Eagles

Best training camp battle, offensive philosophy, more in Eagles mailbag

Eagles

The Eagles are deep in the middle of training camp and sometimes I see so many questions come in on Twitter that I never get to answer.

So with a players day off, I decided to put out a call for questions and finally answer some. As always, thanks for your patience and thanks for all the great questions this week.

Here are the first batch:

I wish I could tell you it has been the left tackle battle. That was the biggest one coming into camp and I was really looking forward to watching it. It’s kind of been a dud. Because Andre Dillard has struggled at times and Jordan Mailata has looked extremely impressive. I’m about ready to call this one.

So what has been the most competitive battle?

I’ll say the battle at running back. We know that Miles Sanders is the starter and based on reps in training camp, Boston Scott is clearly the No. 2. But after that, rookie Kenny Gainwell, second-year guy Jason Huntley and veterans Kerryon Johnson and Jordan Howard are battling it out to make the roster and then to get some playing time this season. The reason I think this has been the most competitive battle is because all four of those players — Gainwell, Huntley, Johnson and Howard — have had really good moments through the first eight practices. Here’s a little synopsis of each:

Kenny Gainwell: He got off to a slow start but that’s to be expected from a fifth-round pick out of Memphis who opted out of the 2020 season. He had to adjust to NFL speed while kicking off rust. What we have seen from Gainwell is his ability as a receiver out of the backfield, which is where he could make an immediate impact with this team.

 

Jason Huntley: I didn’t know what to expect from Huntley. The Eagles claimed him from the Lions after final cuts last year and he was mostly an afterthought. But this summer it has become clear why the Eagles kept him around. He can fly. It seems like just about every day he’s breaking off an explosive run.

Kerryon Johnson: Another former Lions running back, I had questions about how Johnson would look. I know he’s just 24 but he has had knee injuries and I wondered if he’d have any bounce left. He does. He hasn’t been spectacular during camp, but he doesn’t look like a washed up running back either.

Jordan Howard: I’ve also been impressed with the 26-year-old Howard, who is getting a lot of carries with the second team, more than the others. I don’t know if he’ll ever get back to being the guy he was early in his career, but I’ve been impressed by him this camp.

Yeah, there’s no doubt this offense is going to be different than the one Doug Pederson ran. The Eagles just got through their offensive install so we’ve gotten an extended look at the concepts in the offense and a few things stick out. The receivers are going to be more interchangeable. The screen game is going to be emphasized. And Sirianni is going to find ways to get the ball to his playmakers to let them create; he thinks big plays don’t have to come from shots down the field. We’re also going to see more pre-snap motion.

As far as run-pass philosophy, I don’t expect this team to become a run-first offense like the Titans, but they’re going to run more. Some of that is natural with Jalen Hurts as the quarterback but I’d expect the running backs to play a bigger role too.

Don’t know about the lunch menu. I’ll have to do more digging.

As for the surprises from training camp, there have been a few players who have been pleasant surprises. I mentioned Huntley above and he certainly qualifies. The fact that the left tackle competition hasn’t been much of a competition is equal parts surprising and disappointing.

A few more players who have been pleasant surprises: TE Tyree Jackson, CB Zech McPhearson and DE Josh Sweat. Sweat looks poised to have a double digit sack season.

Jalen Reagor and John Hightower have had good moments. Between the two of them, they have the two best catches of training camp. Hightower’s was a leaping grab down the left sideline and Reagor’s was an unbelievable one-handed grab over Darius Slay in the end zone.

 

But I think Quez Watkins is having a better camp. It got off to a slow start because he had a non-COVID illness but since he’s been back on the field, he’s looked very good. He’s been the most consistent of the three. He makes plays every day, he’s improved as a route runner and he seems to have natural chemistry with Jalen Hurts. I’ve been very impressed by him so far.

This question seems like a reaction based on the first eight days of practice. After each session, the Eagles actually name a winner. I’d estimate that the defense has won around 6 of the 8 days so far. But I wouldn’t be too worried about the offense just yet. They spent the first eight practices installing their scheme, so now everything they run will be the second time through. And, typically, defenses are ahead of offenses this time of year.

Another important note: The Eagles have been running their first team without their two starting guards and without DeVonta Smith. I know injuries are a part of the game but those are three key players and all three are expected back for the opener.

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast:

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube