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July 30, 2018

What they're saying about the Eagles: Power rankings, winners and losers, and best Rita's flavor

Eagles NFL
073018_Jalen-Mills_usat James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills.

Despite the Eagles having off Monday before they begin live contact on Tuesday, there's been plenty of coverage of the reigning Super Bowl champs. In case you've missed any of our recent content, let's recap that first...

•  Jimmy Kempski posted his first 53-man roster projection of training camp.

•  He also constructed a roster made entirely of active ex-Eagles, and it ain't pretty

•  Oh, and Jimmy also chatted on Monday. #NoOffDays

•  On Sunday, Doug Pederson offered an update on Carson Wentz's recovery.

•  Finally, you can check out Jimmy's practice observations from the weekend: Saturday | Sunday

Now, onto other local and national media outlets with the latest edition of What They're Saying about the Birds... 

Top dogs

Nate Davis | USA TODAY

No longer the underdogs by any measure — and with Pederson preaching the message of "embrace the target" — it seems the Eagles are ranked right where they're supposed to be.

1. Eagles (1): On paper (games evidently aren't played there), lineup looks stronger than Super Bowl version, assuming Carson Wentz and Jason Peters are full go by Week 1 and Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata fully assimilate.

2. Patriots (2): No team more deserves benefit of doubt. Still, concerning Pats have so many new starters on offense and so few apparent upgrades on defense.

3. Falcons (3): Your fresh reminder that no team came closer to KO'ing Eagles in playoffs. Atlanta looks sufficiently loaded to reach Super Bowl on home field. 

4. Vikings (4): Don't be surprised if Dalvin Cook's return actually has more profound effect on 11th-ranked offense than Kirk Cousins' arrival.

5. Rams (5): Early to worry (much) about Aaron Donald given last year's holdout didn't ultimately hurt. Still, lot of moving parts on revamped defense.  [usatoday.com]

One-man show

Tim McManus | ESPN.com

Eagles rookie tight end Dallas Goedert might have an unfortunate first name for a professional football player in Philadelphia, but he's going to be a fan favorite, both on and off the field.

As for the on-the-field part, he's looked very good so far at camp and should be a legitimate factor in the Eagles passing attack if he continues to progress. Recently, he was selected by ESPN's Tim McManus as the Eagles' rookie that's good enough start on each of the 32 teams.

TE Dallas Goedert

He isn't in line to take over the No. 1 tight end role -- that belongs securely to Zach Ertz. But there's a good chance that he'll have a role in this offense if the promise he showed this spring carries through the summer and into the fall. The second-round pick was a big-time playmaker at South Dakota State and showed off his soft hands and ability to separate during OTAs. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he could be another red zone option for quarterback Carson Wentz.  [espn.com]

Too much of a good thing

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

I know the Eagles are going to have some issues trying to give all their defensive ends enough snaps, but Jim Schwartz doesn't seem concerned. And with injuries, you never know when you might need that extra lineman. 

This last paragraph, though, is just plain scary (in a good way, assuming you're an Eagles fan)...

The Eagles have at least five guys who warrant playing time and limited snaps to give them all their fair share. 

For now, here’s how that competition is shaking out: Graham is in the PUP (physically unable to perform) list as he recovers from ankle surgery, but is expected to be back for the opener. When he’s back, he has to start. Without Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett have been working with the first-team defense, while Bennett and fourth-round draft pick Josh Sweat are working with the twos. 

Think about this: One of the starters is out and Bennett, a Pro Bowl player, is still not lining up with the first team. Not yet, at least. And it would make a ton of sense if Graham and Barnett end up as the starters this season.  [nbcsports.com]

Stock watch

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Over at Bleeding Green Nation, Brandon Gowton (who sits next to me in the press box at the Linc) offered up more than a few winners and losers from the first couple of days of training camp practice. 

WINNERS

Nelson Agholor - Agholor looks faster than ever. He’s making a habit of burning defenders deep down the field. He looks primed for a big year.

Jalen Mills - Some have suggested Mills should be headed to the bench or the slot. That looks very unlikely at this point. The Green Goblin has been around the ball all offseason. He’s routinely making plays on the ball and shutting guys down in coverage. With Darby also looking good, it’s exciting to think about what this Eagles defense could look like with two improved starting corners.

LOSERS

Sidney Jones - It’s not that I think Jones has looked bad. I just don’t think he’s stood out as much as I would’ve liked to seen at this point. He’s not even a lock to win the slot job. He’s rotating with 25-year-old journeyman De’Vante Bausby for that nickel role. I’m very curious to see how Jones looks in the games.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

Nelly still improving?

Eliot Shorr-Parks | NJ.com

Nelson Agholor had to be the most-improved player on the Eagles' roster last season. After being so bad in 2016 that he was a healthy inactive one game, Agholor looked like a completely different receiver in 2017 and was a big part of the Eagles explosive offense. 

How will he follow up that performance? Could he be even better in 2018? 

Nelson Agholor, WR

Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor is coming off of a breakout 2017 season. He appears to have taken his game to the next level this offseason. 

Agholor has been close to unstoppable during the team drills at training camp. The fourth-year receiver has caught 11 of the 12 passes thrown his way. His damage has been done all over the field. He has worked the middle of the field. He has gotten behind the Eagles' defense. He has turned short catches into long gain. 

It is clear that the time Agholor spent with Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss this offseason paid off. He has made a few catches he certainly wouldn't have made two years ago and likely wouldn't have even made last season. His hands appear to be much stronger as he has snatched a few passes out of the air and been able to hold on despite tight coverage. 

Agholor should be the Eagles' top targeted receiver on offense this season.  [nj.com]

The biggest battle at camp

Graham Foley | PhiladelphiaEagles.com

Ah, now we can get to the good stuff. Over on the Eagles website, Graham Foley broke down the best battle of training camp: What is the best Rita's flavor?

In case you aren't aware, Rita's has a stand down at NovaCare every day during camp with free water ice. However, they only offer four flavors (that's not a complaint, just something you should know before shouting that your favorite flavor isn't mentioned here). They are: blue raspberry, lemon, mango, and Swedish Fish.

I eat at least one every day I'm down there and will typically alternate between mango and Swedish Fish. Sometimes I'll do a mix of two flavors, like blue raspberry and Swedish Fish. But almost every day, you can find someone, whether players, coaches or reporters, debating the merits of each flavor. 

You'll also often see rookies carrying trays of water ice for their veteran teammates.

I'm happy to say that Graham's (unofficial) poll of Eagles players confirms what I already knew: mango and Swedish Fish rule. Also, this part about rookie Josh Sweat thinking water ice is the same as a slushy is pretty great.

Sweat, who said lemon is his favorite, also learned quickly that in Philadelphia, you have to call Rita’s by its correct name. He also learned how to say "wooder."

“Yeah, I was calling it a slushy,” Sweat said. “And they were like, ‘Don’t do that.’ So I know it’s water ice. It’s very very good.”

In the end, 10 players said they preferred mango, five took Swedish Fish, one said lemon, and three liked a mix of the flavors.  [philadelphiaeagles.com]


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