3 Eagles players soaring in training camp

Derek Barnett impresses in Eagles training camp

Jacob Keppen

Davion Taylor

Heading into the 2021 NFL Season, former 3rd round pick Davion Taylor was just an afterthought to many fans, he was a name many were actively trying to forget. The Colorado linebacker was one of the most scrutinized picks in the whole draft, with many viewing Taylor as a day three project. While the athletic upside was intriguing, Taylor running a 4.49 40 yard dash, Taylor had a ways to go as a football player. 

Taylor was a player who never participated in football until he was 18 years old. The instincts and overall feel for the game had not been developed over time, and many doubted whether or not they ever would. Those fears were given credence when Taylor only managed to see the field for 32 snaps in his rookie year. With the emergence of Alex Singleton last year and the addition of former Viking Eric Wilson, not many outside of the organization gave much thought to the Eagles 3rd round pick.

Early on into training camp, Taylor has seen an increase in playtime under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. With the work he put in during his 2nd offseason, Taylor has impressed the Eagles coaching staff enough to give him a majority of starting reps in camp. Gannon has stated that Taylor looks “A lot more comfortable” during camp. With his athleticism and untapped potential, it will be interesting to see if Gannon and the Eagles staff can have a real player in Davion Taylor moving forward.

Jordan Mailata

The battle for left tackle was one of the biggest storylines heading into Eagles training camp. On one side you have Andre Dillard, a player the Eagles liked enough to trade up for to take in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Dillard has not played much, struggling in limited reps in the 2019 season, and missing all of 2020 with an injury. His foe is a man very few expected to be in this position. 

Jordan Mailata wasn’t a highly touted prospect like Dillard. He didn’t anchor the left side of a line in college football like Dillard at Washington State. Mailata was a rugby player who decided to convert to offensive tackle. A true physical specimen, Mailata was intriguing enough for the Eagles to take a shot on him in the 7th round of the 2018 draft. It was a cool story for camp, the former rugby player attempting to make a roster in the NFL… but it became clear that Mailata could play. The growth Mailata took over two years on the Eagles after never playing a snap of organized football before was nothing short of a miracle, a miracle culminating in solid play in replacement of Jason Peters in the 2020 season. A cool story was starting to become a cool reality, only if he could earn his starting spot. 

Early on in training camp, Mailata has pretty easily been the better player of the two. Against one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the league, Mailata has been able to hold his own, using his impressive size and mobility to neutralize guys such as Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett. Dillard on the other hand has struggled as a whole through four days of training camp. With the gap starting to widen with every practice, will Mailata do enough to earn the starting nod despite the two players’ respective draft positions?

Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat

It’s a bit of a cop out to list both players, but the two defensive ends have both boosted their stocks so far in training camp. Philly fans have been waiting a while for the Derek Barnett breakout, and while it hasn’t necessarily come on the statsheet yet, the former first-round pick from Tennessee has become a very solid overall defensive end. 

He’s trying to thwart off rising edge rusher Josh Sweat, a former fourth-round pick with a knack for getting into the backfield. The talent has always been there for Sweat, a former top college recruit, but staying healthy enough to show it has been the problem for the former Florida State Seminole. After a very good season that saw Sweat get to the quarterback more times than Barnett despite starting fewer games, a good camp could earn Sweat the starting spot.
So who’s outperformed the other to earn the starting spot in training camp? Honestly, neither! Both Sweat and Barnett have performed well in camp, giving the Eagles offensive tackles all that they can handle. ESPN Eagles Beat Reporter Tim McManus reported that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon views both as starters. It appears that opposing teams will have to worry about a high-quality pass rusher on every single down when they play Philadelphia this season.

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