Eagles Wake-Up Call: OLB Training Camp Preview
Leading up to training camp on August 2, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We’ve covered the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line and defensive line so far. Today, we’ll take a look at the outside linebackers.
The pressing question: Will Marcus Smith contribute?
We’ve addressed this question several times already, but it’s a big one going into training camp. Smith was a first-round pick and barely played (68 total snaps) as a rookie. The start of his second season featured a groin injury that limited Smith in the spring.
Late last August, Billy Davis said he’d know by the start of Year 2 whether there were serious concerns about Smith making it. He’s in position to be a contributor as the No. 3 outside linebacker, but it’ll be a big red flag if Smith can’t hold off Travis Long for that spot.
Smith has the length and athleticism the Eagles covet, and he seems like a willing worker. But nothing will be handed to him in his second season.
The Eagles could keep as many as five outside linebackers. Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are the unquestioned starters. And Smith is going to make the team.
That leaves Travis Long and Bryan Braman. Chip Kelly has said on multiple occasions that Long would have made the team last year had he not suffered a torn ACL during the preseason. If Long can replicate what he did last August, he has a good chance of sticking. If he has trouble getting back to full health after the ACL injury, he could get cut.
Braman was a key cog on the league’s best special teams unit.
The guess here is that all five players make the 53-man roster.
One thing I think
Graham will have more sacks than Barwin.
Barwin’s honesty has been refreshing since his first day in Philadelphia. He had five sacks in 2013 but exploded for 14.5 last season. Barwin knows there’s a lot of luck involved with sacks. He’s not always the first one to the quarterback, but he’s savvy and disciplined, the ultimate clean-up man.
Graham on the other hand has shown the ability to win one-on-one matchups on the edge. He’ll finally get a chance for more pass-rushing opportunities, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him get to double-digit sacks and lead the team.
WHAT YOU MISSED
More snaps for Vinny Curry? A Pro Bowl for Fletcher Cox? Our DL training camp preview.
“I tell the guys all the time: ‘Kiko’s not all the way there.’ When it comes to hitting, man, he doesn’t care. He’s going to try and smash you.” Great deep dive on Kiko Alonso from T-Mac.
Nelson Agholor talks training camp, Sam Bradford and more.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Not good news for Darren McFadden, via The Dallas Morning News:
The search for DeMarco Murray’s replacement will go on without Darren McFadden practicing at the start of training camp. On Thursday, he was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury.
McFadden’s body has routinely betrayed him since his NFL career was launched in 2008. McFadden suffered 15 injuries in his first six seasons that caused him to miss 29 games.
In March, McFadden signed a two-year, $3 million deal that was loaded with extra incentives tied to his availability.
Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice offers 25 training camp observations. Here are a few:
10) Most likely “Fletcher Cox Award” winner, for the player who will kind of take it easy camp, then will be awesome when the games matter: Fletcher Cox
11) Most likely pleasant surprise: Seyi Ajirotutu
12) Most likely player to have one good practice that a national reporter attends, and the reporter is flabbergasted that said player is not being talked about by the locals: Miles Austin.
We have some Chip leftovers for you.