongly on the side of a statistical drop-off in the year after a 300-plus carry campaign. In many cases, it is drastic. Consider: In the past five years, only one player -- Marshawn Lynch -- did not experience a decline in production. The other nine over that span saw their output sink by an average of 739 rushing yards the next season. Four missed significant time with injury, but even those who stayed healthy had a sharp downturn…

Blount…is 30 years old and entering his eighth NFL season. Establishing himself as the workhorse back during Tom Brady's four-game suspension to start last season, he finished with a career high in carries, yards (1,161) and rushing touchdowns (18)… 

It's possible that Blount, like Elliott, delivers. But the evidence is hard to ignore: Of the 19 times a player has hit the 300-carry mark since 2010, a statistical dip was avoided twice the next season.  []

Take a load off, LeGarrette

Steven Cook | Bleacher Report

Some of that drop-off for Blount could be due to a lessened workload in 2017. Over at Bleacher Report, they did individual over-unders for various Eagles – for example, Alshon Jeffery’s number for receiving yards is set at 1,200. 

And when it comes to the Birds’ big back, they think he’ll finish this year with over 100 fewer carries than he had last season with the Patriots:

Philadelphia scoured a market full of proven running backs capable of being the feature guy and didn't hesitate to sign LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal and make him the de facto primary back for 2017. The team also chose to pass on a number of workhorse backs early in the draft, paving the way for Blount to be the guy…

Factoring in the obvious notion that the Eagles will remain a pass-first team under Wentz and the number of versatile backs to share the load with, Blount shouldn't expect to hit the double-century mark in 2017. And that will be just fine.  []

Wentz showing natural leadership ability

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

The glowing quotes from Wentz’s teammates are not surprising in the least to anyone who has spent even a minute around the Eagles quarterback. But Jeff does a great job of putting that in context, specifically what it means for the Birds moving into Year 2 of the Wentz/Pederson era:

This offseason, however, Wentz has increasingly embraced that mantle, according to many of his coaches and teammates. The changes have been subtle. It is not in Wentz’s nature to take what has not yet been earned.

But whether it has been breaking down team huddles, or vocalizing his offensive preferences or openly displaying more of his personality, Wentz has naturally become more of a leader. And the NovaCare Complex, at least as it relates to the team, has gradually become his building and has adopted his persona.

“He’s the guy. That’s the way everybody in this building sees him,” tackle Lane Johnson said. “He’s the franchise.”  []

Wentz currently sixth in NFL jersey sales

David George |

Carson Wentz already looks like he’ll be a staple amongst the NFL’s top jersey sales.

After finishing third last year in overall jerseys sold, Wentz’s jersey currently sits sixth in fan purchases over the past month according to DICK's Sporting Goods. Needless to say, he’s on the list for good reason. Last season, the rookie quarterback set the all-time NFL rookie record for completed passes with 379 and finished fourth all time amongst rookies with 3,782 passing yards.  []

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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