Philly Front Office - Eagles

Players with the Most to Gain/Lose This Preseason

Going into this preseason, compared to 2017, has a much different vibe to it. For one, last year, the Eagles were coming off of a seven-win season and were simply looking to build off of it with a mix of young and veteran players. This season, they are defending Super Bowl champions looking to get back to the ultimate game (shoutout Doug Collins). Positional battles at spots like running back and wide receiver will be very competitive. Former valued draft picks and experienced veterans could be surprising casualties of roster cuts. Some players will have a lot to prove in hopes of making the team and showing they deserve to be on the field. I’ll be breaking down a few who I think I have the most to gain with their showing in the preseason.

 

Donnell Pumphrey

Pumphrey was a fourth round draft pick out of San Diego State in 2017 and was touted as an eventual replacement and protégé of Darren Sproles. Last season did not go as expected for the all-time leading rusher in NCAA Division 1 history, as he averaged only 1.9 yards per carry in the preseason and ended up on injured reserve before ever being able to take a regular season snap. Pumphrey himself attributed that to weight he put on too fast, going from about 175 pounds in college to 184. By the time he was healthy, the Eagles had acquired Jay Ajayi and undrafted rookie Corey Clement had engraved a role, so Pumphrey stayed on IR and essentially took a red shirt season.

With this preseason approaching Pumphrey has no guaranteed spot on the team and has to earn anything that would be given to him. Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles are locks to make the squad, and Pumphrey will be competing with veteran Matt Jones and rookie Josh Adams for a roster spot. Everything he learned last season in meetings, film sessions, and practice will serve as an advantage, but his showing on the field will determine his case on if he belongs on the 53-man roster. Pumphrey reported this month at 186 pounds and this time around, claims he gained it the right way, filling himself out with more muscle. This should allow him to hold onto the speed and elusiveness that made the Sproles comparisons so natural. It could be argued that Pumphrey has the most to prove of any Eagle this preseason. Transitioning from such a successful college career to a disappointing rookie season can be difficult, and sitting out for a year gave him plenty of time to reflect on that. So where can he carve out a role on this team? A return specialist would be the obvious choice, and his college highlight tape proves he could be lightning in a bottle in that department. Take a look for yourself and let us know what role, if any, you think Donnell Pumphrey can claim on this Eagles team.

Sidney Jones

Sidney Jones probably would have been a first round draft pick if it wasn’t for a torn achilles at the end of his college career. Even with it, the upside he has was enough for Howie Roseman to take him in the second round. After missing the majority of his rookie season, Jones has the opportunity to start for the Eagles now that Patrick Robinson has left town. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills will be the other starters, and the slot corner position is his for the taking. In college, Jones typically lined up outside, so adjusting to a new position will take time, but his talent and potential indicate that he should be able to cover anywhere on the field once he gets enough reps to familiarize himself with it. All that’s left for Jones to do is step out there and prove it. Watching tapes of him in college shows a remarkable ability to make plays on the ball, whether through deflections or interceptions. That should be valuable to a team that had the fourth most takeaways in the NFL a season ago. Look for Jones to show glimpses of this in the preseason.

 

Nate Gerry

With Mychal Kendricks leaving town, newcomer Paul Worrilow tearing his ACL, and Jordan Hicks’ injury history, the Eagles’ linebacker position is one of the thinnest on the team. Nigel Bradham has been an ironman for the Birds, but even he will have a one-game suspension served against Atlanta in the home opener. If all goes well, by week two, the Eagles’ starting linebackers will look like this: Hicks in the middle, Bradham on the strong side, and the weak side linebacker will likely be split between a few players. Insert Nate Gerry. The fifth-round pick in 2017 was basically a safety at Nebraska, and he possesses the pass coverage skills he showed in college to gain playing time. Going from 212 pounds entering last season compared to 230 pounds now should also help his transition to a full-time linebacker and the bruising that comes with it. While I don’t think Gerry will claim the starting WILL positon outright, I do think he could earn a certain percentage of snaps when the weak side linebacker is on the field. Free agent acquisition and veteran Corey Nelson is the likely choice to take the higher percentage of those snaps. That leaves Nate Gerry and third year Eagle Kamu Grugier-Hill to compete for playing time, and you can bet they’ll both have a lot to prove to the coaching staff when they hit the field this preseason.

Welcome to Training Camp, Birds fans!

 

Shane Sullivan

Recently graduated from the establishment formerly known as Philadelphia University. Diehard Philadelphia sports fan who was regrettably pessimistic about Nick Foles (I'm sorry, Nick) and was thankfully optimistic about The Process (thank you, Sam Hinkie). Movie lover, book nerd, and horror game enthusiast. I would've eventually won on the show WipeOut if it didn't get cancelled.

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