With training camp set to start later this month, we already know that COVID-19 is impacting the 2020 season in some ways. The NFL is reportedly going to shorten the preseason from four games to two, but the NFLPA is questioning playing any sort of preseason.
Even though most fans see the preseason as a boring exhibition, the usual four games are extremely important for rookies or long shots as it gives them a chance to show off their skills for their coaches. Obviously, if the preseason is going to be shortened or taken out completely, it is going to benefit the veterans who might be on the roster bubble.
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Keeping that in mind, here are six Eagles that will benefit from this unusual setup:
The recently re-signed Eagle initially wasn't going to be a guarantee to make the 2020 squad. The Super Bowl LII hero has had his previous two seasons cut short due to injury, and with some interesting young talent at the position (Elijah Holyfield, Adrian Killens, Mike Warren) there seemed to be a decent chance where one or two of those three players mentioned would have impressed in the preseason to take a roster spot away from Clement. With that in mind, the Eagles will likely stick with the known commodity in Clement as RB #3 behind Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, and only keep one of those other three running backs mentioned to complete their four 'back rotation. Hopefully a shortened preseason means that Clement will stay healthy for even longer in 2020.
Mailata has shown some flashes, and there is still some hype surrounding the former 7th round draft pick. He has had his first two seasons shortened by IR designations, but a limited training camp and preseason will give him a greater chance of staying healthy longer. With Jason Peters currently not in the picture, Mailata is slated to be the primary backup at both tackle positions. However, the Eagles did draft two offensive linemen in April who could give some competition -- Prince Tega Wanogho and Jack Driscoll. Since Tega Wanogho and Driscoll wouldn't get as much time on the field, Mailata will have an important depth role in 2020.
After garnering a ton of hype in the 2019 preseason, JJAW had a rookie season to forget. Now just one year removed from being a 2nd round pick, the Stanford product would have been at risk of falling further down the depth chart or potentially even being cut in a normal preseason environment. A shortened preseason though should benefit him though, as it ensures that rookie John Hightower and Quez Watkins won't be given ample time to show their skills. Include the fact that Alshon Jeffery isn't likely to be available at the start of the season, and all of a sudden it seems like JJAW could actually be the starting X-receiver in 2020.
After grinding with the practice squad, Ward finally got his chance to prove himself on the active roster, and he showed that he can ball with the best of them. With Nelson Agholor off the squad, the slot position is open for the taking. As of now Ward should have the advantage to win that job, but he does have Marquise Goodwin, John Hightower and Quez Watkins on his heels. A lack of preseason snaps for those other three receivers means that we should expect to see Ward out there anytime the offense wants three wide receiver sets.
The Eagles traded for Riley early in 2019 to add some special teams depth. Riley excelled so much on special teams, that he later became the captain of the special teams once Kamu Grugier-Hill went down with a season-ending injury. Jim Schwartz even trusted him enough to give him some snaps on defense, where he held his own. The Eagles added three linebackers this offseason (Jatavis Brown, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley), but as of now only two of the three starting linebacker positions appear to be locked up (Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards). Since Brown, Taylor and Bradley won't get many snaps to try to impress Schwartz or linebackers coach Ken Flajole, Riley might have the inside track to land the third starting linebacker job.
It's likely the Eagles keep six cornerbacks on their active roster. Those six cornerbacks will likely end up being Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas. So how does this preseason situation benefit Rasul Douglas? Well for starters, it is now improbable for the other cornerbacks on the roster (Craig James, Trevor Williams, Tremon Smith, Prince Smith, Michael Jacquet, and Elijah Riley) to beat Douglas out with fewer chances to show off. If for some reason the Eagles decide to keep one of those other cornerbacks instead of Douglas, they should have a market for him thanks to this unique preseason. Teams would want a proven cornerback over a risky rookie, and Douglas has shown he can be a competent cornerback at times. So either way, in 2020 Douglas will either be a depth piece for the Eagles, or he will be traded and bring back some sort of asset for Howie Roseman to work with.