Eagles that shined in the preseason opener

Jake Elliot shined for Philadelphia

Jacob Keppen

The NFL Preseason doesn’t matter… that is until your favorite camp darling starts making an impact. Despite the results meaning about as much as a Most Valuable Player award courtesy of Nickelodeon, preseason is a great time for fans to get excited about potential breakout players. Here are five preseason warriors who made a big impact in the Eagles first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1: Quez Watkins, WR

A speedy Eagles wide receiver from the 2020 draft is having a fantastic offseason and is looking to break out, and his name is Quez Watkins. The 200th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Watkins was seen as a speedy depth piece on a team lacking any field-stretching ability. Raw coming out of college, Watkins didn’t see much of the field in 2020, only tallying seven catches in his rookie season. 

The speed has always been undeniable for the former Southern Mississippi Golden Eagle. Don’t forget that it was actually Quez Watkins who was the 2nd fastest receiver at the 2020 NFL combine, running a blazing 4.35. That speed has been evident all offseason, with Watkins impressing in camp. The speed was on display against the Steelers, where Watkins caught nearly two long touchdowns. While incomplete, Watkins burned past his man for what would’ve been a 90+ yard touchdown. Watkins found the endzone though, taking a Joe Flacco screen pass 79 yards to the house. With speed few defensive backs in the league can keep up with and the work he’s put in this offseason, it wouldn’t be a surprise to Quez Watkins push for a starting job at receiver.

2: Javon Hargrave, DT

Javon Hargrave is sometimes the forgotten man in a very good Philly defensive line, such is the life of playing defensive tackle next to Fletcher Cox. The former Pittsburgh Steelers’ first season in the City of Brotherly love started quite Rocky, attempting to come back from an upper-body issue. As he became healthier as the season progressed, fans started to see the old game wrecker from Pittsburgh.

If his tremendous offseason and series against his former team are any indication, Hargrave is in for a massive season this year. Hargrave gained consistent pressure in his lone series against Pittsburgh and reports are that he continues to pressure the interior in camp. Hargrave gave the Eagles solid play last year on a stellar line. It looks like the Eagles might have one of the best defensive tackles combos in the league this year. 

3: Milton Williams, DL

A lot of fans questioned the Milton Williams pick when they first heard his name called on day two. Many had never heard of the Louisiana Tech defensive lineman, most casual Eagles fans not necessarily experts in Conference USA football. He was not a big name from a big school. Soon those opinions changed after fans saw his college production, fans saw his insane athleticism, and fans saw him impress in the offseason and against Pittsburgh.

Williams was an immediate problem against Pittsburgh, his power and explosiveness too much for the opposition. Playing at defensive end, Williams drew a holding and reached the quarterback on an impressive pass rush. Philly has an already pretty stacked defensive line. Philadelphia finished 3rd in the league in sacks last year with 49. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are established top stars in the league. Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, and Josh Sweat look primed for breakout years after solid play last year. Adding in a versatile explosive player like Williams will look to ensure Philadelphia is one of the top pass-rushing teams in 2021.

4: Tyree Jackson, TE

The next Logan Thomas? Tight end Tyree Jackson was a name on draft radars a few years ago, but not as a pass-catcher. One of the more intriguing quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, Jackson was a rare blend of size and athleticism. Guys at 6’7 245 should not have been able to move the way he did. Despite being named the South team MVP at the 2019 Senior Bowl, Jackson went undrafted. This was just the start of his journey to the NFL. A stint in Buffalo then with the DC Defenders of the XFL was the precursor to Jackson joining the Eagles in January of 2021, Jackson joining not as a quarterback but as a tight end.

All camp there has been a lot of talk and excitement about the big man from Michigan. The former Buffalo Bulls quarterback impressed the team so much during camp, a favorite target of backup Joe Flacco, that he ran with the second-team offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson led the Eagles in targets with four, hauling in two passes for 32 yards. With the success of quarterback-tight end convert Logan Thomas this past season in Washington, Jackson is a name to watch out for to possibly make the team after entering camp as a long shot.

5: Jake Elliott, K

Not having to talk about Jake Elliott after the Eagles week one preseason game against the Steelers is one of the biggest wins for the organization early in the year. Last year saw a scary drop-off for Elliott in the worst year of his career. After hovering over a field goal percentage of 84% for most of his young career, Elliott’s percentage sharply fell to 73% last year. Elliott went from a kicker with average accuracy and a knack for nailing the long kicks, to one of the least accurate kickers in all of football.

Elliott is looking to bounce back in a big way, and it’s starting with his impressive preseason. Elliott didn’t miss a single kick against the Steelers, going a perfect 3-3 and making his lone PAT. Hopefully, this means a return to form for Philadelphia’s kicker.

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