Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) runs off the field after the game at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears 54-11. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles Veterans Atop Depth Chart Momentarily

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The Philadelphia Eagles completed their final OTA workout Thursday, and a mandatory mini-camp awaits next week (June 17-19).  For the majority of the OTA’s thus far, familiarity has become the norm in practice reps with veterans getting the primary work with the first string units.  Kyle Reese relayed to Sarah and John Connor the famous mantra that the future is not set ; and in the case of the Eagles depth chart, uncertainty remains for only a handful of positional battles.  Recently acquired free-agents will be able to learn subtle nuances with scheme, tempo, and jargon from the Eagles veterans which is a plus according to Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.  Throw it all together, and you have a situation that is enjoyable to dissect in the present moment, but has little to no bearing on the final roster’s depth chart.

While there is a spattering of youth and veteran(s) mixed at quarterback, for the Philadelphia Eagles the only true competition at the position lies with the backups as incumbent starter Nick Foles looks to build on last season’s performance.

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez(6) before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Recent acquisition Mark Sanchez worked with the second team during OTA’s and performed consistent to what he has in his entire professional career…which is to say he was inconsistent at best.  Unfortunately fellow backup Matt Barkley surpassed (insert passing joke here) Sanchez on the ineptitude scale.  Waiting behind both former USC Trojan quarterbacks is G.J. Kinne, who spent time on the Eagles practice squad last season.  While I have never been a fan of Mark Sanchez as a professional starting quarterback, I think he could flourish in a limited role for head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.  Additionally, Mark Sanchez has started more games at quarterback than the other Eagles quarterbacks have combined games dressed. Entering the season Sanchez, and not Barkley, should be the Eagles backup.

 

At the safety position, two Eagles veterans, Nate Allen and Nate Wolff, from a season ago look to gain the starting nod alongside Malcolm Jenkins. Nate Allen looks to be penciled in as the initial starter, but if Wolff can remain healthy I fully expect him to seize the starting job by the conclusion of preseason. The aforementioned Malcolm Jenkins gained repetitions with the first defensive unit, bucking a trend of Eagles veterans starting.  Earlier this week while meeting with the media, Chip Kelly gushed not only about Jenkins’ potential within defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ system, but also the 6th year safety’s career thus far.

Rob Ryan, who I have a ton of respect for, runs a pretty complicated defense in (New Orleans) and I think his ability to transition from that to ours, I think there are some similarities in terms of what we’re doing, but he’s been really, really good. He’s become the vocal leader on the backend for us.

Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are firmly entrenched as two starting wide receivers in 2014 for the Philadelphia Eagles.  However, after that the job is open for the taking by a litany of players including fan favorite, and rookie, Jordan Matthews.  Make no mistake fellow Eagles fans, when the regular season starts, unless there were injuries galore to the receiving corps, Brad Smith will not be working with the starting unit.

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another player to watch for both next week and the early parts of training camp will be wide receiver Jeff Maehl, who played in 11% of the Eagles offensive snaps last season.  While Maehl’s only career touchdown came with the Eagles down 39 points to the Denver Broncos, experience and familiarity with Chip Kelly could aid in, albeit limited, playing time for the Oregon Ducks alum.  After Cooper, Maclin, Matthews, and Maehl, rookie Josh Huff could push third year wide receiver Damaris Johnson to the unemployment line.  Often special teams is where final roster spots for wide receivers and running backs are ultimately decided, and it will be interesting to see whether Huff or Johnson can compete for a return specialist or gunner position.

 
For now in OTA’s, having the Eagles veterans demonstrating tempo, speed, and variations serves as just one more learning tool for the rookies and younger players.  And when the pads come on in the middle of July, there will be competition amongst all positions, regardless of who begins the process where.  Make no mistake however, Eagles veterans and rookies alike are all competing in a fluid depth chart that will certainly have the obligatory unexpected roster cuts unforeseen by any “experts” outside the NovaCare Center.  Let’s just hope that any and all roster decisions are made solely on competition and skill-set rather than injuries.

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