The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the deepest teams in the NFL, and the preseason has already flashed some potential emergence of several young budding contributors on their roster.
Although it is tempting to discard preseason football, it is tough not to get excited about contributing rookies and young players. It is an opportunity for coaches to evaluate the depth of their roster, as starters either sit out the first couple of weeks, or take a nominal amount of reps in order to preserve their body for the regular season.
However, it is a marvelous chance for late round draft picks and undrafted rookies to showcase their talents against NFL competition.
While the Eagles lost their game 19-20 to the Baltimore Ravens, there was plenty to be extremely optimistic about. What is much more telling is some of the storylines observed during the game. We look to the less glamorous side of the ball, and examine which Philadelphia defenders showed promise in the opening week of preseason football.
Jalen Carter Explodes Out Of The Gate.
The Philadelphia Eagles already had the third most sacks in a season in NFL history in the 2022 season. They arguably added the best defender in the 2023 draft with the ninth overall selection, looking to further galvanize the strength that helped buoy them to the Super Bowl last year.
Carter played just two snaps in the matchup, but the first one resulted in his clubbing past a Ravens guard in the blink of an eye and registering a quarterback hit. His explosiveness looked downright scary, and gives some credence to the litany of praise his teammates have showered him with throughout the offseason.
I know it is a huge overreaction, but many Eagles fans were salivating after seeing that highlight.
The Secondary Stardom.
On the back end, the Eagles had multiple contributors.
Philadelphia's play at safety was sensational. Terrell Edmunds was unsurprisingly terrific, notching two tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss in just ten defensive snaps. He showed the explosiveness that garnered him a name in the league as an above average defensive back.
At another safety spot, Sydney Brown potentially stole the show in the second half. He paced the team with nine tackles, and flashed incredibly fluid movement skills. His instincts were elite as he seemed to fly from sideline to sideline, and explode downhill in run support. He was a weapon in the box and really sound in coverage.
At cornerback, the Eagles got terrific contributions from Mario Goodrich, Eli Ricks and Mekhi Garner. Goodrich had three tackles, two pass breakups and a TFL. Garner forced a fumble in special teams and had a pass breakup of his own.
Eli Ricks, however, was absolutely terrific. He showed a tantalizing transition prowess from backpedal to his break, and used it to notch a pick-six and two pass breakups. His fluidity and instincts definitely give him a path to a rotational defensive back in his rookie season, as well as the potential to be a starter when either Darius Slay or James Bradberry move on.
In juxtaposition, Kelee Ringo's play was a mixed bag. In 24 snaps, he registered a pass breakup and a tackle, but also surrendered a touchdown. The play that led to the score looked uglier every time you examined it.
Ringo was in off-coverage in the red zone, and stood completely flat footed as the receiver closed the space quickly. The Georgia corner then froze when the pass catcher shimmied, clearly waiting for the slant.
The receiver then went to a fade, with almost no resistance, and caught the ball effortlessly. It was truly a bad look for the Georgia product, as his stiff hips had been criticized in the pre draft process.
Also, to add insult to injury, Ringo was turned around on a stiff arm, that called into question his run support viability. Considering his size, he should be able to hold up better in the open field making one on one tackles.
Front Seven Players.
Similarly, the front seven had some fantastic contributors that emerged in the game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Undrafted linebacker Ben VanSumeren had a surprising showing in the matchup. Previously at the bottom of the Eagles' depth chart on ESPN, the Michigan State product certainly gave the coaching staff a reason to include him as a rotational defender.
VanSumeren was sensational, accumulating six tackles and three PFF credited stops in the run game. Although he allowed all of six targets to be caught, he surrendered just 45 yards and did display the ability to contribute on early downs. Moreover, he earned a run defense grade of 81.6 by PFF, over the course of 41 snaps.
On the defensive line, Philadelphia had multiple bright spots. Moro Ojomo showed some of the reasons the Eagles' front office felt like they had a seventh round steal. He showed nice extension when engaged, and on one particular snap just completely dismantled a double team block with ease.
Noah Ellis struggled in pursuit due to his size, but conversely was able to eat blocks and stuff the run with a huge TFL in the second half. Glimpses of his play next to Ojomo showed two players that could certainly contribute in a deep rotational role.
Edge defender Tarron Jackson also had some nice snaps, showing an ability to seal the edge and disengage. Janarius Robinson had a really nice bull rush and was credited with a PFF hurry. Although small sample size contributions, it does lend itself to the fact that the Eagles seem to have an embarrassment of riches across their defensive line.
What To Make Of These Eagles' Contributions in 2023?
Obviously not every one of these defenders will be a starter on one of the best rosters in the NFL in Week One of the 2023 season.
That being said, from what he showed in the first week of preseason, Sydney Brown certainly could make a push to be formidable in the rotation alongside Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds. Furthermore, VanSumeren definitely gave the coaches something to think about on early downs, or even as a special teams contributor on the roster.
The cornerback depth will be hard to sort out, with the multitude of contributors needing to fight behind the likes of Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox, who are all galvanized incumbents that have had successful seasons over the last few years.
As for the defensive line, the coaching staff would love to rotate more and more players in if they can contribute, but at some stage you can only commit so many roster spots to the front.
I do not envy the Eagles' coaching staff and front office. They have some difficult decisions to make, but clearly the defensive side of the ball had multiple contributors that have a path to playing some meaningful snaps in the 2023 NFL Season.
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