Eagles 2017 training camp: Five players who need to step up this season

Some things have to happen for the Birds to make a run. Here is a look at five players who could help make it happen.

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Both former NFL players Brian Baldinger and Garry Cobb have stated that Fletcher Cox needs to win the battles against the NFC East’s top guards such as Washington’s Brandon Scherff (75) and the Cowboys Zack Martin. Last year he did not, at least consistently. 
Photo by Andy Lewis/contrastphotography.com

Eagles fans look at all the changes the Eagles made in the offseason and generally feel good about the team going into training camp.

The Birds have holes, not doubt, but the NFL is unique in that a team can rise out of the ashes and make run.

Look no further than the Atlanta Falcons. In 2015, quarterback Matt Ryan, a Philly native, struggled to score points after his team jumped out to a 5–0 record. Atlanta fell apart finishing 8–8. Ryan threw just 21 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions resulting in a QB rating of 89.0. Just the next year, the Falcons sign Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and everything changed. Ryan chucked 38 TD passes to just seven interceptions finishing with a QB rating of 117.1.

Atlanta got hot, finished 11–5, grabbed the №2 seed in the NFC playoffs, got a break when Dallas folded in the Divisional round to Green Bay and ended up in the Super Bowl in Houston against the New England Patriots.

The game was a disaster for the Falcons as they a blew a 28–3 lead in the third quarter, losing in overtime, but overall they had a great turnaround season.

In 2016, the Eagles raced out to a 3–0 record only to fold after losing right tackle Lane Johnson for 10 games and Ryan Mathews to injuries, finishing with a 7–9 record in Doug Pederson’s first season as a head coach.

Can the Eagles pull off what the Falcons did?

Aside from staying healthy some things have to happen for the Birds to make a run. Here is a look at five players who could help make it happen.

DT FLETCHER COX: The 6-foot-4, 310 pound defensive tackle is entering his sixth season in the NFL and does not have much to show for it. Cox’s mediocre numbers stick out even more when you take into consideration last year he signed a six year, $102,600,000 contract with $63,299,000 guaranteed (spotrac.com).

Cox averages 5.7 sacks per season and has played one playoff game.

Former NFL linebacker Garry Cobb believes Cox may be a little to “comfortable” right now. “He got all that money,” Cobb said on a recent Footballstories radio show. “He may think inside that he’s got it made.”

Cobb thinks recently acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (from Ravens) may rattle his cage. “Jernigan is a really good defensive tackle who could challenge Fletcher,” Cobb said. “Fletcher may not like hearing that he may not be the best defensive lineman on the team.”

Former NFL offensive lineman and NFL Network on air talent Brian Baldinger agrees that Cox has not been up to the challenge.

“Fletcher is going to have four games this season against two of the best guards in the league,” Baldinger said on a recent Footballstories radio show. “He will be going up against Zack Martin (Dallas), and Brandon Scherff (Washington) and he has to win those battles for the Eagles to beat these teams. Last year he didn’t and the Eagles lost all three meaningful games.”

CB RASUL DOUGLAS: The Eagles let both starting conerbacks go after last season. The Birds picked up free agent Patrick Robinson, and eight-year veteran who is serviceable but not great.

The Birds drafted Douglas in the third round out of West Virginia. The 6–2, 209 pounder is long for a corner and led the NCAA with eight interceptions as a senior.

The Eagles also drafted Sidney Jones in the second round, a top ten talent who will likely not be available until 2018 after injuring his Achilles tendon during a pro day training session.

Second year cornerback back Jalen Mills is probably their best option at one of the starting spots, so Douglas needs to come in and adapt to the NFL right away. He says he is aware of that.

“I just want to come in and try to contribute to the team what it needs,” Douglas said. “I know the corners last year left. We’ve got a few guys this year that can go so I just want to do what I can.”

Douglas said he knows that with all the changes in the secondary, he as a real chance to play and make an impact right away.

“I want to come in and play, start,” Douglas said. “I definitely want to come in and start. That’s what I’m working hard to do now each day. Just take one thing and try to get better at it every day so I can put it all together, and have a good season.”

He will have to in order for the Eagles to succeed.

DE VINNY CURRY: Vinny Curry may have one last chance to prove he is even close to the five-year, $47,250,000 he signed that includes a $10,000,000 signing bonus, $23,000,000 guaranteed (spotrac.com).

Curry was given that contract because of his nine-sack season in 2014. After the 2015 season Curry came up with just 3.5 sacks and still got the deal.

In 2016 it was worse, just 2.5 sacks. If you are an edge rusher, your job is to get sacks and the 29-year old is not producing. In five NFL seasons, Curry has just 19 sacks.

Baldinger said the current Eagles personnel brass are not married to guys like Curry.

“Joe Douglas and Howie Roseman did not draft guys like Vinny,” Baldy said. “He is going to produce or he’ll be gone regardless of his contract.” When the Eagles drafted Derek Barnett with the №14 overall pick in the 2017, it was a clear sign he may be.

WR NELSON AGHOLOR: The consensus among observers that if there was an MVP for the OTA sessions and mini-camp it would be the third-year receiver out of USC.

Last year, Agholor struggled with the mental aspects of the game. Every ball he dropped seemed to sink him deeper into the abyss.

But this spring he was outstanding, catching every ball that came his way.

Pederson was asked what he thinks helped his underachieving receiver this offseason.

“A lot of times it’s a personal … You’re going through a whole mental thought process and, ‘What can I do to get better?’ It’s just him going out there and just attacking the day, and (WR coach) Mike Groh has done a great job with him, just preparing him. The addition of Torrey [Smith] and Alshon [Jeffery], and sort of him kind of taking that step back and not [having] that pressure of every day having to perform has really helped him.

“I’m excited to now get into camp and extend his role. Hopefully they are in the slot and outside, as well. It’s a multiple-position player that we can utilize on offense.”

Eagles fans hope Pederson is right.

LB MYCHAL KENDRICKS: The Eagles are really thin at linebacker, at least for proven talent. Kendricks has been hanging around now for five seasons. In 2016, his playing time dropped a lot and he was credited with just 28 total tackles (20 solo).

There were trade rumors that never materialized. Pederson gave Kendricks credit for showing up focused.

“With everything that was rumored with him, Mychal has had a great attitude,” Pederson said in May. “Great attitude. He’s come in here, he’s worked extremely hard. He knows our system. Again, so many offenses are going 11 personnel, it’s unfortunate. It takes him off the field. But the things he’s done this spring already really puts him in a position to solidify our three linebackers.”

Kendricks needs to make some noise, he should take notes from Brandon Graham on how to re-invent himself. Eagles need depth at his spot and a new Mychal Kendricks would help.

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