Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
With training camp just around the corner, there will be a few starting spots up for grabs on the Eagles roster. These positions will be won and lost during training camp and throughout preseason. I will break down the starting positions below that are available and who I predict will win the job and get the majority of snaps next season
Eagles tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will be competing for the majority of playing time at tight end. Both Celek and Ertz will find themselves on the field next season but I believe Ertz will take the majority of snaps. Ertz is an extremely versatile weapon as he can line up in the slot whereas Celek is more restricted as a standard tight end. Ertz playing time increased as the season went on and he produced some great displays; his two touchdown performance against the Arizona Cardinals stands out as his best game. However, head coach Chip Kelly’s offense is based around running the football and Celek is a superior blocker at this moment in time which could keep him on the field for the majority of snaps. Pro Football Focus ranked Celek as the second best run blocking tight end in the league with an extremely high run blocking grade of +13. Ertz’s run blocking over the first half of the season was graded at -0.1 but his run blocking over the second half of the season was graded at +2.6. If Ertz can continue to improve his blocking he will become the unquestioned starting tight end next year as he is a better receiver than Celek.
Majority of snaps – Zach Ertz
Many people do not believe there is a competition for outside linebacker but I think first round pick Marcus Smith has a chance to take over from Trent Cole towards the end of the season. Cole was superb last year at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run but he really struggles in coverage.
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He was on the field for 908 snaps last season and was only in coverage for 117 of these (13%). Smith should be a lot better than Cole in coverage and this would give defensive coordinator Billy Davis the chance to be more creative when blitzing and use Cole as a rotational pass rusher. However, I believe Cole will have the majority of snaps throughout the season whilst Smith develops.
Majority of snaps – Trent Cole
The Eagles have three possible starting cornerbacks; Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Nolan Carroll competing for two starting jobs. I would expect Williams to start because he is seen as one of the leaders in the secondary and has a high salary. I think Fletcher will be beaten out by newly acquired Nolan Carroll as I was impressed when I watched Carroll play last year for the Miami Dolphins. Many Dolphins fans I spoke to were upset to see him leave and all reporters at the Eagles minicamp came away extremely impressed by him despite the fact he could not play his normal game. Carroll is normally extremely physical at the line of scrimmage and is very good at tackling as well; missing only 3 tackles last season. Quarterbacks had a rating of 82 when throwing at Fletcher last season and only a rating of 65 when throwing at Carroll.
Majority of snaps – Cary Williams and Nolan Carroll
Eagles safetys Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will compete to start alongside free agent signing Malcolm Jenkins. I really like Wolff but I would be very surprised to see him take the starting job away from Allen. Allen has struggled a lot in his young career but having the same defensive coordinator for another year for the first time in his career should help him. Allen was one of the most underrated Eagles last year in my opinion; playing alongside Patrick Chung could not have been easy for anyone. Allen is a very average safety but he is at least consistent, Wolff struggled with consistency and injuries in his first year and unless he performs exceptionally well in preseason, I except Allen to keep his starting job. I believe they gave Allen a new contract to start and not to back up Wolff.
Majority of snaps – Nate Allen