Eagles Observations: Why Josh Sweat is winning over non-believers

Eagles Observations: Why Josh Sweat is winning over non-believers

Why I’m starting to believe in Josh Sweat, an improving young tight end and my increasing confidence in Britain Covey.

We’re knee deep in training camp, and with a day off Thursday before the preseason opener against the Jets, it’s time to share another 10 Random Eagles Training Camp Observations.

1. I’ve never been a huge Josh Sweat guy. I know he was only a 4th-round draft pick, but I always felt like his production never quite matched his potential and his ability. He looks like Jevon Kearse out there with that crazy get-off, tremendous length and long arms, but he’s played more like the Kearse of the Eagles than the Kearse of the Titans. Sweat has played almost 1,500 snaps in his four seasons and has 17 ½ sacks. Even last year, when he made the Pro Bowl, he had 3 ½ sacks in early December before padding his total late against the Jets, Giants and Washington and finishing with 7 ½. I don’t consider that a particularly good year. Fair to say I’ve always been a Sweat doubter. But I’ve gotta say, he looks really good this summer, and I’m starting to buy in. Starting to believe this is the year. Maybe I’ll regret it. Maybe I’m getting fooled over here. But he looks fast and strong and explosive both in 1-on-1s and 11’s. He looks like a guy ready to make a big jump. The Eagles have drafted exactly one edge rusher in the last 35 years who’s had double-digit sacks in a season, and that was another mid-round pick, Trent Cole, drafted 17 years ago (!). I expect Jonathan Gannon’s multiple fronts to benefit Sweat, who can line up as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 edge rusher. Sweat has everything you need to harass quarterbacks. Quick first step, terrific athleticism, an assortment of moves, very good power for his frame. And he’s gotten better every year of his career. Is this the year he finally puts it all together? I’m starting to believe it.

 

2. Jack Stoll has made significant strides as a pass catcher, and that’s big because with his elite blocking ability, if he can be a factor in the passing game he can keep defenses honest and they’re going to have to account for him. Stoll played 331 offensive snaps last year and was targeted five times, catching four passes. That’s about a target per month. With all the offensive weapons the Eagles have, Stoll will never be a huge part of the passing game, but he caught 21 and 25 passes in his two full seasons at Nebraska, so he can catch the football, and he’s caught it well this summer. If he can just catch a pass or two per game, it’ll make a huge difference.

3.  After two weeks of watching Jordan Davis, I’ll be shocked if he’s not a Pro Bowler by next year.

4. The work the receivers and corners are getting against each other has been really high level, and it’s making all of them better. With Darius Slay and James Bradberry working against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith before he got hurt and Quez Watkins and even Jalen Reagor here and there since, we’re seeing a level of competition we just haven’t seen around here. The corners and receivers are really challenging each other and it makes for some next-level work. When’s the last time the Eagles had two good corners and two good wide receivers? Probably 2009, with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin working against Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown. This is a team that historically just hasn’t had great corners and receivers. To see this kind of competition is really encouraging.

5. Veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt hasn’t practiced since Saturday because of personal reasons, and on the one hand you try to be as compassionate as possible and sensitive to whatever Tartt is dealing with and hope everything is OK. You certainly want to give every player in camp a fair chance, especially someone who’s dealing with a serious off-the-field issue. But on the other hand, Howie Roseman has a 53-man roster to put together, and Tartt wasn’t exactly lighting it up before he left the team. I can’t imagine after missing this much time he’ll play in the preseason opener against the Jets Friday, and this is a guy trying to learn a new system and new coaches and new teammates. Remember, he wasn’t even here until after OTAs, so he’s very new in this defense. Meanwhile, K’Von Wallace, who got off to a shaky start, has started making some plays at camp, and he’s a guy in his third year here who knows the defense. Andre Chachere, mainly considered a special teamer, has had a good camp, and undrafted rookie Reed Blankenship from Middle Tennessee has really started opening some eyes. Tartt is on a one-year contract with a modest $1.12 million base salary and $500,000 guaranteed, so he is cuttable with a small cap savings. I don’t think the Eagles are at that point yet, but the reality is that Tartt needs to get on the field and start producing if he’s going to make this team.

 

6. You’ve probably read about what a terrible training camp Gardner Minshew is having. One thing about Minshew – he’s a gamer. His 93.9 passer rating is one of the 20-highest in NFL history. He’s a guy that comes out in training camp and works on stuff, takes chances he wouldn’t take in a game, challenges the cornerbacks and couldn’t care less about his stats. He’s also thrown a bunch of interceptions that, as Sirianni noted Wednesday, weren’t his fault. Minshew’s stats are pretty ugly this summer, but he’s solid. I wouldn’t worry about him.

7. One guy I’m intrigued by that I really want to keep an eye on in the preseason games is 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. He was considered a big-time prospect and potential high draft pick after his junior year at Florida State, but he returned for his senior year, did not play well, went undrafted, signed with the Browns, got cut by Cleveland and then spent all year on the Eagles’ practice squad. Wilson has shown some flashes here and there at camp, but you haven’t seen the consistency you’d like. But he’s 23, he’s huge and you can’t miss the potential. The Eagles are too deep at DT for Wilson to have a real shot at the 53 this year, but Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are both unsigned for 2023, and if the Eagles can keep Wilson around on the practice squad another year and continue to develop his game they might have something down the line.

8. You never want to see your Hall of Fame center undergo surgery five weeks before opening day, but what a terrific opportunity for rookie 2nd-round pick Cam Jurgens to get a healthy dose of reps with the first offense. We don’t know that this is Jason Kelce’s last year, but it really does feel that way, and if Jurgens is the Eagles’ starting center next year he’ll be that much more prepared because of this time practicing between Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo and working against Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis and Javon Hargrave. I hope Kelce plays forever just because he’s so much fun to watch. He really is one of the best to ever line up at the position. And everybody hopes he’s back for the opener. But Jurgens needs these reps more right now than Kelce. If he’s the man next year, his preparation begins today.

 

9. Britain Covey does something every day that makes me believe the Eagles will keep him.

10. I thought Jalen Reagor showed more maturity and growth in his remarks to the media on Wednesday than he’s shown at any point since the Eagles drafted him. It doesn’t mean I think he’s going to have a good year. It doesn’t mean I think he’s going to turn his career around. It doesn’t mean I even think he’s going to make the team. We’ll see. But just the fact that he’s showing some accountability, not other people for his miserable first two seasons, acknowledging that he’s got to start producing, those are very big steps. Reagor is still only 23, and I’m still not convinced he can play on this level, but at least he seems to have undergone an attitude shift. And whatever team he’s on this year, that will at least give him a chance. Because the Jalen Reagor of 2020 and 2021 had none.

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