Interesting position battles as Eagles training camp approaches
The Philadelphia Eagles will begin training camp this week with one of the most talented rosters in football, set to make another Super Bowl run as the franchise seeks their second championship in three seasons. While the Eagles have some sorting out in finalizing their 53-man roster, the franchise has some position battles and starting jobs up for grabs (each will be decided over the next six weeks).
What are the most interesting position battles heading into camp? Here's a look at a few:
This position is up for grabs, especially with Ronald Darby coming off an ACL injury and Jalen Mills not participating in OTAs after having foot surgery prior to the end of last season. Darby and Mills would the the projected starters if both were 100 percent healthy going into camp, but there's two starting cornerback spots open.
Sidney Jones has played just 10 games in the NFL, but he is one of the most talented cornerbacks on the Eagles roster. If Jones plays up to his potential in training camp, he is expected to land one of those two starting cornerback spots. Avonte Maddox is the front-runner for the starting slot cornerback spot, but he'll be in the competition for one of the cornerback jobs. Rasul Douglas has the most impressive resume of the candidates not named Darby or Mills (at least for an outside cornerback job) and is the front-runner to take Mills's spot.
If Darby shows signs of being close to 100 percent as the season arrives, one of the spots may go to him. There are two starting jobs available and the Eagles top-six cornerbacks are all age-25 or younger.
Linebackers not named Nigel Bradham
Bradham is going to start as one of the two Eagles linebackers that will see the majority of playing time, but whether he is in the middle (MIKE) or outside/strong side (SAM) is unclear. Which linebacker is going to line up next to Bradham?
The Eagles did sign Zach Brown to compete with Kamu Grugier-Hill for a starting spot next to Bradham, but the battle for that spot is neck-and-neck as training camp approaches. Grugier-Hill is one of the top pass-coverage linebackers in the NFL and the Eagles would like him to take the next step from being the No. 3 linebacker to playing the majority of the snaps. He'll have to beat out Brown to accomplish the task.
If Brown beats out Grugier-Hill for the starting linebacker job, good bet he lines up in the middle while Bradham plays the outside. If Grugier-Hill gets the job, brown could be relegated to the No. 3 linebacker or may not make the roster all together.
Don't count L.J. Fort out of this mix as he can play all three linebacker positions and appears to be the front-runner to be the No. 3 linebacker (weak-side, WILL) if Grugier-Hill wins a starting gig. Fort's versatility and ability on special teams set him up as an adequate replacement for Grugier-Hill in that role.
No. 4 defensive end
This role isn't as big as in years past with Malik Jackson being a three-down defensive tackle, but the Eagles don't have a specialized pass rusher on the second team now that Chris Long retired. Vinny Curry will improve the run defense, but he's not a traditional pass rusher that can get to the quarterback.
The Eagles are banking on Josh Sweat to win that job as he was head coach Doug Pederson's most impressive players of minicamp. Shareef Miller is a project, but specializes in getting to the quarterback and could compete with Sweat for that job.
Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall are the wild cards in the defensive end shuffle, as their emergence could convince the Eagles not to seek outside help at the position. If none of these players pan out, the Eagles have Connor Barwin waiting to suit up.
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