Predicting the Winner of the Eagles' Biggest Training Camp Battles
Last year's training camp was dominated by a battle between Michael Vick and Nick Foles for the starting quarterback job. This year's training camp will see no such QB controversy, as Foles is pretty well-solidified atop the roster. Still, there are a few interesting camp battles to watch in 2014.
Who will emerge as No. 1 wide receiver on the depth chart? Who will end up backing up Nick Foles? Every training camp brings interesting questions. Here is a prediction of how the four biggest camp battles will turn out.
1. Backup Quarterback: Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez has hardly been consistent so far in OTAs and minicamp, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McClane (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith). However, it's most likely that he will wind up being the backup QB in 2014.
The Eagles brought him on board for a reason. Chip Kelly raved about his experience and athleticism when he was first signed. Unless his shoulder is not yet 100 percent, he will likely have an advantage over Barkley.
Just his presence alone is a bad sign for Barkley. Kelly was enamored by Barkley in the 2013 draft, selecting him in the fourth round. But perhaps what Kelly saw in 2013, zero touchdowns to four interceptions for a 44.6 passer rating, changed his mind about him.
2. Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin
This could change obviously after a few weeks into the season, but Maclin is most likely the favorite to man the No. 1 wide receiver position. He has the advantage in experience and in speed. A big void was left by DeSean Jackson's departure, and Kelly will want a player who can stretch the field.
It's possible that Kelly will start Matthews and play Riley Cooper at the slot, but Cooper plays best on the outside. It may make more sense to put Matthews at the slot.
So far, Maclin has looked good in practice, per Martin Frank of The News Journal. If it keeps up when the pads come on, he will still be the starter, at least in Week 1.
3. Cornerback: Nolan Carroll
Nolan Carroll has quietly been having a fantastic offseason so far, according to Philly.com's Jimmy Kempski. He has consistently broken up passes and even nabbed a few picks.
He was overshadowed in Miami by Brent Grimes. Philadelphia may be his place to shine as a reliable starting corner.
Last year Cary Williams was anything but consistent. Some games, such as against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, he looked phenomenal, breaking up passes in key moments (such as against Dez Bryant on a critical two-point conversion attempt). Other times, he was consistently beat in coverage and left too much space for the receiver to run routes.
If Carroll wins the starting cornerback role, it will be interesting to see who the Eagles play at the No. 2 role and the nickel corner. It's unlikely the Eagles would ever bench Brandon Boykin, so the battle would be between Bradley Fletcher and Williams.
4. Strong Safety: Nate Allen
Retaining Nate Allen was a great decision for the Eagles. He wasn't flashy, but he was a solid safety in 2013. One of the safety positions will almost certainly be manned by Malcolm Jenkins. The other will be a battle between Allen and Earl Wolff, but Allen will likely win.
Allen has the advantage in terms of experience, and he also is the more well-rounded player. He is a solid tackler, and while not game-changing, he is adequate in coverage. Wolff revealed himself to be a good tackler last season but a little lacking in coverage.
Of course, Wolff may come back in 2014 an improved player. He certainly seems to think so, as he has a goal of six interceptions in 2014, per Kempski. But to get to that goal, he will first have to win the starting job. And so far, Allen seems to have the advantage, per NJ.com's Matt Lombardo.
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