The ever-raucous Philly crowd gathered for the preseason opener against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field stirred memories of playing in front of the University of Georgia faithful at Sanford Stadium, he said. But being surrounded on the field by a sea of green after four years of seeing nothing but Bulldog red took some getting used to.
Fortunately, he hasn’t been going through the adjustment period alone. After selecting Davis with the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, the Eagles scooped up linebacker Nakobe Dean at No. 83 overall in the third round, reuniting two of the top players from Georgia’s dominant national-champion defense.
Davis and Dean “try and do everything together,” Davis said. They even coordinated their arrival times at Lincoln Financial Field for the Jets game so they could walk into the facility side-by-side. “It gave me the ‘first day of school’ vibes,” Davis said.
A familiar scene unfolded on the field, with the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis controlling the flow of traffic up front and Dean, who finished second on the team with five tackles that night, in position to pounce just south of the line of scrimmage.
“Oh yeah, we definitely have a special chemistry,” Dean said. “We know what makes each other go, we already know what makes each other tick; we’re already bonded. It’s easier with him.”
“Just like old days,” Davis added. “I’m accustomed to watching Nakobe flying around, making plays. He’s going to excel at this level. He’s going to learn. He’s going to get his feet up under him. Just to see him do that, to have us possibly become a 1-2 tandem, it’d be a pretty amazing feat that we can carry from college.”
With summer about to turn to fall, here’s a closer look at how the Eagles’ rookies have performed this offseason, led by the Georgia duo:
DT Jordan Davis (Rd. 1, 13th overall)
Davis provided the top viral moment of Eagles camp when he put fellow rookie Cam Jurgens on skates during one-on-one drills.
“It’s hard to stop a big train when it’s moving,” said veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
In a league full of giants, Davis’ size still stands out. Add power and unique speed (his 4.78-second 40-yard dash was the fastest for any player over 330 pounds at the combine since 2006), and you can see why he’s a difficult one-on-one matchup.
— NFL (@NFL) May 5, 2022
Davis’ pass-rushing moves need work, but he’s already proving to be a magnet for double-teams and will be part of the defensive line rotation immediately.
C Cam Jurgens (Rd. 2, 51 overall), Nebraska
Davis did not like the fact that his one-on-one against Jurgens went viral because he said it sensationalized one rep and didn’t properly represent Jurgens’ overall performance. And he’s right. When you factor in the entire body of work, Jurgens has probably been the Eagles’ top-performing rookie this summer.
On draft night, Jason Kelce called Jurgens “my favorite player in the draft.” The Eagles have asked Kelce to evaluate different centers during the pre-draft process, and Kelce said “that of all the guys that I’ve looked at for the past two, three years, out of all the guys that compare to myself, this guy is him.”
With Kelce recovering from elbow surgery, Jurgens has worked with the first team for most of the offseason and has performed well. It’s easy to see those Kelce-like traits when he gets out into space and trucks linebackers and safeties 20 yards downfield. Kelce has been pondering retirement for the last several seasons. When he does hang them up, he’ll have peace of mind that he’s leaving the center position in good hands based on the early returns.
LB Nakobe Dean (Rd. 3, 83 overall), Georgia
Dean, winner of the Butkus Award as the nation’s best collegiate linebacker, fell to the third round in part due to medical concerns. The Eagles didn’t share other team’s apprehensions, and to this point, Dean hasn’t missed any time.
It was a quiet summer for Dean overall, outside of the preseason opener against the Jets. He’s currently behind T.J. Edwards on the depth chart at middle linebacker. But he’s mixed in with the first team in spots, and while there haven’t been many splash plays to date, the coaching staff remains high on his outlook.
“He’s very smart, he’s tough, and he’s very physical,” said defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. “Happy with where he’s at.”
LB Kyron Johnson (Rd. 6, 181 overall), Kansas
Johnson is vying for a role as a strongside/rush linebacker alongside Haason Reddick and Patrick Johnson. He’s been coming on of late. Johnson led the team with seven tackles in the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins and nearly added a sack. He’s made a pretty strong case to be included on the final roster as a special teams player/reserve linebacker.
Calcaterra briefly retired from football during college after suffering multiple concussions. He returned to play in 2021 and had 38 catches for 465 yards with 4 touchdowns for SMU. He’s shown a penchant for springing open and creating after the catch this offseason. He missed time during training camp with a hamstring injury but has since returned to form, catching two passes for 30 yards against the Dolphins.
He needs to add strength and improve as a blocker, but Calcaterra has shown enough promise as a pass-catcher to earn a roster spot.
Undrafted rookies earning notice
Devon Allen, the former Oregon wide receiver turned world-class hurdler, has been opening some eyes over the past couple of weeks. He hauled in a 55-yard touchdown catch in the second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns and followed that with two nice plays from the gunner position on special teams against Miami. Seeing as he hadn’t played in a game since 2016 and was focusing squarely on track and field until recently, his production is worth noting. He could be a prospect worth further developing on the practice squad.
Safety Reed Blankenship out of Middle Tennessee has been one of the most consistent performers at his position this summer. He provided one of the few defensive highlights in Saturday’s loss to Miami with a big hit that drove the Dolphins’ ball carrier into the ground. He’s on the roster bubble.
Utah receiver Britain Covey has gotten a lot of work in the return game, where he excelled with the Utes. The coaching staff is intrigued by his quickness and big-play ability. He could make the team as a return specialist/reserve receiver.
Alabama cornerback Josh Jobe has enjoyed a steady rise up the depth chart. He was working primarily with the second unit at outside corner before suffering an elbow injury and is in good position to make the team, assuming he’s on track to be healthy in the near future.