Eagles Post-OTA Competition Update: The Offensive Edition

Iron was sharpening iron for the Eagles this spring, but who came out ahead on offense?
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PHILADELPHIA - If there is one thing Nick Sirianni has built his foundation on as a rookie head coach, it's been competition and now that the Eagles' on-field spring work is complete this seems like a good time to update you on the positions which haven't been locked down just yet:

RB2: Boston Scott vs. Kerryon Johnson vs. Kenny Gainwell vs. Jordan Howard

Leader in the clubhouse: A committee

-New Running backs coach Jemal Singleton explained his philosophy pretty clearly last week.

"I think there are very specific skill sets that you need in your room," the veteran coach said. "So you need a first and second-down runner with that really elite ability {starter Miles Sanders]. You need a guy that can pass protect on third down [Johnson] and can pick up short yardage [Howard?]. You need another back that can run routes, and you can put him out empty to do those types of things [Gainwell].

"So really, it’s a combination."

The potential problem with that philosophy is that the play-caller has to be very disciplined to not tip-off opposing defenses with personnel so the best-case scenario is Sanders becoming the more well-rounded back he seemed to be en route to developing into at the end of his rookie season before taking a step back as a receiver and pass protector in 2020.

"I think the days of, 'hey, he’s a true every-down back' are a little skewed these days because of how many hits you can take," Singleton said. "When I look at an NFL room, it has to have all of those [above] abilities … You may have two guys with similar abilities, so maybe you split carries. You might have a guy who excels in the pass-game stuff, so maybe that’s what he does. I think more each year, you’re going to see multiple people in the backfield because of the position and what it requires."

TE2: Zach Ertz or Richard Rodgers

Leader in the clubhouse: Rodgers

You don't see "vs." in the above description because Ertz would be the guy if there is a miracle and he does return to the organization. That remains unlikely and the thought is almost universal that the veteran tight end will be dealt or released by the opening of training camp on July 27.

That said, it's now June 16 and Ertz is still technically a member of the Eagles. New tight ends coach Jason Michael has kept the lines of communication open despite the fact that Ertz skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason.

"I’ve had an opportunity throughout, early when we all first got here, had an opportunity to call and speak with Zach, and have continued to stay in touch," Michael told SI.com's Eagle Maven. "Consistent communication with him throughout, so that’s been good just in terms of the conversations that we’ve had."

What we can tell you is that Ertz has been told that if he does return to play out his contract in 2021 it will be as the backup to the emerging Dallas Goedert and the plan at least is to play more 11 personnel [three receivers] meaning a sharp downtick in playing time for Ertz, yet another clear indicator that the three-time Pro Bowl selection will not be back.

After looking at a host of unproven options like Jason Croom and Caleb Wilson as well as developmental projects Jack Stoll, Hakeem Butler, and Tyree Jackson during the OTAs, the Eagles pulled the trigger on bringing Rodgers back and he played very well at times in 2020 as an injury replacement for both Ertz and Goedert.

At 29, Rodgers isn't a great athlete but he's more than competent at all aspects of the position.

Of the young players, the 6-foot-7 Jackson, a former quarterback at the University of Buffalo, is the most intriguing but he's got a long way to go.

"He’s a big-target guy, long, with length, size, you look at it from that standpoint," said Michael. "He’s played quarterback with a quarterback history and the past that he has, he’s got a good football understanding and understands general football.

"In terms of a very short offseason of having to work him, t’s been positive to see growth from day one. If he can continue, like anyone, just taking the coaching whether it’s the footwork, it’s all new to him. Just the simple things of being in a stance, the releases and things, it’s new to him every day and he’s taking strides. Obviously, he has a good mental aspect of football ad that helps him take those into the physical and he’s done a good job with that."

WR3: Greg Ward vs. Travis Fulgham

Leader in the clubhouse: Fulgham

-As stated, the Eagles want to play more 11 personnel and have been investing heavily at the WR position for three years with diminishing returns. The hope this time is that DeVonta Smith is the player who enables everyone else to slot into place where they are most comfortable. That starts with 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor and Fulgham or 2019 second-round J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

A team source told SI.com's Eagle Maven the template will be Smith, the 10th overall pick in April's draft, and Reagor outside when the Eagles are in 12 personnel with Reagor kicking inside to slot work in 11 and Fulgham being inserted on the outside.

"I think he’s calmer," WR coach Aaron Moorehead said of Regaor. "He’s just letting his play speak for himself. He’s always been a good worker. He’s got a lot of talent. We know that. 

"He’s just doing the things that he needs to do to take care of himself. I think that’s really important and understanding that you have enough talent to be a really, really, really good player in this league and you don’t have to listen to anyone else but the people in this building and your family structure at home, and lets’ go play ball."

If Fulgham can't carry his own water in training camp that could open the door for JJAW, who is likely out of mulligans after two disappointing seasons.

Ward is regarded as a reliable slot WR but not dynamic enough, and the goal is to upgrade from him. If the Eagles are unable to do that, Ward would remain the slot option with Regor staying outside.

Also keep an eye on Arcega-Whiteside as a slot option in the red zone particularly and Quez Watkins, whose speed is coveted making him a darkhorse if the second-year player can improve his route-running and catch the football consistently.

LT: Jordan Mailata vs. Andre Dillard

Leader in the clubhouse: Mailata

-Maybe the main event of the competitions on the docket, the fan-favorite seems to have a slight edge on the former first-round pick after Mailata opened more than a few eyes last season by excelling at times after being thrown into the deep end of the pool due to injury.

“There is definitely [a competition]," Eagles' OL coach Jeff Stoutland said. "... I think anytime there is competition like that, and it is that close, it brings the best out of both players."

During the three OTAs open to the media this spring, Mailata was playing with the first-team after finishing the disappointing 2020 campaign as the starter due to historic attrition which started way back in August when Dillard tore his biceps, derailing a plan which had the former Washington State star stepping in to replace veteran Jason Peters.

Stoutland said neither is ahead of the other right now and Mailata previously confirmed that his status at the top of the depth chart during media availability was just luck of the draw of those particular days.

"Whoever is the most productive, whoever does the best, who has the best value going into the season will be the starter,” Stoutland insisted.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.