May 26, 2023   5 MIN READ

Points To Prove

DiCecco: Birds Under Microscope In '23


Whether they’re contractual or performance-based, the storylines surrounding the Eagles during training camp should be plentiful.

In a throwback of sorts, this camp will determine not only pivotal depth roles but also a handful of new starters.

In conjunction with the latest Inside the Birds podcast, I’ve listed five players who – for one reason or another – find themselves squarely under the microscope heading into training camp.

Rashaad Penny

GETTY IMAGES: Rashaad Penny must stay healthy to be the elite ball carrier he’s shown glimpses of being.

RB Rashaad Penny

If healthy, Penny represents a lethal complement to D’Andre Swift, who was acquired via draft weekend trade with the Lions, giving the Eagles arguably the league’s most prolific rushing tandem. But “if healthy” is the operative term here, as the injury riddled, albeit talented Penny has missed 37 games over the past four seasons due to a multitude of ailments. When the Eagles originally inked Penny to a one-year deal at the dawn of free agency, the initial perception was that the former first-round pick was acquired to head a new-look backfield, working in concert with third-year pro Kenny Gainwell. With Swift now in the fold, the proverbial spotlight on Penny dims ever so slightly, though the Eagles will presumably proceed with caution in training camp to preserve their big-bodied home run hitter. The Eagles’ backfield would be a bit redundant, and potentially vulnerable, if Penny were to miss any length of time.

WR Quez Watkins

Having a prominent hand in as many as three of the Eagles’ four losses last season on the heels of a breakout sophomore campaign, Watkins finds himself squarely under the microscope entering his fourth season. The 6-foot, 193-pound speedster vowed to make amends for his shortcomings during his locker clean out, perhaps serving as motivational fuel throughout the offseason, but his current standing as the team’s No. 3 wideout will not go uncontested again. The Eagles added 26-year-old Olamide Zaccheaus in free agency, presumably to contend with Watkins. While Zaccheaus lacks the tantalizingly explosive vertical element of Watkins, the St. Joseph’s Prep alum provides sure-handedness – he’s credited with just three drops on 151 career targets – and effectiveness maneuvering the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. His chain-moving tendencies and run-after-the-catch ability might end up working in his favor as a reliable safety valve for quarterback Jalen Hurts. Still, Watkins will likely be afforded every opportunity to put his stamp on the position with a consistent showing at camp. If he’s unable to stave off Zaccheaus, it’s fair to wonder where – and how – he fits into the’ equation. It’s also worth mentioning that Watkins is credited with just 39 career special teams snaps, a prerequisite for depth pass-catchers.

Jordan Davis

GETTY IMAGES: An ankle injury slowed down Jordan Davis’ rookie season but the Eagles need a much improved Davis in Year 2.

DT Jordan Davis

The Eagles rightfully maintain high hopes for Davis, who carved out a cameo-sized role as a rookie amid a star-studded cast of defensive linemen. The burly, 6-foot-6, 336-pound Davis, who accounted for 224 snaps across 13 games, is to be expected to serve as a more preeminent fixture on defense in his second season, given the significance of Javon Hargrave’s departure in free agency. Veteran mainstay Fletcher Cox agreed to a one-year contract to remain in Philadelphia, providing depth and experience, but at 32 years old, it’s unrealistic to expect one of the all-time Eagles greats to continue racking up exorbitant snap totals. The onus falls on Davis, who must first prove he can keep peak conditioning, to make that anticipated sophomore leap and fill the sizable void at the position.

LB Nakobe Dean

The calls for more Nakobe Dean last season were unwavering at times. Expectedly, the pleas grew louder in those weeks in which T.J. Edwards or Kyzir White committed an obvious blunder or if they failed to generate a splash play. All told, Dean last season logged just 34 defensive snaps, his most (15) coming courtesy of a 35-10 blowout over the Titans. As a result of the departures of Edwards and White in free agency, Dean is now the face of a razor-thin linebacker corps. Sure, the Eagles signed veteran Nicholas Morrow to a moderate one-year deal, presumably to play alongside Dean, providing a veteran presence. But the Eagles have effectively placed an inordinate amount of pressure on a former third-round pick with minimal experience to catalyze a perpetually lackluster position. Whether Dean, who boasts all the requisite tools and intangibles to emerge as one of the Eagles’ rising defensive standouts, is prepared to answer the bell in a far more prominent capacity remains to be seen.

Terrell Edmunds

GETTY IMAGES: Terrell Edmunds hopes to be more than just a one-year placeholder at safety for the Eagles.

S Terrell Edmunds

Signed to a modest one-year prove-it deal during free agency’s third wave, Edmunds landed in Philadelphia amid relatively minimal fanfare. Edmunds perhaps best represented the team’s underlying theme throughout free agency of identifying established, cost-effective value, but the signing did little to move the needle in the way of supplementing a dire positional landscape with a bonafide starter. Delving beyond the surface, however, the Eagles acquired a 26-year-old former first-round pick with 79 games (75 starts) on his resume, providing leadership and experience to a young and inexperienced room. While rookie Sydney Brown and second-year pro Reed Blankenship each inspire optimism to varying degrees, either one pairing alongside Edmunds – a steady, battle-tested veteran – to start the season would aid his respective acclimation process and largely eliminate any potential communication breakdowns. But Edmunds, who the Eagles have little invested in, must first prove himself worthy of a roster spot.

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

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