Predicting Eagles' Breakout Players at 2022 OTAs, Minicamp

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIMay 23, 2022

Predicting Eagles' Breakout Players at 2022 OTAs, Minicamp

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2017 season, made the playoffs again each of the following two years and then won only four games in 2020.

    In their first year with Nick Sirianni as head coach in 2021, though, they went 9-8 and returned to the postseason, which the franchise hopes is the start of an upward trajectory back to a championship level.

    This offseason, the Eagles appear to have improved their roster. They've signed notable free agents such as linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry, traded for a star wide receiver in A.J. Brown and added a high-potential draft class headlined by two former Georgia defenders: defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean.

    In order for Philadelphia to take a big step forward in Sirianni's second season, it will need some returning depth players to have breakout seasons. The Eagles may rely on some of these unproven members of their roster to fill roles, and they could greatly impact the team's level of success.

    With OTAs and minicamps on the horizon, here's a look at several Philadelphia players who could start to have breakout years when they take the field for those activities.

Kenneth Gainwell, RB

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    As a rookie last season, Kenneth Gainwell flashed his potential out of the Eagles' backfield, particularly with his receiving skills. In 16 games, he had 291 yards and five touchdowns on the ground while also recording 33 catches for 253 yards and a score.

    The 23-year-old also had five receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Round. So, if he can build off that performance and his solid debut campaign, he could be poised for a bigger role in the Eagles' offense in 2022.

    Miles Sanders' production was down last year, and he's had trouble staying healthy. That could open the door for another running back, such as Gainwell or Boston Scott, to take touches away from Sanders moving forward.

    There may not be a clear-cut lead back in Philadelphia, especially if Gainwell impresses during the leadup to the season.

    The Memphis product could take a big leap forward this year. And if that happens, it will help the Eagles in both the running and passing games while making their offense more explosive and more difficult to stop.

Davion Taylor, LB

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Philadelphia needed to add depth to its linebacker corps this offseason, and it has done that in numerous ways.

    Reddick should be a force on the outside, fellow free-agent signing Kyzir White should play significant snaps and Dean (who didn't get drafted until the third round) could immediately make an impact.

    However, there's still a chance for Davion Taylor to work his way into a larger role for 2022, considering he showed at times last season what he's capable of. A third-round pick in the 2020 draft, he has been limited to 21 games through his first two years in the NFL due to injury, but he played nine games and made six starts in 2021, recording 41 tackles and two forced fumbles.

    The Colorado product needs to stay healthy heading into this season, and he'll have to prove he's worthy of substantial playing time, especially with more linebackers in the mix. But he'll still only be 24 when the season arrives, and he has a lot of potential, as evidenced by his play when healthy last year.

    So, if Taylor is on the field throughout the summer and into the preseason, don't be surprised if he carves out a role, especially if a less proven player such as Dean isn't quite ready to step into a big role by Week 1.

    And it's always valuable to have various linebackers who can be subbed in and out to keep everybody fresh, meaning Taylor should have opportunities to excel.

Marcus Epps, S

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Eagles re-signed Anthony Harris earlier this offseason, so they're set at free safety. However, Rodney McLeod signed with the Indianapolis Colts, meaning there's a starting job to be won at strong safety before the 2022 season.

    That role will likely be filled by either K'Von Wallace or Marcus Epps, and both could play substantial snaps for the Eagles this year. The latter has more experience after three NFL seasons, but he has yet to really break out. That could change soon, though.

    "We have a lot of confidence in Marcus," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said, per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "Marcus played really good football for us last year. ... We're excited about him."

    The 26-year-old played 16 games and made three starts in 2021, recording one interception and setting career highs in tackles (62) and passes defended (five). He's played 37 games for Philadelphia over the past three seasons, so he has plenty of experience at this point.

    Now, it's time for Epps to take the next step and become a strong starter for the Eagles on defense.

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