By Lewis Gould
Eagles’ training camp opens on July 23 for rookies and July 26 for veterans, and there is great hope and expectation that second-year quarterback Carson Wentz (above) is the real deal.
They got the talented Alshon Jeffery as well as deep threat Torrey Smith to join Jordan Matthews in three-wide sets.
After several injury-plagued seasons Jeffery is on a one-year “prove it” deal, and if he can stay healthy, he’s an absolute bargain. But training camp isn’t just about getting in football shape and perfecting the playbook. It’s about bonding with teammates on and off the field. Wentz got a head start with Jeffery, Smith,Nelson Agholor and Shelton Gibson in his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. Wentz showed real promise last year. In 2017, a better receiving corps, if healthy, should help turn that promise into more consistent results.
Jeffery’s health is of utmost importance.
He has the talent, size and speed to fit well in any system. In 2013 and 2014, he played all 32 games and averaged 87 catches for 1377 yard and 8.5 touchdowns per season. In the two years since, he’s played in just 21 games, averaging 53 catches for 814 yards and three scores per season. That’s a major drop. If Jeffery can make it through camp healthy — a big “if” — the Eagles will feel much more comfortable having a true No. 1 wide receiver on the roster. If he can’t, it’s back to the drawing board out wide. How the coaching staff manages his reps and preseason game action is worth watching.
The Eagles drafted defensive players with each of their first three picks back in April. Defensive end Derek Barnett went in the first round, cornerback Sidney Jones in the second and cornerback Rasul Douglas in the third.
Barnett wreaked havoc last year, recording 13 sacks in his junior year at Tennessee and becoming the school’s all-time career leader with 32. He’ll be counted on to be a contributor sooner rather than later.
Jones was one of the elite cornerbacks in college football last year, but he tore his Achilles at his Pro Day in March. The Eagles would be wise to take it slow with the former Washington Husky. Doctors say recovery should be six months at minimum, putting Jones’s return some time in September.
So he could play this year, but he also won’t be participating much in his rookie training camp, putting him squarely behind the eight ball. That leaves Douglas, who has great size at 6’2″ and 210 pounds. If he can hold his own in training camp, he could provide valuable depth. This cornerback group could certainly use that.