The Philadelphia Eagles came into the 2020 season with fairly high expectations behind their supposed franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. But a large number of injuries and lackluster play caused them to finish just 4-11-1 and last place in the NFC East. Wentz was benched for Jalen Hurts, who the Eagles drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, in Week 13. Hurts finished the season as the starter before Doug Pederson completely lost the locker room by benching him in the fourth quarter in Week 17.
The final straw to Pederson’s job security was his decision to bench Hurts to tank for a higher draft pick, as he was fired at the beginning of the offseason. There were still plenty of moves to be made, as the Eagles also shipped Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts, while defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz decided not to return as he “takes a year off from coaching and contemplates retirement”. The new head coach was brought in prior to the Wentz trade in the form of former Colts’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. The entire coaching staff got a complete rehaul, which can be seen below.
|Old HC||New HC||Old OC||New OC||Old DC||New DC||Old Special Teams Coord.||New Special Teams Coord.||Old Passing Game Coord.||New Passing Game Coord.||Old QB Coach||New QB Coach||Old RB Coach||New RB Coach||Old TE Coach||New TE Coach||Old DL Coach||New DL Coach||Old LB Coach||New LB Coach||Old DB Coach||New DB Coach|
|Doug Pederson||Nick Sirianni||Press Taylor/Rich Scangarello||Shane Steichen||Jim Schwartz||Jonathan Gannon||Dave Fipp||Michel Clay||Press Taylor||Kevin Patullo||Press Taylor||Brian Johnson||Duce Staley||Jemal Singleton||Justin Peelle||Jason Michael||Matt Burke||Tracy Rocker||Ken Flajole||Nick Rallis||Marquand Manuel||Dennard Wilson|
During free agency, the Eagles added Joe Flacco to fill the role as the backup quarterback, which also adds a veteran presence to the locker room. They also reunited with running back Jordan Howard on a one-year deal, while signing linebacker Eric Wilson to a one-year deal as well. Their best free-agent signing, though, occurred less than a month ago. That being the signing of former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson to a one-year contract, giving Philadelphia a number two cornerback alongside Darius Slay. The cornerback room has been greatly improved, as they also added safety Anthony Harris early on in free agency. As they have tried to retool the roster and get younger, they also released DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, and Alshon Jeffery.
During the 2021 NFL Draft, the Eagles used their first-round pick on the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner in former Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith. With the pick, they now have a true number one receiver to pair with Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, and others. Philadelphia used their second-round pick on their future center, drafting Smith’s Alabama teammate Landon Dickerson. The rest of their picks, outside of their fifth-round pick on running back Kenneth Gainwell, were used to bolster their defense. Texas Tech cornerback Zech McPherson was their fourth-round pick, which gives them solid depth behind Slay and Nelson. Notable undrafted free agents they signed are Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes and Nebraska tight end Jack Stoll. Stoll has been getting praised in the preseason thus far and could be a solid TE2 behind Dallas Goedert, assuming Zach Ertz is traded at some point.
The Eagles’ offense this season rides on how Jalen Hurts performs and whether or not he can be a franchise-type quarterback they hope him to be. After trading away Wentz, they will have to see what they have with Hurts. He performs to a top level and he will be set to be their quarterback for several seasons. Otherwise, another quarterback, ala Spencer Rattler, would be in the cards for the 2022 NFL Draft. The offense has some promise to it, but not without some worries to it as well. The health of Smith will be a big factor as well, with his size – 6’0″, 174 pounds – being a concern among the scouting and NFL expert world. The duo of Smith and Reagor could be lethal as they have a lot to prove.
The offensive line has to stay healthy for the Eagles to have a chance to prove doubters wrong this season, as the talent is certainly there. With Ertz looking like he will at least start the season with Philadelphia, the combination of him and Goedert gives Hurts a solid safety blanket. If Miles Sanders stays healthy and holds onto the football, he will be a top runner in the backfield to help lead the young offense.
The defense, like previously mentioned, is much improved and will be more middle ground. It will be anchored by veteran pro-bowl players in Slay and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Third-round pick Milton Williams will have the opportunity to learn behind Cox and mold into the potential replacement. But even with solid additions, linebacker and the secondary still have serious question marks. This keeps them from projecting more than just mediocre.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
QB (2) – Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco
Nick Mullens should find his way onto the practice squad while Flacco should be a solid veteran backup to Hurts.
RB (4) – Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, Jordan Howard
Sanders has a make-or-break third season coming and could really break out into a big star. Howard reunited with the Eagles and should do well enough to make the team. Scott always brings a different element to the run game, being a Darren Sproles-Esque runner. Gainwell could be a breakout rookie this season after the Eagles drafted him in the fifth round.
WR (5) – DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, John Hightower
Watkins has been a stud in camp and in the preseason, so he will be another solid weapon for Hurts. Hightower has the speed that would work well with the offense and has a chance to make the team. If not, he should have a spot on the practice squad.
TE (3) – Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll
Assuming Ertz survives the remainder of the preseason, he will be the second tight end behind Goedert, who has taken over the mantle of TE1. Stoll is someone to watch for in the passing game and should be one of the final survivors of roster cuts.
OL (9) – Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta
This group has a lot of potential and depth, while the top of the depth chart is pretty much set. If most of these guys stay healthy, the Eagles’ offense has the chance to be pretty dangerous.
DL (5) – Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway, T.Y. McGill
The top three here are set in stone, while Ridgeway and McGill might battle it out for the fourth spot.
EDGE (5) – Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Tarron Jackson
The starters are pretty much set in stone and Jackson has impressed so far to potentially make the final spot. This group has the potential to be one of the most dangerous pass-rushing groups in the league. Kerrigan was brought in after 10 years with the Washington Football Team and brings another level to the pass rush that is already solid.
LB (6) – Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, Davion Taylor, T.J. Edwards, Patrick Johnson, Genard Avery
There is more potential with this group than in previous years. Singleton looks to be a stud, while the rest of the group has upside. Jonathan Gannon has worked on getting Avery into the linebacking corp and has a good chance to make the team as a depth piece.
CB (6) – Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Craig James, Josiah Scott
McPhearson is an exciting addition to the Eagles’ secondary, but adding Nelson gives him a chance to sit behind two top veteran corners and learn from them.
SAF (5) – Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps, Elijah Riley
McLeod is currently on the PUP list but has a chance to return by Week 1. Riley makes the 53 after he has looked good during camp. Harris and Wallace can be solid players for the safety group and really improve the secondary.
ST (3) – Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato
There are no question marks for this group and no one running against them. All three of them will maintain their spots for the whole season as long as they are healthy.
One Player to Add
While the Eagles might not be getting much love, they have plenty of potential. The biggest questions marks on the roster are with the secondary and linebackers, as well as how Hurts will put it together. The Eagles trading for Deshaun Watson has been on the table, but it seems nothing will come to fruition. At least not now. A couple of players they could target are linebacker K.J. Wright, cornerback Quinton Dunbar, and safety Tre Boston.
2021 Outlook & Odds
After finishing the 2020 season with the sixth-worst record in the league, it can only be up from here. The expectations for them this season are not very high. Most odds books have Philadephia’s win total at over/under 7.5 or lower. This team can perform well IF it all comes together and the injuries don’t pile up as much as other years. But if they fall flat on their face, they could easily be in the bottom third of the league. If they found out quickly that Hurts isn’t who they hope, they won’t hesitate to tank for a better draft position and find his replacement.
Season Prediction: 8-9 and finish second in the NFC East Division
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images