Before training camp started, I broke down five key Eagles position battles to watch this summer: Nickel corner, third safety, weakside linebacker, running back and defensive line.  

Now, that we’ve finally reached the first off day of training camp, it’s time to give an update on the progress of each, with an updated prediction of how it all shakes out. 

Nickel corner 

7/26: Sidney Jones gets most of the first-team reps at nickel corner spot. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby both take their positions outside. On one particular play, Jones looks great covering Markus Wheaton. De’Vante Bausby, Avonte Maddox and D.J. Killings work as reserves. Malcolm Jenkins does get some snaps in the slot as Tre Sullivan comes on the field as a safety. 

7/27: Bausby gets first-team reps today, which forces Jones to the second team as an outside corner. Not too much to talk about with Bausby; he was solid. Jones looks great in coverage with the twos but does get called for an obvious DPI. 

7/28: Jones is back with the first team. He looks good, but nothing spectacular. He definitely has good instincts flying to the ball as a tackler. Bausby gets beaten badly during 1-on-1s by Wheaton, but those drills are hard on DBs. 


7/29: Bausby returns to the first team, which means Jones is pushed back with the twos. Jones gets called for a penalty during 1-on-1s for holding. It is the second obvious flag he’s drawn during camp. Bausby has a good day. Maddox works with the second team and is up and down. 

Updated prediction: Through the first four days, it looks like this competition will come down to Jones vs. Bausby. I’m sticking with Jones. I think he’s the guy. 

Third safety 

7/26: Chris Maragos is put on PUP as training camps starts, so he’s not available. When Jenkins moves down into the slot, Sullivan is the next man up, playing alongside Rodney McLeod. Otherwise, Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves are second-string safeties. Reaves has a nice INT. 

7/27: We don’t see Jenkins in the slot today, so the third safety isn’t on the field with the ones. Sullivan and Reaves are the next two guys with the twos. Nothing major to talk about. 

7/28: Sullivan is already starting to separate himself, getting time in the three-safety package again. He seems like the guy for now. Reaves will need to catch up. 

7/29: Sullivan picks off Carson Wentz with a really nice grab and continues to look good in 1-on-1s, which, as I mentioned, are hard on DBs. Meanwhile, Reaves struggles some there. 

Updated prediction: I still think there’s a chance the Eagles sign a guy like Corey Graham off the street, but for now, Sullivan looks good. He might be good enough to keep Howie Roseman from making a call. 

Weakside linebacker 

7/26: Corey Nelson begins the day as the first-stringer, but Kamu Grugier-Hill also gets snaps. Nate Gerry works exclusively with the second team. 

7/27: The team goes with two linebackers during team drills so none of the guys get on the field with the first team. Gerry has a tough rep in coverage with the second team. His inexperience shows a little bit. 

7/28: When the Eagles finally get into their base package (it takes a while) Gerry gets first-team reps, ahead of the other two. An interesting thing to note: a couple times, Jordan Hicks is outside at WILL with Nigel Bradham at SAM, while Joe Walker is at MIKE. 

7/29: Gerry and Grugier-Hill split the first-team reps at WILL. Gerry makes a tremendous diving pass breakup that energized the defense. 

Updated prediction: I said Grugier-Hill in the initial piece, but I have no idea. This really seems like it could be any one of these guys. The preseason games might determine the winner of this one. 

Running back

7/26: Jay Ajayi gets the first crack with the offense, but Darren Sproles and Corey Clement work in as first-teamers. This is the first time for Sproles in 11-on-11s since his injuries. Josh Adams is finally able to practice after missing time in spring with an injury. Matt Jones is still huge physically, but behind top three on the depth chart. 


7/27: Ajayi gets first reps and then Sproles and Clement get mixed in again. Ajayi makes a really impressive catch going away from his momentum, but it’s a rare case where he really shows great ability as a pass-catcher. Pumphrey looks bigger, but still needs to be more decisive when he gets the ball. Pump is already much better than last year. 

7/28: For the first time this summer, Clement is on the field first in 11-on-11s, followed by Ajayi and then Sproles. Pump has a big blitz pickup on a blitzing Grugier-Hill. Matt Jones drops a pass deep down the field. 

7/29: Ajayi gets the first rep of team period and busts through the line. Clement and Sproles are sprinkled in again. Jones gets a rep or two with the first team, which might mean he has a slight edge to make the roster. Wendell Smallwood has a nice day, showing some burst through the line and his ability to catch. 

Updated prediction: All three of the top guys on the depth chart are going to play this year. I’m curious to see if Ajayi is really a three-down guy, because Sproles and Clement are much better pass-catchers. Jones probably has a lead to win the fourth job, but Pumphrey and Smallwood have a chance too. Josh Adams will need to show much more to have a chance at the 53. 

Defensive line

7/26: Tim Jernigan is placed on the NFI and Brandon Graham is placed on the PUP; neither can practice. The starters are (from left to right) Chris Long, Fletcher Cox, Destiny Vaeao and Derek Barnett. The second string: Michael Bennett, Elijah Qualls, Haloti Ngata, Josh Sweat. Means is pushed to third string, but gets a sack. This is the first time Ngata is a full practice participant with the Eagles. 

7/27: Not much else to report from Day 2. Same starters and second team. Pads go on tomorrow and we’ll see more.  

7/28: Same starters. Cox has a big wrecking play. Ngata praises Vaeao, who is in front of him as a starter right now. Sweat has a nice moment, gets in the backfield and knock down a pass. 

7/29: Barnett makes a nice play, slicing through the offensive line to bat down a pass from Nick Foles. Bennett struggles in the 2-on-2 DL vs. OL drills against young players, but he was perhaps working on different moves. Qualls performs well in those drills

Updated prediction: I think it’s going to be hard for anyone to take that starting gig away from Barnett, which might mean Bennett starts the season as a backup. That’s wild, to have a Pro Bowler coming off the bench. I’m really doubting if Jernigan will play a role for the team this year after his injury. That could be a problem.

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