The starters are set at just about every position for the Eagles, taking away much of the anticipation over position battles when training camp begins next Tuesday.
But there will be some veterans who could be on the verge of losing starting jobs. It might not happen in training camp, or even early in the season. But it could eventually happen as the season goes along.
We saw this last season, when safety Marcus Epps worked his way into a rotation with veteran starters Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris. And we certainly saw it when linebackers TJ Edwards and Davion Taylor took starting jobs away from Alex Singleton and Eric Wilson. Singleton got his job back when Taylor suffered a knee injury later on, and Wilson was simply released.
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Even at wide receiver, Quez Watkins, drafted in the sixth-round in 2020, found himself playing more than 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor.
Here, then, are five veterans who could end up losing playing time this season, with the young players who could end up replacing them.
1. Fletcher Cox/Jordan Davis, defensive tackle
The Eagles didn’t trade up two spots to draft Davis in the first round for him not to play this season. So it hardly matters that Davis is behind two Pro Bowl players in Cox, who was selected to six straight from 2015-20, and Javon Hargrave, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season.
Combined, Cox and Hargrave will count about $27 million in average annual salary this season. They played 66% and 65% of the defensive snaps, respectively, last season. It was the most among the defensive linemen, even though the Eagles use a rotation.
Davis is expected to cut significantly into that percentage, most likely at Cox’s expense. Cox is 31 years old and was released, then re-signed to a one-year contract last spring. Cox also had just 3.5 sacks for the second time in three seasons, and bristled at times at Jonathan Gannon’s read-and-react approach.
But fewer snaps could serve to maximize Cox’s effectiveness, especially on passing downs. Davis, at 6-foot-6, 336 pounds, is better suited to play Gannon’s read-and-react defense.
2. Isaac Seumalo/Cam Jurgens, right guard
The Eagles drafted Jurgens in the second round as the heir apparent at center to Jason Kelce. That’s obviously not happening this season with Kelce back for a 12th season and coming off arguably the best season of his career.
But the Eagles made it clear that Jurgens can play right guard, even though he played center in every single game while at Nebraska. Kelce has raved about Seumalo’s ability, intelligence and character. But Seumalo, who primarily started at left guard since 2018, is moving to right guard after suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury last September.
Seumalo revealed during the spring that he had two surgeries on his foot, and hopes to be fully cleared by the start of training camp. But he’ll have competition both from Jurgens and Jack Driscoll, who started six games at right guard last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
This will easily be the best battle of training camp and into the season.
3. TJ Edwards/Nakobe Dean, linebacker
The Eagles were pleasantly surprised when Dean, considered a first-round pick, fell to the third round after teams were scared off by reports saying he needed surgery for a pectoral muscle injury.
Dean said that surgery was not needed, and he had no issues during spring practices. It’s expected that he’ll be fine once training camp begins. How soon he plays will depend on how quickly he picks up the defense. Considering that Dean was an honors student at Georgia, that shouldn’t take long.
Edwards is certainly serviceable, and played well after taking over the starting job last season. But the Eagles drafted Dean and signed free agent Kyzir White from the Chargers, so it’s quite possible Edwards could be the odd man out as a full-time starter.
4. Anthony Harris/K’Von Wallace, safety
We’re going to assume that Epps and Harris will be the starters with Jaquiski Tartt penciled in as the third safety. But keep an eye on Wallace, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2020. Both Harris and Tartt were signed to one-year deals, and both are 30 years old.
So it’s possible that Wallace, who has already established himself on special teams, could start getting some chances if Harris, Epps or Tartt falter during the season. A strong training camp could really help Wallace’s cause.
5. Miles Sanders/Kenny Gainwell, running back
Ideally, Sanders stays healthy this season, proves he can be a three-down back and rushes for more than 1,000 yards.
If that happens, Gainwell, the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in 2021, will be mostly relegated to a reserve role, only getting a chance when Sanders needs a break during the course of a game.
But that hasn’t happened in Sanders’ three seasons.
Sanders missed nine games combined in the last two seasons, and has yet to surpass 867 yards rushing in a season. And after a strong rookie season catching the ball in 2019, Sanders has struggled to some extent as a pass receiver. Sanders is also in the final year of his contract.
If Sanders lives up to expectations, he could price himself out of returning. If he doesn’t, the Eagles might not want him back anyway. Much of that depends on Gainwell. He showed flashes last season, with 291 yards rushing and 251 yards receiving. Gainwell also had 6 TDs (5 rushing, 1 receiving) last season, or 6 more than Sanders had.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles’ training camp: 5 veterans who could end up losing starting jobs