Sunday, July 24, 2016

The New-Look Eagles Open Training Camp

Change in the NFL is constant even with an established head coach at the helm so it should not come as any big surprise that the Eagles under first-year head coach Doug Pederson head to training camp this week with as many as 35 new faces in the fold. While many of these players will not be around when the final 53-man roster is finalized before the start of the 2016 regular season, the group of players that do make up this team will be radically different from the one that former head coach Chip Kelly led onto the field on opening day in 2015.

Sam Bradford remains the Eagles' starting quarterback, but all eyes will be on the development of the team's franchise quarterback of the future Carson Wentz. He was the second overall pick in this year's draft and he did not come cheap with Philly having to move up six spots to get him. Another draft pick that should capture some attention in training camp is running back Wendell Smallwood. There are definite question marks in the Eagles' running game and many NFL experts have gone on record that Smallwood does have what it takes to become a featured running back at this level.

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have his hands full trying to turn around a unit that was ranked near the bottom of the league in both points and yards allowed in 2015. The Eagles' run defense was the worst in the NFL; giving up an average of 134.6 yards a game. Defending the pass was not all that much better with a yards-allowed average of 267.1. Some of the new players to watch on this side of the ball include Rodney McLeod (safety), Leodis McKelvin (cornerback) and Ron Brooks (cornerback). Schwartz is counting on these three players to tighten up a very loose secondary that earned a dubious reputation for giving up quite a few big pass plays over the past few seasons.

Both Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor need to step up their game as the Birds' top two wide receivers and they could be looking over their shoulders a bit this season with the addition of free agents Rueben Randle and Chris Givens as additional targets for Bradford and possibly Wentz later in the season. All-in-all, the changes in personnel are a step in the right direction in what is shaping up to be a rebuilding process for the new coaching regime in town.

Optimism is always high this time of the year and with Cleveland coming to the Linc on opening day, Philly has a great shot at getting a fast start out of the gate. The true test for this new collection of Birds comes in Week 3 when the Pittsburgh Steelers make the cross-state trec to the City of Brotherly Love.

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