Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp: What to watch on defense

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 5: Defensive end Fletcher Cox
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 5: Defensive end Fletcher Cox /

Training camp kicks off today boasting a defense with potential to lead a young Philadelphia Eagles team to the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp officially opens today, July 24, at the NovaCare Complex. Rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will arrive and check in for the first official practice. As camp kicks off, the Eagles have already made a few roster moves on defense.

Without playing a snap with the team, the Eagles released corner back Dwayne Gratz and placed defensive tackle Beau Allen and rookie corner Sidney Jones on the NFI (non-football injury) list. This years Training Camp will have two open practices at the Linc with practices on Saturday, July 29th and Sunday, August 6th with both slated to start around 10am.

General Manager Howie Roseman has brought in plenty of new faces to the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles defense. Via the draft, free agency, and trades this defense and been supplied with talent in the front 7 as well as in the back-end.

This will be another year under defensive coordinator Jim Shwartz coaching new faces, early draft picks and a veteran unit. This defense will be expected to finish in the top 10 if they are hoping to take the next step and improve from a promising season last year. Position battles and roster moves will decide the starting 11, but that doesn’t mean the Philadelphia Eagles wont have key contributors coming off the bench.

Defensive Line

The Eagles will most likely roster 10-12 players on the defensive line. Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are back as the faces of the defense. The Eagles brought in veterans Chris Long and Timmy Jernigan, and drafted Derek Barnett in the first round to give the front four a plethora of weapons to stuff the run and get to the quarterback. There will be plenty of eyes on the rookie. Barnett will be expected to be a productive edge rusher from the get go. He tallied 15 sacks last season in the SEC while also breaking Reggie White‘s all-time Vols record for sacks during a collegiate career. Timmy Jernigan is playing in a contract year and will want to impress as much as possible for a pay-day next free agent period.

“I’ve been busting my tail since I’ve been in the NFL,” Jernigan said. “My plan is to do it all over again, work as hard as I can, learn the playbook inside and out then put it all out there on Sunday after making sure I practice hard. If I do those things, the rest will take care of itself.” (Eagles Wire)

It will be interesting if this is the year Marcus Smith doesn’t make the team. The ghost of Chip Kelly still haunts Philadelphia when Smith trots around the field. The failed first-round pick has been struggling to be a productive player ever since he was over-drafted. Smith will have to battle for a depth position with the likes of Alex McCalister, Gabe Wright, Elija Qualls, and Beau Allen to make the team.


It looks like the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles linebackers will be the same as the 2016 Eagles linebackers. Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks and emerging star Jordan Hicks are back flying sideline to sideline. Jim Shwartz usually gets the most out of his linebackers and it will be fun to watch if Hicks can take his play to a Pro Bowl level.

Hicks will be limited out of the gate with an injured hand as he injured it on his honeymoon, Coach Pederson said,  “He injured his hand and he needed a minor procedure to fix that. He shouldn’t miss any time. We’re going to keep on top of it and take it day by day with him. We may limit him a little bit, but he should be out there every day.”

Rookie Nate Gerry will be a player to watch, a safety coming out of Nebraska he is making the transition to linebacker. Gerry will have plenty of snaps on defense in pre-season and special teams to make an impact and to secure his roster spot.


The most interesting position group to watch on the defense is the Eagles secondary. The team selected elite talent Sidney Jones in the 2nd round this year and while Jones suffered an achilles injury during the pre-draft process and slid in the draft he is still considered a top corner.

The Eagles have placed Jones on the NFI list almost guaranteeing that Jones will miss at least the first 6 games of the season and there has been plenty of discussion on if the Eagles should play Jones this season or give him the full season to rehab.

Malcon Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will be back starting at safety but it will be closely watched to emerges to start at corner. We saw last year what Jalen Mills and Ron Brooks can do but if the Eagles want to make a push in the NFC East, either newcomer Patrick Robinson or rookie Rasul Douglas will have to step up and become the team’s #1 corner.

The weakest position group in the bunch, the corners will benefit from a strong pass rush and an offense that can sustain long drives to keep the defense fresh.

Next: What to watch on offense

The Philadelphia Eagles boast plenty of new faces on the defensive side of the ball and It will be interesting to see how the roster shakes out. The defensive line comes with plenty of talent, the linebackers are set and the biggest question mark will be how the corner back position group will play out. With cuts and signings inevitably coming, its time to strap in because football season is HERE!