Eagles Preview: Top 5 Training Camp Battles to Watch

Sidney Jones

Getty Eagles CB Sidney Jones has been playing himself into a larger role, maybe even a starting one.

Eagles training camp is about two months away if all goes according to plan. The players are champing at the bit.

The novel coronavirus has already canceled spring OTAs and forced teams to conduct virtual workouts. But the league has put a slew of contingency plans in place to ensure the regular season begins on time. Training camps should go off without a hitch, too. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is preparing as if it’s “full steam” ahead.

“I’m preparing as if we’re going to be back in our building by training camp,” Pederson said. “Nothing is definite, nothing has been set, obviously, but I’m preparing that way to be back in the building hopefully in mid-July so we can be on the grass. That’s my preparation. That’s my mindset right now as I prepare for training camp. That’s one of the things, we get these guys back, it’s got to be full steam ahead.”

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Top 5 Training Camp Battles to Watch

Receiver: Jalen Reagor vs. Marquise Goodwin

With the uncertainty around Alshon Jeffery and his return from foot surgery, the Eagles are in desperate need of someone locking down the No. 2 receiver spot in camp. Reagor was drafted to be that guy, at No. 21 in the first round. He’s a stud and the possible speedy successor to DeSean Jackson. It’s his job to lose. However, Goodwin is an accomplished veteran who racked up 962 receiving yards in 2017. There has been some speculation that Goodwin could play in the slot but don’t bet on that. He’s struggled in that role in previous stops and his track speed is better equipped to line up on the outside and run fly routes.

Receiver: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs. Greg Ward

Nelson Agholor is gone and the Eagles need a new slot receiver. Ward flashed promise when thrust into the role last year and the former practice-squad member proved to be a reliable security blanket for Carson Wentz. He finished with 28 catches for 254 yards. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside was underwhelming in his rookie year (10 catches, 169 yards) and the organization drew criticism for selecting him over DK Metcalf. While the Stanford product doesn’t have the necessary speed to man the slot, it’s a role he may need to embrace. He’s the prototypical possession receiver.

Cornerback: Cre’Von LeBlanc vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman

LeBlanc entered last year as a possible breakout star, an excellent slot cornerback who graded out at 85.6 in the 2018 postseason. Unfortunately, he suffered a Lisfranc sprain in training camp and saw action in just four games in 2019. He’s the front-runner to be the third defensive back in nickel packages. But the Eagles signed Robey-Coleman in free agency for a reason. He’s been among the best slot corners in the NFL since 2013. The former Ram allowed just 0.63 yards per slot coverage snap in 2019. If he loses the slot job, Robey-Coleman could compete for the starting spot on the outside opposite Darius Slay.

Quarterback: Jalen Hurts vs. Nate Sudfeld

There were erroneous reports last week that Sudfeld was the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback in Philly. That’s not the case. The fifth-year quarterback is the favorite to win the job and Pederson said he “fully expects” him to do so. But the battle to back up Carson Wentz is very much an open competition. The Eagles didn’t take Hurts in the second round to be a third-stringer. He’s going to have every opportunity to develop into the team’s long-term answer behind Wentz. Hurts owns a sterling reputation as a leader and won a national championship at Alabama. He is friends with Eagles rookie receivers Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor so there should be some built-in chemistry there. This might be the most exciting battle of camp.

Cornerback: Avonte Maddox vs. Sidney Jones

As stated above, don’t count out Robey-Coleman to enter this competition. For now, it’s a two-horse race between Maddox and Jones as the Eagles try to find out if they wasted two high draft picks on them. Maddox, a fourth-round pick in 2018, showed big-play potential while manning the slot corner role so he seems to have the inside track at a starting job on the outside. Jones, a second-round pick in 2017, has been drawing the dreaded bust label by some in the know. He started four games in 2019 with mixed results. The Washington product was the subject of trade rumors in the offseason but nothing happened. He’s back and this may be his last shot at earning a starting spot for the Eagles.

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Bonus Battle: Andre Dillard vs. Jason Peters

No one knows what is going to happen on the blindside. Pederson indicated he was confident in Dillard and said the former first-round pick had earned the starting role at left tackle. If that’s true, it’s mighty curious why the Eagles have kept in touch with Peters. The future Hall of Famer has made it clear he wishes to return to Philly and resume his role as “The Bodyguard.” Don’t rule out the organization bringing Peters back. And even if they don’t sign Peters, the left tackle spot won’t be handed to Dillard. He’ll have to win it by battling through his own mental issues — plus, a possible fight with rookie Prince Tega Wanogho.

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