Alex Kielar | Aug 19th, 2019
The Philadelphia Eagles 2018 season was very injury-filled, but they used the “Next Man Up” mentality like in their Super Bowl winning season the year prior, and still made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. They ultimately fell to the Saints, 20-14, but Nick Foles brought some magic again when Carson Wentz went down for the season with another injury, to will the Eagles into the playoffs. He went 4-1 in the five games he started and threw seven touchdown passes with a 72.3 completion percentage. The biggest question for the 2019 season is whether Philadelphia can stay healthy, especially Wentz. If that happens, the Super Bowl is their ceiling and expectations will be running high.
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The Eagles had one of the busiest and most successful offseason in the league, extending, resigning, drafting, and trading for lots of talent. A lot of the moves they made were to add to their depth, mostly to their defensive and offensive lines. They addressed the need for a deep threat receiver by trading for former Eagle DeSean Jackson from the Buccaneers, getting him, along with a 2020 seventh-round pick, for just a 2019 sixth-round pick. The Wentz-Jackson combo looked great during training camp.
They extended long-term Eagle center Jason Kelce and defensive end Brandon Graham, traded for top running back Jordan Howard from the Bears for just a late 2020 draft pick, drafted highly talented running back Miles Sanders and offensive tackle Andre Dillard. They now have a stacked running back room and have plenty of depth at all positions, so if injuries do occur they will be safe given the depth they have.
The Eagles offense is very strong, with plenty of weapons and depth. Wentz should be very effective if he stays healthy in his third year, as he now has his deep threat in Jackson. Other weapons Wentz has to play with are Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, strong tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, with un-retiring Darren Sproles out of the backfield. The running back core will be very strong with Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders most likely splitting carries depending on down and distance, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and others as depth. Howard ran for 935 yards and seven touchdowns last season, while Sanders rushed for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns at Penn State last season. Wentz should also be protected very well with a strong offensive line.
The front-seven of the Eagles is looking very strong, with rumors they could potentially trade for Jadeveon Clowney. If that doesn’t happen, they are still looking very good, with Fletcher Cox recording 10.5 sacks last season, proving to be a top pass-rusher in the league. Graham is also a solid run-stuffer who can pressure the quarterback, with 11 hits and four sacks last season. The secondary has always been the Eagles weakest link, but veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins is always strong, and cornerbacks Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby, and Rasul Douglas should be solid this season, with Sidney Jones looking to break out a bit. Maddox had a solid rookie season, recording two interceptions, 35 total tackles, and one forced fumble.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Josh McCown
Wentz is obviously the starter, no quarterback controversy here at all. The nearly un-retired McCown will fill in as the backup until Sudfeld returns in week three or four from his broken wrist. McCown will then slide into the third-string role I believe. Clayton Thorson will probably have a spot on the practice squad, while Cody Kessler‘s future with the team is in doubt.
RB (5): Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood
The first three guys are definite locks, with Howard and Sanders the duel starters and Sproles as a guy to make plays out of the backfield as a back and receiver. The Eagles are so stacked at the position that they will probably carry five, with a battle for the final spot most likely going down between Smallwood and Josh Adams. Clement has been a solid back and has made plays on the ground and in the air. He was a huge piece to the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017-18.
WR (5): DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins
Jackson, Jeffery, and Agholor are the clear starters for the receiving core and should be very dangerous, with Arcega-Whiteside being another potential Jeffrey like receiver. With Jackson now as a deep threat, the Eagles will be able to use all of the field and give Wentz lots of targets and confidence.
TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Ertz and Goedert are the sure-fire starters as probably the best tight end duo in the league, while Rodgers will certainly be the backup after just being signed. He had been a good target for Aaron Rodgers while he was on the Packers.
OL (9): Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Brett Toth
The starting five is pretty set, and the backups do have some question marks, as a trade of one of them (Vaitai) is still possible in a package deal for Clowney. This will be the rotation if a trade doesn’t happen, but Stefen Wisniewski could make the team if a trade does occur.
DL (5): Malik Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester
Cox is a definite starter, while the second starting spot could be a bit of a battle between Jackson and Jernigan. Ridgeway is a solid run stuffer who should get plenty of snaps while allowing Cox to stay fresh.
EDGE (5): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller
This group has the potential to be lethal, especially if Sweat can take a step forward. Daeshon Hall could push for a roster spot but given their depth, it will be tough despite a strong preseason. If he doesn’t make the roster, he could end up on the practice squad.
LB (5): Zach Brown, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry, L.J. Fort
A fairly thin group before the busy offseason, the linebacker core is much improved, with the biggest addition being Brown. Fort is a standout on special teams which makes him likely to grab the final spot, with Brown and Bradham the pretty clear starters.
CB (6): Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Orlando Scandrick
This position for the Eagles has the most question marks and will probably be a constant change throughout the season based on performance and health. Jalen Mills hasn’t been able to play and will most likely start the season on the PUP list, while Jones should take another step forward in his development. Douglas has performed well enough to see significant playing time, along with Maddox, who can play multiple positions.
SAF (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jonathan Cyprien, Andrew Sendejo
Jenkins and McLeod have the starting spots locked down, while Cyprien’s size and aggressiveness earns him a roster spot. Maddox’s ability to play safety gives the Eagles more depth and versatility in the secondary.
ST (3): Cam Johnston, Jake Elliot, Rick Lovato
The punter, kicker, and long snapper position is locked down and there shouldn’t be any surprises in this group at the end of the preseason.
The expectations for this team in 2019 are through the roof, at Super Bowl level hype, with so many exciting players to watch for. I expect Sanders to have a strong rookie season and contend for Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Health, as I said earlier, is the biggest concern, and will make or break the season. The depth is very strong, however, and they are always big on the “Next Man Up” mentality, as they were in their Super Bowl season.
Season Prediction: 11-5 and make the playoffs as 1 or 2 seed.
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