Eagles mailbag: The craziest position battle of training camp

·6 min read

Eagles mailbag: The craziest position battle of training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

We’re almost there. Promise.

The Eagles report for training camp on Tuesday and their first practice of the summer is scheduled for Wednesday. After an exciting offseason that raised expectations, we’ll finally get a chance to see this talented roster on the field.

I can’t wait. And judging by how many questions we got, you guys can’t either.

To the mailbag!

I can’t wait to watch the competition at cornerback. Even after cutting Craig James earlier this week, the Eagles have 12 (!) cornerbacks on their 90-man roster and most of them are young and unproven players. The starters are in stone: Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox are their top three and they form a formidable trio.

After that? The remaining nine cornerbacks on this team have an average age of 23.6 years old.

The Eagles kept just five cornerbacks on their initial 53-man roster in 2021, but even if we expect them to keep six, that means nine players are fighting for three jobs. It should be very stiff competition. Here’s a look at those nine players and their ages.

Zech McPhearson: 24

The Eagles used a fourth-round pick on McPhearson out of Texas Tech in 2021 and he served as their primary outside backup as a rookie. But because Slay and Steven Nelson stayed relatively healthy, he didn’t play very much. McPhearson played 184 defensive snaps and 53 of them came in the regular season finale. Still, in limited action, McPhearson held his own. I’d expect him to make the roster and be the primary backup outside again.

Tay Gowan: 24

I’m really looking forward to watching Gowan in training camp. He was part of the return from the Zach Ertz trade last season. The Cardinals’ sixth-round pick from UCF has the prerequisite length to play on the outside and has some flare to him.

Kary Vincent Jr.: 23

The Eagles traded for the LSU product in November, giving up a sixth-round pick. The Broncos used a seventh-rounder on Vincent a few months earlier. Vincent is a legitimate sprinter who competed in track at LSU. He’s just 5-10 but can play inside and out.

Josiah Scott: 23

Like the two above him, the Eagles traded for Scott too, sending a 2023 sixth-round pick and Jameson Houston to the Jaguars for him. Scott (5-9) is definitely a nickel-only corner but he also showed ability on special teams last year. Plus, his nickname — “The Gnat” — is one of the best on the team.

Mac McCain III: 24

The UDFA out of North Carolina A&T bounced around between the Eagles and Broncos last season. When the game of musical chairs ended, McCain was in Philly and signed a futures deal to return to training camp this summer.

Jimmy Moreland: 26

The Eagles already had a ton of young cornerback talent but couldn’t resist claiming Moreland when he was waived by the Texans in May. The oldest of this group, Moreland was drafted by Washington in the seventh round out of JMU in 2019. He also has the most experience of this group with 37 games and 10 starts under his belt. He has primary been a slot corner but can play outside too and some thing he has the ability to play safety.

Mario Goodrich: 22

We’ve reached the UDFAs, so I ordered them by most guaranteed money to least. Goodrich, the UDFA from from Clemson, received a guaranteed of $217K and a signing bonus of $10K. The Eagles went after undrafted players hard this year because they thought the pool of draftable players was much larger than the amount of picks in the seven rounds.

Josh Blackwell: 23

The UDFA from Duke got $137.5K guaranteed and a signing bonus of $12.5K.

Josh Jobe: 24

The UDFA from Alabama got $135K guaranteed and a signing bonus of $10K.

The Eagles won’t be able to keep all these young corners. A few of them will make the team, others will land on the practice squad and a few will likely end up elsewhere. But the competition this summer will be fierce.

I’ll stick with the theme here. If I had to name one guy, I’ll give you McPhearson. While I’m genuinely curious about Gowan, McPhearson is the guy who will have the most opportunity. The Eagles were able to stay very healthy at cornerback last season; Slay and Nelson started all 16 games before the meaningless regular season finale. Maybe that happens again with Slay and Bradberry but if either of them misses time, McPhearson is the next guy up.

There’s a lot to like about McPhearson. The Eagles really saw that on display at the 2021 Hula Bowl. Here’s my story about his showing that week under head coach Rex Ryan.

Keep an eye on the receiver position. On my upcoming 53-man roster projection, I have Jalen Reagor on the team partly because he was a first-round pick and partly because his cap hit. But if he gets outplayed in camp, he’s not safe. Another mainstay of the receiver room who is in serious danger is Greg Ward. He’s meant a lot to the team over the last few years but it’s a deeper group now with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal at the top and exciting newcomers like Britain Covey and Devon Allen. Ward might be one of the odd men out.

Nah, not cheap at all. If anything, you could argue that adding color schemes could create revenue because of merchandise sales. And this is the first season the NFL is allowing an alternate helmet. The Eagles really wanted to create a kelly green helmet so they can bring back kelly green jerseys as an alternate. But that process, Jeff Lurie explained in March, isn’t a short one. While the Eagles are working with Nike to bring back kelly green in 2023, they are taking advantage of the rule change to have a black alternate helmet in 2022. Eventually, the Eagles say, they want the rule to allow for two alternate helmets. That way they could keep the black and add the kelly green.

I’ll give you my go-to:

1. Shorti Italian hoagie. (Oil, lettuce, tomato, onion, the new hot pepper relish and pickles on the side)

2. Small lemonade-tea

3. Small bag of Funyuns

4. If I have money left over and have to use all $13, I’ll go with one of their most underrated items: The sweet cream cheese-filled pretzel under the heat lamp. Solid dessert.

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