Eagles’ Top Three Position Battles Entering Training Camp
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - With the Eagles' rookies and quarterbacks set to arrive for training camp on Monday and the first full-scale practice later in the week, it's time to take a look at the three position battles you should have your eyes on:
Office: Left guard
Incumbent: Allen Barbre
Primary Competition: Isaac Seumalo
Third-Party Candidates: Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack
Barbre played very well last season but turned 33 in June and is probably entering his last go-round with the Eagles. Seumalo, meanwhile, is a second-year player the team believes has a large upside somewhere on the interior, be it at guard or center.
Plan A is clearly Seumalo winning the job and the versatile Barbre serving as one of the more accomplished gameday swing tackles in the NFL.
Most of the offseason had Seumalo lining up with the first team although Barbre started to mix back in by minicamp after overcoming a small calf problem.
The catch-22 here is that Barbre is probably still the better player among the two at this point but Jeff Stoutland is trying to serve two masters and ramp up Seumalo's work for the future. Wisniewski and Warmack will likely only get involved if injuries strike and Barbre has to be moved to the outside.
Exit Poll Winner: Seumalo -- the Eagles seem intent on getting Seumalo on the field and he has enough upside to justify that.
Office: Slot Corner
Incumbent: Malcolm Jenkins
Primary Competition: Jalen Mills; Aaron Grymes; Ron Brooks
Third-Party Candidates: Jaylen Watkins
This position has been an issue for a few years with the Eagles always defaulting to Malcolm Jenkins sliding down to the nickel position once all other avenues prove undeserving of being on the field.
Last year Jim Schwartz tried Ron Brooks, who had experience in his defense with Buffalo, at first but the LSU product struggled before suffering a season-ending injury against Minnesota. From there Jenkins was put back in as Watkins rotated in at safety for the most part.
During the offseason, most of the first team reps at cornerback were given to Jalen Mills and free-agent pickup Patrick Robinson with rookie Rasul Douglas entering on the outside when Schwartz went to the nickel and Mills sliding inside. That's obviously the first choice here but the competitive Grymes also mixed in with the first team at nickel for a few reps during mini camp and Brooks, if healthy, could be in play as well.
That's obviously the first choice here but the competitive Grymes also mixed in with the first team at nickel for a few reps during mini camp and Brooks, if healthy, could be in a wild card as well.
Exit Poll Winner: Mills - Schwartz wants to put a lot on Mills' plate and the second-year player seems up for it. If it doesn't work, however, it's back to Malcolm yet again.
Office: Kick Returner
Incumbent: RB Wendell Smallwood
Primary Competition: WR Nelson Agholor
Third-Party Candidates: RB Donnel Pumphrey, WR Torrey Smith
Smallwood showed some juice as a KR last season after Josh Huff was released and in tandem with Kenjon Barner so he's gotten the first looks in the offseason.
As for Agholor, a lot depends on how much he improves as a receiver because if he has a significant role on offense, he's unlikely to be used all that much, other than the complementary up man for Smallwood.
Smith is a great KR with home-run potential but as long as he remains a starting receiver he won't be in the mix while Pumphrey is explosive and could make a Jesse Ventura-like "Shock the World" run at the position.
Exit Poll Winner: Smallwood - he averaged 29 yards per return and had a TD last season in limited opportunities. Those numbers say he deserves a second chance at the job.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen