By Tyler McMullen @Direct_Snap on June 1, 2014
The Philadelphia Eagles are entering the 2014 NFL Season as the team to beat in the NFC East. With a revamped secondary and another year in head coach Chip Kelly's offensive system, the Eagles could quite possibly put together a very impressive win total.
Here are five positional battles to keep an eye on as the team opens OTAs:
Last season, rookie CB Brandon Boykin put together quite an impressive campaign. He will be back to seize control as the team's No. 1 corner. Who will start opposite Boykin is the question, however. Rookie Jaylen Watkins, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and former Miami Dolphin Nolan Carroll will all vie for that position opposite the former Georgia Bulldog.
FS Malcom Jenkins was the first step Philadelphia took toward rebuilding their secondary. But, who will pair with Jenkins to really make an impact in the last line of defense? Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will both get a shot to start at strong safety. Allen has the experience, but Wolff is an electric ball-hawk who could end up snatching the job right out of Allen's hands.
Brent Celek has been one of the more reliable options for Philadelphia over his tenure with the team. But 2013 second-round pick Zach Ertz came on strong last season as the team's "joker" tight end and could see his role within the offense increase this season. Celek is a classic in-line blocking tight end, but Ertz could end up grabbing the starting role due to his athletic ability being much higher than Celek's.
Desean Jackson, fresh off a career year, was sent packing in a very "Chip Kelly" influenced move, leaving the team without a true deep threat in terms of speed. Nonetheless, the team spent two draft selections on two "hands catching" receivers, who also have some speed to their name. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and Oregon's Josh Huff will both battle for the slot receiver role offensively. My money is on Matthews right now.
Philadelphia desperately needs to generate a pass rush to help out their secondary. OLBs Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and first-round pick Marcus Smith will all battle for the starting OLB positions. Barwin and Cole should win their respective battles with ease, but look for Smith, who owns a unique skill-set and athletic ability, to really push for an important pass-rushing role early in his career with Philadelphia.
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