June 26, 2024   5 MIN READ

Plenty To Prove

5 Birds Hopefuls To Watch At Training Camp

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While training camp often acts as a barometer – gauging the temperature of a reconfigured roster as well as cementing appropriate seasonal expectations – it also serves as proving ground for players looking to make their impressions.

Those typically on the outside looking in, or toiling in relative obscurity, hope to climb the depth chart. It’s a yearly occurrence, and for me, one of the more fascinating parts of the summer workouts.

Tyler Hall

GETTY IMAGES: Youth and durability could give newcomer NB Tyler Hall an edge over incumbent Avonte Maddox.

Here are five players to watch closely at training camp in late July:

CB Tyler Hall

Seemingly the forgotten corner amongst a crowded room, Hall should be on more radars. Hall, who joins the Eagles following stints with the Raiders, Rams and Falcons, has appeared in 31 career games (6 starts). While his spring was relatively tame compared some his defensive back teammates, it’s worth noting the 25-year-old logged some first-team nickel reps during spring practices, blanketing the intermediate levels of the field and driving on underneath routes. A tough and scrappy player, Hall will be one to watch when the pads come on. He reminds me a bit of Bryce Callahan, who played for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Chicago.

Hall’s primary competition for a roster spot figures to be veteran Avonte Maddox, though Hall has the cleaner bill of health and youth on his side. As I’ve written previously, keeping a predominant nickelback on the 53 theoretically enables the Eagles to deploy rookie Cooper DeJean elsewhere to maximize his value, while also having another viable solution there. And with multiple teams vying for his services in March, Hall is likely to have more interest on the open market than Maddox.

TE E.J. Jenkins

A converted wide receiver, Jenkins, 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, flashed as a pass-catcher this spring, notably reeling in a back-shoulder strike from Kenny Pickett and skying over rookie linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. to secure a seam ball from Tanner McKee. He was a popular target for Eagles quarterbacks.

Jenkins is a fluid-mover who frequently created separation at the top of his routes, but the second-year tight end this offseason made it a point to hone in on blocking. Jenkins, who carries some upside, will have a legitimate opportunity to seize a depth role behind Dallas Goedert if he can sustainably piece it all together in training camp.

Joseph Ngata

GETTY IMAGES: Physicality should favor WR hopeful Joseph Ngata when the pads come out at training camp.

WR Joseph Ngata

A common theme I’ve heard regarding Ngata is his work ethic and commitment to improvement. Sure, Ngata largely didn’t exactly capitalize on his first-team reps during OTAs, showing little burst and coming up with a couple untimely drops, but I trust the body of work and what I see. The big-bodied wideout, who came back sporting a noticeably more chiseled frame, is quiet and reserved, but I expect him to gain some ground when the pads come on and he can showcase his physicality. His Gabe isn’t predicated on speed and short-area quickness, but the former Clemson product can be an effective possession receiver. Ngata, who spent the entire 2023 season on the Eagles’ practice squad, nearly went the distance last summer. And his experience and work ethic should give him an edge in his hunt for a reserve role.

EDGE Julian Okwara

Like Hall, Okwara, another under-the-radar free-agent signing, hasn’t been discussed nearly enough. Okwara, a 2020 third-round pick, is eyeing a career resurgence, though with five edge rushers comfortably ahead in the pecking order, the veteran faces an uphill climb. Still, Okwara impressed this spring as a hook defender, demonstrating fluidity and range. He appeared natural, and in his handful of snaps in 11-on-11s, Okwara showed solid burst. Perhaps even more notably, given his place on the depth chart, Okwara appears to have an early hold on a prominent role on kick and punt coverage. With third-round pick Jalyx Hunt expected to play sparingly as a rookie, perhaps Okwara can force the Eagles’ hands into going heavier at the position.

S Andre Sam

At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Sam doesn’t exactly sport the typical build for an NFL safety. But the LSU grad, who also played at Marshall and McNeese State, is versed in multiple schemes and plays with an aggressive nature. He also offers plenty of range and positional versatility, the latter of which should appeal to Fangio. Sam exclusively operated as the third-team safety this spring, but the undrafted rookie played fast and instinctive and was often around the ball. Working in Sam’s favor is the Eagles’ penchant for rostering at least one rookie free agent on the initial 53, with the exception being 2020. He also happens to be vying for a spot at one of the thinnest positions. Sam shouldn’t be counted out.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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