Eagles Players to Watch: Preseason Week 1
It has been a long and crazy offseason in Philadelphia with coaching changes, Franchise Quarterbacks being traded, and Heisman Trophy winners being drafted. Finally, we get to see the new era of the Philadelphia Eagles take the field Thursday night at 7:30 PM against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are some names to keep an eye on in Preseason Week 1:
This is the obvious answer. The Eagles have yet to commit to Hurts as their Franchise Quarterback or even their starting Quarterback for the 2021 season, putting the spotlight directly on Hurts to perform and earn the job. Hurts has reportedly had a solid camp so far, nothing too great or too poor, and we will get to see how he performs against another opponent. One aspect of Hurts' game that he doesn't get to showcase in practice is his running ability. I expect the Eagles to limit those designed rushing plays for the second year Quarterback throughout the preseason as well. The Eagles need to find out if Hurts is the 52% passer he was last season, or if he is the 70% passer we saw his last season at Oklahoma. Hurts is a natural born leader, a rare bread in today's NFL. He embodies everything Philadelphia loves in a professional athlete. Hurts is a hard worker, doesn't back down from a fight, and he is very mature for just being in his second season. He has all of the off the field tools needed to be a Franchise Quarterback, and the Eagles are going to find out if he has what it takes on the field as well. If Hurts can prove to be the Franchise Quarterback, the Eagles rebuild process will speed up very quickly.
One of the most exciting players of Eagles camp so far has been Quez Watkins. The second year WR looks to make that huge leap this season. One of, if not the weakest positions on the Eagles is the WR position. It has the biggest question marks on the roster because of the lack of veterans in the group. Greg Ward has been the most productive NFL WR on the Eagles roster. It is shocking enough that the Eagles WR to keep an eye on isn't either of the previous two 1st round selections, but it is a 6th round pick from last year in Quez Watkins. Watkins has been making spectacular plays all of camp so far, running past defenders, diving grabs, and even coming down with 50/50 balls.
The Eagles unquestioned WR1 is first round pick DeVonta Smith. After Smith, the rest is up for grabs. Watkins is the Eagles fastest WR, running a 4.36 40 yard dash, and if his play from camp carries into the Preseason games, Watkins could find himself in the starting rotation at WR.
The 2018 4th round pick is entering his 4th season with the Eagles. Sweat has served as a rotational piece so far throughout his career, but right now he is the Eagles favorite to play opposite of Brandon Graham. Sweat is just 24 years old with a lot of football ahead of him, and from his play in camp, it looks like a breakout season could be in the works.
Sweat has been in the backfield more than the Eagles' offense would like so far in camp, and it will be interesting to see how he plays against the run against another opponent. Sweat has always been a good pass rusher, but if he shows improvement against the run, the Eagles defense could shock people in 2021.
The Eagles 4th round pick has been one of the defensive standouts thus far in training camp, making big plays every day. The Eagles recently signed veteran corner Steven Nelson to a 1 year deal to play opposite of Darius Slay, but if McPhearson shines through the preseason, the Eagles could slide Nelson inside to the slot. McPhearson has already been the next guy up on the outside, filling in for Darius Slay on off days.
The Eagles have lacked youth and talent at the CB position for quite a while, and if McPhearson proves to be a steal in the 4th round, it would be a great thing for the future of the franchise.
The Eagles 3rd round selection very likely could make an early impact on the defense. Williams has been playing both DT and DE so far in camp. For a rookie to come in and learn two positions in his first camp is a very positive sign for the intelligence and skill of the player. Williams is one of those guys that shocks you with his athleticism, especially for his size. He has the rare combination of size, strength and athleticism that thrives in today's NFL.
The versatility will pay off early for the 22 year old as he looks to get on the field on a crowded defensive line. Williams has played more at DT than he has DE in camp, and it will be interesting to see where and when the Eagles use Williams throughout the preseason.