POSITION TO WATCH: OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH
The Eagles offensive and defensive starting lines are pretty solid for the most part despite the question marks at the left guard spot. Similar to the defensive line, the depth behind the starters is a huge area of concern for this team entering the 2016 season. Free agent signee Brandon Brooks will be a welcomed addition to the right guard spot and provide a toughness which was desperately missing from the position last season. Allen Barbre is penciled in as the starter at left guard despite his underwhelming performance in 2015. Barbre seems to have the backing from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and head coach Doug Pederson giving him an upper hand on the reserves. The team carried 9 offensive linemen last season and will more than likely do the same possibly even 10 based on the health of Jason Peters. Veteran Stefan Wisniewski was signed to a one year deal in the offseason to help provide depth at the center and guard position. Isaac Seamulo was drafted in the 3rd round from Oregon State bringing the same versatility as Wisniewski. Seamulo was forced to miss OTA’s due to NCAA rules so his chances of becoming a starter right away are slim because of the catching up he’ll be doing with the playbook and his teammates. Despite that, I loved the Seamulo pick and think he’s going to be a valuable piece to this offensive line in the near future whether he’s playing guard or center. The tackle depth is where it gets shaky as Dennis Kelly is the potential first man up if either Peters or Lane Johnson suffers an injury. Kelly and former starting right guard, Matt Tobin, are two of the worst offensive linemen in this league yet they have still managed to find their way on the roster. I’m predicting at least one of these two dogs won’t be facing the Browns in Week 1. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, commonly referred to as Big V, was drafted in the 5th round out of TCU as another possible option at tackle. The development of Big V will take some time even though I believe he’ll make the 53 he’s not likely to dress for many games early. Another player to keep an eye on for depth is undrafted rookie free agent Darrell Greene from San Diego State. Greene was listed as one of the better rated guards in the draft class, but his off the field issues resulted in him going undrafted. The Eagles gave Greene the most guaranteed money of any UDFA in the league, $105,000. Greene is the type of powerful and aggressive run blocker that Doug Pederson appears to be shaping his offensive line around. Seamulo, Greene, and Barbre are the three players I’ll be paying closest attention to along the line.
COACH TO WATCH: GREG LEWIS (WIDE RECEIVERS)
Greg Lewis is the only wide receiver in Eagles history to catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl and this season he’ll return to the franchise as the wide receivers coach. Lewis played for the Eagles from 2003 through 2008 then finished his NFL career with the Patriots and Vikings in 2011. This will be the fifth different job for Lewis since he was an intern in 2012 for the Andy Reid-led Eagles. Lewis has coached for the University of San Diego, San Jose State, Pitt, and his first stint as an NFL coach last season with the Saints. He turned 36 in February and will be in charge of a young wide receiver group. Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Josh Huff all have less than three years experience in the league. Even offseason acquisition, Rueben Randle, is only 25 years of age. Lewis made a point to stress catching the football as his top priority for the Eagles wideouts. As we all know the Eagles were plagued by season long drops from the wide receiver position. Nelson Agholor will be the man to watch in camp after his subpar rookie campaign and recent off the field issues which hopefully are behind him. Doug Pederson will be running a pro-style offense requiring the wide receivers to run more standard routes than they were asked in the Chip Kelly offense. Lewis brings playing experience from the likes of Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, and Brett Favre. He’s also coached under Andy Reid and Sean Payton, two of the more respected coaches in the league. I think Lewis is an under the radar hire for the Eagles and a guy who can relate with the young players on this roster.
PLAYER TO WATCH: TREY BURTON
Doug Pederson has discussed the tight end position in the Eagles offense and how it will be utilized in more sets. Both Zach Ertz and Brent Celek earned contract extensions in the offseason providing the offense with a more than adequate pair. The third tight end on the roster is third year man Trey Burton who could see an increased role this season. Burton is a versatile player who previously played wide receiver, tight end, quarterback, and H-back while at Florida. He’s been able to stick on the roster the past two seasons because of his special teams impact which will certainly help moving forward as well. Pederson has stated he plans on using a fullback in his offense which the Eagles had no need for the past three years under Chip Kelly. There are no established fullbacks on this roster creating an opportunity to be used at both tight end and fullback filling two positions with one player. The Kansas City Chiefs offense featured the tight end a lot with Pro Bowler Travis Kelce and reserve Demetrius Harris. Fullback Anthony Sherman was effective in the passing game as well. Burton has not seen a lot of targets during his time in midnight green, but he’s shown the ability to get open and catch the ball when called upon. Burton winning the fullback job and being flexed as a tight end as well would be a facet of the offense which intrigues me. As mentioned before, Burton is a maven on special teams and will likely be on the roster even if he’s not a big contributor on offense.