Three Positions to Watch for in Eagles Preseason Game One
The Philadelphia Eagles' first preseason game is on Saturday Night versus the Baltimore Ravens and here are the top three storylines I am watching for in the game:
1. Linebacker Musical Chairs
After the team added two veteran Linebackers before last Sunday's Open Practice, the Eagles have an open competition for depth. Nakobe Dean is the only player who has a secure roster spot, which means that players from last year's team such as Shaun Bradley and Christian Elliss have to prove their value against new guys Zach Cunningham and Myles Jack. Even though Bradley and Elliss have shown their value on Special Teams, are we sure they are ready to take on the 844 Defensive Snaps that Kyzir White played last year? But on the flip side, Jack and Cunningham were at home when the Eagles called, so how much is left in the tank for those veterans? Plus, we cannot forget about Nicholas Morrow, who was signed this offseason before the summer. I anticipate Morrow, Jack, Cunningham, Elliss, and Bradley are all fighting for the same roster spots and I doubt they all make the 53-man roster.
2. State of Affairs at Safety
After losing both starters at Safety from last season, the Eagles have overhauled the depth chart for Defensive Backs with only two players returning from last season: Reed Blankenship and K'Von Wallace. Blakenship played above almost everyone's expectations last year and Wallace has been a disappointment since the Eagles selected him in the 2020 NFL Draft after Wallace's impressive college career at Clemson. The two veterans added this offseason have very different resumes: Terrell Edmunds is a reliable Safety without much flare who started 75 games over the last 5 seasons for the Steelers and Justin Evans was a talented young Safety who suffered a major injury that caused him to miss three NFL seasons before returning last year. A fifth Safety has been added to the mix thanks to the Eagles drafting Sydney Brown in the 2023 NFL Draft, a dynamic playmaker from the University of Illinois. The working assumption is the Eagles will keep four Safeties for the 53-man roster, so of this group one man will miss the cut. It will be interesting to see how new Eagles Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai utilizes all of these guys as the team evaluates who should not just be the starters, but the backups at Safety for the 2023 season.
3. The OTHER Quarterbacks
After Jalen Hurts got blasted on an illegal hit out of bounds in the 2022 NFL Preseason, we can anticipate seeing very little from the MVP Runner-Up in August of 2023. That means the OTHER Quarterbacks will take the spotlight, all three are in very different places with their professional careers. While Marcus Mariota was one of the stars of Season One of Netflix's "Quarterbacks" documentary, there are some real questions about the veteran Quarterback who turns 30 years old this October. The 2014 Heisman Trophy Winner had mixed results during his five years in Tennessee and after serving as a backup with the Raiders for two seasons, his second chance at being a Starter in Atlanta ended poorly. The incumbent on the Quarterback depth chart is Ian Book, the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame Football History. Book knows the offense but has average arm talent compared to the other QBs currently on the Eagles roster and he is also the smallest of all the guys at Six Feet Tall and 206 pounds. The Wild Card of the group is Tanner McKee, a 6'6" Rookie who had a mediocre career at Stanford but his arm talent is elite but his athleticism is below average for today's NFL. McKee seems like an odd fit in a Quarterback room where the other three guys are very mobile and athletic signal callers, so it will be curious to see how McKee fits in this preseason.