The Philadelphia Eagles play meaningful football in five days. The team released its latest depth chart on Tuesday, an unofficial list compiled by the Eagles media relations department. Still, there is plenty to glean upon first glance.
For example, preseason standout Quez Watkins replaces Greg Ward as the starting slot receiver. It’s not a shocking move considering the way Watkins wowed throughout training camp and joint practices. And it should be noted that head coach Nick Sirianni has gone on record about his desire to move every receiver all over the formation. Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith are listed as the starters on the outside, but expect them to see inside snaps as well.
“I know you guys have asked me a couple times about a slot or an ‘X’ or a ‘Z,’ and I’m speaking obviously right now as a receiver group,” Sirianni told reporters on Aug. 31. “We do things by committee, and I feel really comfortable and really confident in the guys that we have on this roster right now to be able to run the offense that we want to run. We have guys to be able to do that, whether it’s option routes, whether that’s forced blocks, whether that’s speed routes.”
The tight end spot is another interesting area on the depth chart. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are listed in tandem, with no clear indication of which player will start. Jalen Hurts is listed as QB1 and Miles Sanders as RB1. The starting offensive line features Jordan Mailata (left tackle), Isaac Seumalo (left guard), Jason Kelce (center), Brandon Brooks (right guard), Lane Johnson (right tackle). Brett Toth is the primary backup at right tackle; Andre Dillard at left tackle.
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Genard Avery Takes Over Starting SAM Spot
The Eagles attempted to convert Genard Avery to a defensive end after trading for him in 2019. He finished with two sacks and eight quarterback hits over those two seasons. Now he’s moving to SAM linebacker in new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme.
Look for him to possibly play the Joker role, too. Avery was a pass-rushing linebacker as a rookie in Cleveland’s 3-4 defense when he racked up a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2018. He’ll be joined by newly-minted captain Alex Singleton (WILL) and Eric Wilson (MIKE). T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Patrick Johnson round out the second unit. And Shaun Bradley was bumped to third team.
No other real surprises on defense. Steven Nelson and Darius Slay are the starting outside cornerbacks, with Avonte Maddox manning the nickel spot. Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are the two safeties. The starting defensive tackles are Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox, with Hassan Ridgeway and Milton Williams backing them up. Brandon Graham is one starting defensive end, with Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat in a timeshare on the other side.
No Clear-Cut Kick or Punt Returner
It looked like Jalen Reagor would be the lead punt returner, but his name is listed alongside DeVonta Smith and Greg Ward at that position. The Eagles are likely to use a committee approach there until a clear-cut winner emerges.
Ditto for kick returner. Boston Scott was the best player there in 2020, but Kenneth Gainwell and Quez Watkins are in the mix for that job in 2021.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” special teams coordinator Michael Clay said. “There could be an explosive play on offense, and we can’t use them at the special teams situation. That’s why we have another guy in the holster ready to go to excel at the same, maybe even better at that level.”