Philadelphia Eagles training camp preview: Can Jalen Hurts take the next step?

Entering his second year as Philly's full-time starter, Hurts has all he needs to succeed.

ByTim McManus ESPN Staff Writer via ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
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The Philadelphia Eagles open 2022 NFL training camp on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles open 2022 NFL training camp on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:

Biggest question: How much better can quarterback Jalen Hurts get?

Entering his second year as Philly's full-time starter, Hurts has all he needs to succeed: a strong offensive line, familiarity in coach Nick Sirianni's system and a strong skill group led by receiver A.J. Brown, who was acquired from the Tennessee Titans on the first night of the 2022 NFL draft for picks in the first and third rounds.

Hurts, 23, led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2021 with a 9-8 record and finished first among quarterbacks in yards rushing (784) and rushing touchdowns (10), but was 26th in completion percentage (61.3%). He spent part of the offseason with quarterback trainers in Southern California working on his mechanics, focusing on his footwork and release. It paid dividends this spring, according to Sirianni.

"I'm noticing a big difference," he told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "What I see is a crisper ball. The accuracy I've been very pleased with. You can just see him taking strides every single day with his accuracy because of the fundamentals he has with his feet and his upper body."

If Hurts can take a leap forward as a passer, the Eagles might just be legitimate NFC contenders.

Who's the player with the most to prove? Receiver Jalen Reagor. His first two years in the league have not gone as hoped, with Reagor totaling 64 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns over 28 games. Expectations for first-round picks are always high and were knocked out of whack when the Eagles selected him ahead of receiver Justin Jefferson, who took off immediately for the Minnesota Vikings and is well on his way to becoming a star in the league.

Reagor enters his third season having to fight for a role on the team. Brown and DeVonta Smith are wide receivers 1 and 1A, followed by Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal, a Sirianni favorite. Reagor is still only 23 years old and has a lot of ability. But the clock is ticking for him to put it all together in an Eagles uniform.

What's the fiercest fantasy-relevant battle? Running back.

Miles Sanders enters as the starter. He is in a contract year and will be plenty motivated to prove he's among the better backs in the league. Injuries have held him back from reaching that status over his first three seasons. Ankle and hand injuries kept him out of five games last season.

That opened the door for Kenneth Gainwell, who had an impressive rookie year with 544 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns (compared to 912 scrimmage yards and zero TDs for Sanders). Ideally for the Eagles, Sanders will fill the role of lead back with Gainwell (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) complementing him as a change-of-pace back and pass-catching threat. But Gainwell showed last season that he can get it done as a runner, too, and will take on more snaps along with Boston Scott if Sanders can't stay healthy or shows inconsistency in his play.

Camp prediction: Undrafted receiver Britain Covey makes the team.

The 25-year-old rookie out of Utah created some buzz this spring. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, he doesn't exactly have a size advantage, but that didn't stop him from wreaking some havoc last year for the Utes, including on special teams, where he returned two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns.

Competition for roster spots should be pretty fierce at receiver, with Reagor, Greg Ward and John Hightower among those vying to make the squad along with Brown, Smith, Pascal and Watkins. But the coaches like what they've seen out of Covey so far, and a strong summer could convince them to keep him around.