Eagles Questions and Answers After First Week
The Eagles open their preseason slate one week from today, which makes it a good time to offer a take on what we’ve seen so far as well as those things we’re still trying to figure out.
Three things we know....
1. Running back is a mess right now.
Rookie fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood had to leave the field with a strained quad on Tuesday, but still has a good chance of getting significant playing time if he can get himself back on the field and ready to play Thursday against Tampa. Right now, Smallwood is in a pretty good spot, with Ryan Mathews yet to practice, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, and undrafted rookie free agent Byron Marshall the only guys in the mix.
Coach says: "With Ryan [RB Ryan Mathews] hopefully coming back in the next couple of days, this is a great time for them," head coach Doug Pderson said. "And with Wendell, not practicing right now, it's great for those guys to get so many reps and so many touches. It's just going to help the overall balance of the football team."
2. Eric Rowe trying to make an impact.
Rowe struggled with his technique during the team’s offseason workouts, while competing with Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks for the starting job opposite Leodis McKelvin. While it’s too soon to label him as a bust, he needs to show the coaches he’s ready to get regualr playing time.
Coach says: "He's a physical, good looking kid, and he loves the contact," Doug Pederson said. "He's shown up the last couple of days and made some plays. Great competition at that spot, and we'll just continue to monitor that as we go through camp."
3. The fiercest competition for a roster spot is at wide receiver.
Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Josh Huff are the top three receivers on the roster. Hard to imagine someone with Chris Given's speed and the talent of Ruben Randle not making the team. The fight to fill the remaining spot or two is going to pretty intense with players like Hunter Sharp, Caleb Jones T.J.Graham, Paul Turner and Marcus Johnson, Sharp and Jones both stood out through the first four days.
Coach says: "Well, I tell you, Turner, PT, [WR Paul Turner] he's a kid that's really kind of understood our offense and understood his role," Pederson said. "Cayleb is a big, tall kid, athletic and [if you] can kind of put the ball around him, he can make some plays for you. The other guys are [WR] Xavier Rush, a guy that's learning every single day. He's getting better every day. And the way we're kind of attacking practice right now, is everybody's getting equal reps just about, from the ones, twos, and threes, so it gives them a lot of opportunity to put some good work on film and let us coach those guys up.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out...
1. Will Allen Barbre stick at left guard?
Barbre is the favorite right now at left guard, the incumbent will try to hold off rookie Isaac Seumalo and veteran Stefan Wisniewski. But one thing about Barbre is he can also play tackle and that might make him a more valuable swing player in case of an injury. However, it sounds like the job is his to lose, but he will definitely have to earn the job.
Coach says: "It’s a competition. Allen’s a starter right now, but like every position, it's competitive. Allen has done a great job. I’ve been very impressed with Allen and very impressed with the whole offensive line as a group.
2. Who are the back-ups safeties?
We all know Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the starters, but if one of those guys were to go down, then what? A misfit group that includes Blake Countess, Ed Reynolds, Chris Maragos and Jaylen Watkins are battling for playing time. While Jenkins and McLeod could be one of the better tandems in the league, there isn't a lot of depth.
Coach says: "All those guys are competing at that second or third safety spot. Right now it's a matter of just understanding their assignments. They're all gifted athletes and can play. They're showing up. Each one kind of has from day to day. Blake is learning the system and the terminology, and Ed has made some plays and is showing up from time to time. And then [S] Chris Maragos is a veteran guy that's really had a solid camp. As you know [Maragos is] a four-core special teams guy, and just looking for some quality competition in that room as we go, especially in these next couple weeks."
3. Can Trey Burton find a role in the offense?
Right now, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek are the top-two tight ends on the roster, both got contract extensions this offseason - so where does that leave Burton? One thing to watch will be if the Eagles, who have four tight ends on their roster, keep all four guys, including Burton and Chris Pantale. 973ESPN.com Eagles insider John McMullen said on Wednesday's show that Burton was the star of the show - but how will he factor into the offense this season?
Coach says: "Trey's done a really good job coming into camp and got himself ready to go. He had a good offseason, had a good 10 weeks in the spring. He's a guy that we're going to have to rely on a little bit. I love the fact that we have depth at the tight end position and [we can] move him around a little bit and create some match-ups. That's what you want out of guys like that. He's a versatile role player in that situation, and he's done a nice job."