Andre Dillard, Others Must Prove they can be Part of Retooling Process

Here are three players who must show that they belong on the roster in 2021 and beyond
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PHILADELPHIA – Soon, another batch of players will funnel into the Eagles’ facility, wide-eyed and eager to find their place in their new surroundings.

To succeed means they will try to take the job of a veteran. It’s the never-ending cycle of the NFL, which as anyone inside and outside the league knows stands for Not For Long.

The 2021 NFL Draft is April 29-May 1 and will be followed by a flurry of undrafted free agent signings.

In order to fend off challenges from the newcomers, veterans need to pull their weight or be gone.

For the Eagles, there are several players who need to rise up this spring and through summer’s training camp rigors or could be in jeopardy of being released, and even that may not be enough, not on a team that is coming off a 4-11-1 season.

Right tackle Lane Johnson made the rounds this past week talking to various media, including John McMullen, of SI.com Eagles Maven and co-host with Jody McDonald on “BIRDS365” from 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“They may draft another offensive tackle,” said Johnson. “They got guys coming for me. That’s the name of the game. It’s all about competition. Those guys push you, they develop you, and it’s just part of the nature of the business.”

It’s early, but here are three Eagles who must prove they belong to be a piece in the Eagles' retooling process:

Andre Dillard: The 2019 first-round draft pick was someone who wasn’t supposed to slide into the 20s – NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah had him going No. 8 overall to the Texans in his final mock drat that spring - but when he did, the Eagles traded up three spots to grab him at No. 22 overall.

He showed flashes at left tackle during his rookie year when Jason Peters’ health betrayed him. Dillard started three games at left tackle and another at right tackle, which was an abysmal failure, and he was benched at halftime of that start.

It’s too early to give up on him, especially after he missed his second season with a torn biceps suffered during training camp. 

He wasn’t having an overly impressive camp to that point, so that is a concern and now he faces stiff competition to start from Jordan Mailata, who rose up to meet his challenge last year and has positioned himself as the favorite to win the job.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: The WR was taken 35 picks after Dillard, the Eagles’ second choice in the second round of the 2019 draft, and after they took running back Miles Sanders four picks earlier.

If JJAW cannot put it together under the guidance of a new coaching staff that has some rare stability with Aaron Moorehead returning for a second straight year as the position coach, he will be gone.

He may already be after 12 catches for 214 yards in two combined seasons simply aren’t good enough, and if the Eagles draft a wide receiver early, as many expect they will, he may not even make to the starting line of the season.

Avonte Maddox. While the first two may not be much of a surprise, Maddox is, but it is certainly a possibility he could find himself on the outside looking in. His bid to secure the starting outside CB spot opposite Darius Slay wasn’t a big hit and has the Eagles presumably in the market for another CB in the draft. Perhaps even two.

This will be the final season of Maddox’s rookie contract and he received a hefty raise this offseason due to the escalator clause negotiated in the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The bottom line of that clause is a bump in pay from $750,000 to $2.1 million for the season.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.