All Eyes On Thee
7 Eagles To Watch In Preseason Opener
The Eagles tonight will kick off preseason action at 7 p.m. as they travel to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
While head coach Nick Sirianni remained non-committal on Friday regarding playing time, there are several position battles and questions surrounding depth-chart seating that will be determined in the coming weeks.
Here’s a look at seven players I’ll be monitoring during Saturday’s action:
RB Trey Sermon
We’ve heard it before, but Sirianni on multiple occasions has gone out of his way to name-drop Sermon, an intriguing third-year pro buried in a crowded backfield. Sermon, 24, essentially redshirted in his first season with the Eagles after being claimed off waivers, registering a pair of carries for 19 yards and appearing in two games. Originally a 2021 third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, Sermon boasts the pedigree and skill-set that typically warrants a long look and heavy deliberation in the dog days of summer.
Sure, with four running backs presumably ahead of him, preseason reps would appear to be at a premium. However, when factoring the modest investment in Rashaad Penny – and his extensive injury history – there’s a conceivable roster path for Sermon if he produces. Penny – and Boston Scott, for that matter – are vested veterans who could theoretically resurface on the practice squad, whereas Sermon would be subject to the waiver wire. Should he stick, Sermon would have an appealing two years remaining on his rookie deal.
WR Joseph Ngata
Coming from someone who perennially tabbed Ngata as an ACC breakout candidate, I can’t claim to be totally taken aback by the undrafted rookie’s steady ascent. With Ngata, it was never about talent. His production at Clemson was largely capped due to injuries and circumstance. And for a brief moment last season, Ngata was able to showcase his ability and pro-level measurables to the nation. Within a matter of weeks, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound wideout has managed to distinguish himself from the team’s logjam of young pass-catchers – he reportedly earned first-team red-zone reps during Thursday’s 7-on-7 drill – and possesses the frame, athleticism, and contested-catch ability that typically translate into preseason success.
The Eagles, who glaringly lack a big-bodied, developmental perimeter option, conceivably have an open spot. Generally, the reserve camp receivers fall victim to porous offensive line play in the preseason, stalling drives and ultimately inhibiting their ability to make plays. It will not only be telling by how early Ngata gets into the game, but also what he’s able to muster against higher-end competition. For now, Ngata appears to have the inside track. Special teams contributions, however, will likely influence his roster prospects.
DT Moro Ojomo
The 2023 seventh-round pick has reportedly come on of late, and there figures to be no shortage of preseason snaps in Ojomo’s bid to secure an elusive depth role amid a star-studded defensive line. If Ojomo manages to demonstrate his herculean play strength, active hands, and versatility on tape, he might be too risky to expose to the waiver wire. To that end, I’ll also be monitoring veteran Kentavius Street and third-year pro Marlon Tuipulotu, who are in direct competition for a roster spot. All things equal, I’d expect the team to give the nod to their draft picks. Ojomo, who on paper projects as a future developmental piece, will have to make the most of his snaps.
DE Janarius Robinson
I’ve waited nearly a year to see Robinson in game action, and that time is upon us. Acquired via waivers in the wake of Derek Barnett’s season-ending Week 1 injury, the measurable-laden Robinson – who boasts an 86 1/4-inch wingspan, 4.69 speed, and a Florida State pedigree – was essentially stashed for this moment after failing to appear in a regular-season game despite remaining on the 53-man roster. Sure, his roster prospects probably took a hit the moment Barnett had his contract restructured, but perhaps the team views Robinson as a cost-effective developmental cog for the future. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Robinson should have ample opportunity to win over evaluators in the coming weeks.
CB Josh Jobe
Revisiting the 2022 NFL Draft, I had a fifth-round grade on Jobe and recall being stunned following the final round to the end only to see him go undrafted. Jobe was coming off a down year – his last at Alabama – but anyone taking into account his body of work for the Crimson Tide knew Jobe had a future at the pro level. The Alabama standout became one of three rookie free agents to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster to start the season, and after a year of primarily serving as a special teams mainstay, Jobe appears poised for more.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback has helped himself as much as anyone, ascending to the top backup spot and emerging from a heap of talented young defensive backs. When James Bradberry was sidelined with a groin ailment, he was replaced by Jobe, who acquitted himself admirably. The second-year pro is lengthy, oozes physicality, and has proven himself to be a fierce tackler. I’ll be watching to see if he’s able to continue persevering the next few weeks. His development has been a fun storyline to follow this summer.
CB Mekhi Garner
When previewing the Eagles’ 2023 rookie free agent class, I wrote that Garner had the best chance of sticking. While Ngata’s emergence gives the Clemson pass-catcher a distinct edge in the UDFA power rankings, Garner is a player whose skill set and physicality translates favorably to game situations. The uber-physical Garner, who tattooed second-year wideout Charleston Rambo earlier in camp, sports a lengthy, 6-foot-2, 212-pound frame that complements his tenacity and physical play style. His fluidity, technique, and long speed leave something to be desired and require refinement, unless the logical pivot to safety is ultimately in the cards, but Garner provides a palpable urgency and downhill mentality that should make for an explosive – potentially feast-or-famine – preseason. With roster spots at a premium, it would be tough to even find a spot for Garner. But if he’s able to become an asset for special teams coordinator Michael Clay over the next three games, it could make for some interesting decisions.
S Sydney Brown
While it seems as though the names vying for the starting job opposite Reed Blankenship will be between veterans Terrell Edmunds and K’Von Wallace – at least for now – Brown always felt like a player who needed game reps to truly get a sense of where he stands. On multiple occasions throughout camp, Brown has shown restraint when a big hit presented itself and has always played the game full tilt. I can vividly recall a moment during open practice when he surged downhill – resembling a heat-seeking missile – and popped running back Kennedy Brooks. Everything about Brown’s game suggests tone-setter, and I’m looking forward to seeing him unleashed on Saturday night. I’m not sure he’ll make up enough ground over the next few weeks to challenge either veteran in any real way, but I firmly believe Brown will factor into Desai’s plans in 2023.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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