The Eagles 2020 NFL Training Camp is in full session, and Philadelphia is using it to correct some of the problems from last year. Even though they were the 2019 NFC East Divisional Champs, that wasn’t an easy task. Nor were they solely responsible for doing it.
Mistakes, drops, and injuries held the team back most of the year, but thanks to issues on the other division rivals, they were able to put together a late run to take the Division.
In particular, two guys looking to make2020 a better season are defensive tackle Malik Jackson, and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Jackson was lost due to injury early in the season, and the rookie Arcega-Whiteside struggled to gain trust with his quarterback Carson Wentz.
JJ was forced into a role he clearly wasn’t prepared for. That’s not a knock on the wideout. Most rookies aren’t ready in year-one to take the starring role. But injuries to Alshon Jeffery, and DeSean Jackson, basically left him to learn on the fly.
He knows he wasn’t good enough. He’s admitted it. With a year under his belt, and the vets back and healthy, we should see a sharp turnaround.
Malik Jackson’s season wasn’t much different. He spent most of the year out with a foot injury, but he knows he has a lot of ground to make up because his 2018 year in Jacksonville wasn’t great either.
Both players have vowed to only learn from 2019, not dwell on it. This year’s camp is showing that so far.
The Eagles secondary was a liability at times last season, but so far this year, the added players are giving the unit some life. Free-agent signing, Nickell Robey-Coleman has had a couple of great interceptions, but according to reports from camp, that’s not all.
The predominantly slot-corner has been holding his own against the likes of DeSean Jackson and Greg Ward. Which is saying something, consider Jackson left new corner Darius Slay in the dust last week on a cut route.
Slay seems to have recovered from that, though, and showing that trading for him was the right move.
The group in the defensive backfield is not a sorry bunch. While the scheme has limited the use of some of their skills, Jalen Mills (recently moved to safety) and Rodney McLeod are in the backend, while right now, Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay are on the outside.
Maddox has had his struggles, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is putting him in specific roles to either build him up or show his weaknesses. As of now, he’s getting better. Especially against bigger-bodied receivers.
Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Cre’Von LeBlanc can play too. In 2018 they were forced into their roles, similar to Arcega-Whiteside. Injuries to the whole starting group except for safety Malcolm Jenkins put the young guys under the microscope.
They’ve improved, and as a unit, the secondary should be solid this year. Schwartz and head coach Doug Pederson seem to like what they see.
As to the offense, Wentz is building the necessary chemistry with his young receivers. Boise State stud John Hightower is taking every advantage he can with reps.
But the biggest beneficiary is the Eagles first-round pick, Jalen Reagor. Wentz had some strong comparisons when it came to the rookie. Below, he explains why he thinks Reagor can be like Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones:
“Well, first of all, Julio, I think he’s the best, one of the best at the very least. By no means am I saying this rookie is Julio Jones right now. Just the way that Jalen – his combination of speed and power – and just watching tape of Julio, I see some similarities with how they run routes.
“I think there’s a lot to learn from watching a guy like Julio that I really challenged him to kind of dissect his game and try to model it to some extent, which in my opinion there’s no better player to model it after than arguably one of the best receivers in the game right now.
“By no means was I saying [Reagor is] at that level. I would never say that to a guy like Julio. But it’s really a feather in the cap to Julio because of his greatness and what I see the potential for Jalen to be and how he really moves and runs routes, his explosiveness that he brings to the table.”
Nonetheless, we should see a lot of excitement from the receiving corps this year. The Eagles have a lot of speed, big bodies, proven vets, and improving young guys. As long as everyone can stay healthy, mistakes from last year should be forgotten.
Not a lot of reason to talk up the running backs. You can read my story on them here, but one thing to add, Elijah Holyfield is impressing the coaching staff. If they keep four backs, he’s the leader, beating out the rookies thus far.
Jalen Hurts is having a great camp as well. Coaches and players are in awe of his athleticism, ability to fit throws into tight windows, confidence, and mobility.
Now, I know you’re saying, yeah, we knew this already. Hurts wasn’t a standard quarterback at either Alabama or Oklahoma. Both systems played to his skill set, although he was more of a passer in the quarterback-friendly scheme Lincoln Riley uses in Norman, OK.
Eagles 2020 OUTLOOK
This team is shaping up nicely. While there are some injuries on the report, most are illnesses (can’t speculate, and not designated on the COVID list), tight end Dallas Goedert has the worst with a hairline fracture in his thumb. But he shouldn’t miss any regular-season time.
Philadelphia seems to have depth everywhere. Especially in the key spots at receiver, on the offensive and defensive lines, and in the secondary. The main area of worry would be the linebacking crew. They’re young and mostly unproven. So if they don’t get it together before they start playing for real, that’s where opposing teams will try to exploit.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should be able to scheme for weaknesses. The Eagles have guys on the line that can stand up and cover if need be, and we know defensive end Brandon Graham is actually more effective when he lines up inside.
It’s still early in this 2020 NFL Training Camp, but this shortened offseason makes it difficult to address a weakness. The 2020 Eagles cannot afford to get too far into the season, trying to figure themselves out. That has to be done now, in camp.
Without preseason games, it’s difficult, but not impossible. Everyone is in the same boat. The Eagles need to plug the holes, so it doesn’t take on water, like in the recent past. They’re doing a good job of it so far, let’s hope that stays the case.