The Philadelphia Eagles are just a month away from meaningful football. With preseason games on the horizon and training camp winding down, players are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.
Today we’ll look at seven Eagles players to watch heading into the preseason and the 2022 season. We’ll be looking at players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, prioritized by the importance of their positions.
Jalen Hurts – Quarterback
Jalen Hurts is heading into year 3 of the 4-year deal he signed in 2020. Years 2 through 3 are when quarterbacks are expected to take a bigger leap and earn bigger deals. If Jalen does not take this leap, it’s very likely the Eagles go in a different direction in 2023. He is the most important piece of the Eagles roster and story heading into this season, and the offense will go as he goes.
Where the Eagles can be a top rushing team again, Jalen’s ceiling (and arm) will dictate how far this team can go in the conference and postseason. Reports out of camp have been up and down, but Jalen’s stock is rising.
He showed off his legs and arm during Sunday night’s practice, and his chemistry with AJ Brown grows by the day. His downfield accuracy and decision-making are his biggest opportunities. 2022 is his true audition, his time.
AJ Brown – Wide Receiver
It’s impossible to mention Jalen Hurts and not AJ Brown because they compliment each other. If you’ve kept up with camp, it’s clear that Brown has been the most explosive player on the field. He’s given a downfield presence and the ability for endless yards after the catch.
Where Brown has obvious talent and clear chemistry with Hurts, his role comes with a lot of pressure. The Eagles haven’t had a 1,000-yard wide receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. AJ Brown’s drop rate was one of his few flaws in 2021, and the pressure of a big sign and trade to succeed is huge.
Brown is currently shining, and his confidence is sky high. He’s a person to watch optimistically, but cautiously as well.
Jordan Davis – Defensive Tackle
Jordan Davis is one to watch because he’s likely to be the successor of Fletcher Cox, barring anything dramatic. After drawing comparisons to Aaron Donald around draft time, Davis is making huge strides in Eagles camp.
Between blowing up the offensive line and being a presence in the gaps, he’s making himself known. Some would say blocking in pads isn’t a true indicator of talent, and current opinions appear to be a mixed bag due to his weight and big shoes to fill.
Luckily for Davis, he has that dog mentality (no pun intended) and is surrounded by a ton of pass-rushing and run-stopping talent on the Eagles’ front 7. Look for Gannon to feature Davis at defensive tackle in the Eagles depth chart early and often in hopes of grooming him into the next Fletcher Cox.
James Bradberry – Cornerback
Some would say James Bradberry has it easy, being on the opposite side of Darius slay. He comes with a solid resume, being a previous pro-bowler and one of the highlights on last year’s New York Giants defense.
Being bigger and physical at 6-foot, 190 pounds, he can handle receivers physically but excels in zone coverage. Slay is a perfect compliment to him, excelling in man-to-man coverage. Bradberry has to prove he can hold his own, opposite of Slay, as the Eagles have struggled to keep a consistent duo of cornerbacks. He’s definitely one of the Eagles to watch this season.
Marcus Epps – Safety
Marcus Epps is the favorite to win the free safety starting job. He’s come a long way from his rookie struggles, is taking first-team practices as of late, and gaining confidence. One would say Epps hasn’t had enough experience in a starting role, but the coaches and players are speaking highly of him during Eagles camp.
Epps had the luxury of lining up with Rodney McLeod last season but now has the challenge without said, proven veteran. It’s time for Epps to prove himself. 2021 was a great indicator of what his potential could be, as he graded out as a pretty solid safety by the season’s end.
Kenneth Gainwell – Running Back
Miles Sanders gets a lot of the attention, but Kenneth Gainwell deserves to shine as well. He turned in a very promising rookie season in 2021. His 291 rushing yards and five touchdowns don’t necessarily light up a stat sheet, but you absolutely want your second running back to average over 4 yards a carry.
Gainwell is a pure downhill runner who is a perfect compliment to Sanders and is dangerous down at the goal line. You could argue he has the best vision of any running back on the roster. Gainwell could potentially make a great successor if the Eagles moved on from Miles Sanders for whatever reason.
He’s one to watch because he could be groomed as the future running back, or potentially be flipped for value if Sanders stays. Doubt that happens, but he’s vital to a top-rushing offense in 2022; that’s why he’s one of the Eagles to watch this season.
Nakobe Dean – Linebacker
How long have we waited for the linebacker position to be taken seriously as Eagles fans? Howie Roseman answered our prayers, and Nakobe Dean fell to the Eagles. Dean offers the perfect prototype of a linebacker, which makes him one to watch. His ability to go sideline to sideline, cover gaps, and even rush the passer makes him incredibly versatile.
He has shown the ability to cover wide receivers and running backs, and he has unreal acceleration. Nakobe Dean has to prove he’s worth the college hype, and show teams they made a mistake for passing on him. He has to debunk the alleged injury concerns and reports.
Furthermore, there is pressure for the Eagles to have found their franchise linebacker, a position that has suffered for years. Dean is probably thinking about the teams that passed on him and will rise to the challenge.
Are you ready for preseason football? The season is right around the corner! Which Eagles players are the ones to watch for you heading into 2022?