With plenty of new talent coming in this offseason, the Eagles look set to take another step under Nick Sirianni in 2022. To take that next step, the Eagles will obviously need to find their best possible lineup and will need to use training camp and the preseason to find it. While the roster is not as much of an unknown as last season, there are still a few areas they’ll need to figure out.
Nick Sirianni loves competition – especially when it comes to rock, paper, scissors. So, having a bunch of guys competing for just a few spots is certainly going to be something the Eagles’ second-year coach keeps an eye on. Let’s look at three positional battles that we will likely see play out over the summer, leading up to the Eagles’ season opener in September.
Free Safety: Marcus Epps vs. K’Von Wallace
Though there have been rumors that the Eagles were looking for an upgrade at the safety position opposite Anthony Harris, it looks like it will be the duo of Marcus Epps and K’Von Wallace battling for the free safety spot.
Epps, the more experienced of the two, has played a decent amount as a third safety over the past 2 seasons and looks like the front-runner for the job. The 26-year-old safety has appeared in 30 games and started in 8 since 2020, totaling three interceptions, nine passes defended, and 109 combined tackles.
Competing against Epps will be K’Von Wallace, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick out of Clemson in the 2020 draft. As of now, he’s certainly the underdog in the competition as he’s mainly been a special teams contributor. In two seasons, Wallace has started in six games, totaling 36 tackles. The 24-year-old hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself, but he’ll have an outside chance at the starting spot and will certainly get more defensive snaps as a third safety in a Jonathan Gannon scheme that utilizes three safeties.
Slot Wide Reciever: Quez Watkins vs. Jalen Reagor
It looks like Jalen Reagor is going to at least get one more chance to prove himself as a somewhat useful wide receiver. Luckily for the Eagles, with the addition of A.J. Brown, Jalen Reagor is not going to be as important to the Eagles’ wide receiving corps as he was last season which, of course, did not work out.
With Brown and Devonta Smith locking down the two outside spots, Reagor and Quez Watkins will be competing for the slot position. After a good step forward in 2021 where he caught 43 passes for 643 yards, Quez Watkins looks like the favorite to win the job, but since Reagor is a former first-round pick, the Eagles are going to give him every chance to not make them look like complete idiots for selecting him over Justin Jefferson.
Middle Linebacker: T.J. Edwards vs. Nakobe Dean
T.J. Edwards was certainly the Eagles’ most reliable player amongst a lacking group of linebackers. Now, after the Eagles added three linebackers over the offseason that all figure to play significant roles, Edwards’ role is not as certain as it once was. With Nakobe Dean falling to the Eagles in round two with injury concerns, the rookie could push Edwards for the starting spot.
Though his job may be in jeopardy, Edwards is still thrilled about the Eagles’ additions.
“The more depth you have, the more pieces you have, the more you can do, said Edwards. We’ve brought in some really good additions, guys that have really played football at a high level, so I think it just adds more to what we can do.”
“So you look at that and you look at it as competition and everybody’s going to get better from that, really.”
While we’ll still have to see how Dean looks on an NFL football field, he certainly has the looks of a leader who could anchor the Eagles’ defense for years to come. The 21-year-old was the heart of the Georgia Bulldogs’ top-ranked defense and led them to a National Championship.
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