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2020 Team Report: Philadelphia Eagles

Last updated: Tue, Jun 16

Offensive Philosophy

Like many of today's best offensive minds, head coach Doug Pederson unapologetically borrows from a litany of proven systems, and is constantly adding new concepts into his repertoire. His roots are in the West Coast offense, but the Eagles have heavily incorporated the run-pass option and spread concepts in recent seasons. Although Pederson has always called plays, this year he'll forego an offensive coordinator instead relying on a committee of new passing game coordinator Press Taylor, running game coordinator Jeff Stoutland, and new hire Rich Scangarello.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Carson Wentz
Backup(s): Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts [R], Kyle Lauletta

Starting QB: Carson Wentz enters his fifth season firmly entrenched as the centerpiece of the Eagles offense, but is still trying to recapture his MVP-caliber form from 2017. The good news is Wentz played all 16 games last year, and enjoyed his first 4,000-yard passing season. The bad news is Wentz got hurt in his first-ever playoff start. Philadelphia has won four playoff games, including a Super Bowl, in Wentz tenure, but he's had no part in any of those victories. Bad luck has played a role in his litany of injuries, but his reckless aggression, particularly as a runner, has also factored. With an offensive line in flux, and a rebuilt receiving corps, expecting Wentz to play at an elite level is unfair. But if rookies Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, John Hightower, and veteran Marquise Goodwin can gel, Wentz can contend for another deep playoff run.

Backup QB: Being the Eagles No. 2 quarterback has been an enviable role in recent years, most notably when Nick Foles led the team to a Super Bowl victory in Wentz' stead. This year, Nate Sudfeld has the honor. While not a household name, he's experienced in the system and has the coaches' full confidence. Remember, Sudfeld would've been the No. 2 last year before getting hurt in the preseason, which precipitated coaxing Josh McCown out of retirement. While Sudfeld would be under center if Wentz gets hurt again, it's rookie Jalen Hurts who will be the talk of the town. The team surprisingly drafted Hurts in the second round, as General Manager Howie Roseman explicitly said he wants the team to be a "quarterback factory." Hurts was highly productive at Alabama and Oklahoma, but is also flawed, particulary as an accurate, pocket passer.

Running Backs

Starter: Miles Sanders
Backup(s): Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield, Michael Warren [R], Adrian Killins Jr. [R]
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: Miles Sanders is the best Eagles running back since LeSean McCoy, and barring injury will be a fixture of the offense for the next few years. The former Penn State running back was unfairly compared to his college predecessor, Saquon Barkley, but those comparisons didn't preclude Sanders from quickly making a name for himself. Sanders was part of a committee for most of the season, but became the nominal starter in Week 11. Over the final seven games, Sanders was on pace for 1,102 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), 64 receptions, 466 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns. With Jordan Howard traded to Miami, Sanders is in-line for an every down role this season as a three-down workhorse. His versatility, patience, and leverage put Sanders at or near the top of the NFC's most promising young tailbacks.

Backup RBs: Boston Scott is one of the many practice squad players who became vital cogs for Philadelphia last year. Injuries led to Scott's promotion, and 5-foot-7, 203-pounder shocked everyone by becoming a perfect complement to Miles Sanders. In the team's final regular season game against the Giants, Scott had 138 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns. What Scott lacks in size, he makes up for with good vision and an extra gear to get outside of opposing linebackers. Corey Clement, whose season-ending shoulder injury led to Scott's promotion, re-signed in May and will likely resume his spot as the team's No. 3. Clement knows the system well and is good, but not great, in all facets of the position.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson
Backups: Jalen Reagor [R], Greg Ward, John Hightower [R], Quez Watkins [R], Deontay Burnett, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Robert Davis, Shelton Gibson

Starting WRs: While there's never one reason for a team falling short of expectations, the Eagles receiving corps was unquestionably the biggest reason the team had to limp into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Alshon Jeffery missed six games and was hobbled in several more. DeSean Jackson missed thirteen games, and was really only a factor in one. And Nelson Agholor missed six games. The Eagles receiving corps had just 1,647 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, which ranked 31st and 28th, respectively. But that understates how ineffective the receiving corps was. Consider, the unit ranked 157th out of 160 units over the last five years. The good news is both Jeffery and Jackson could be back in the lineup. Jackson will be 34 years old this season, but still has elite vertical speed and ball-tracking ability. Jeffery is more well rounded, but he's also spoken ill of teammates and would have been cut were it not for an onerous contract. Whether Jeffery is on the team or not, expect the Eagles to push hard for the younger receivers to earn significant roles.

Backup WRs: Speed, speed, and more speed. Once DeSean Jackson got hurt last year, the team was unable to stretch the field and had a trickle down effect on the rest of the offense. So in addition to having Jackson back and healthy, the team has completely revamped the receiving corps with a speedy youth movement. Atop the ranks is first-round pick Jalen Reagor. Reagor is a fluid, explosive receiver whose 2019 numbers were dramatically hamstrung by poor quarterbacking. Ideally, Reagor will step into the starting lineup quickly. Whether J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can be the long-term answer opposite Reagor remains to be seen, but it's unfair to write him off because of a disappointing rookie season. Rookies Quez Watkins and John Hightower can also blow the top off the defense, and will push to make the roster over last year's hero Greg Ward and veterans Deontay Burnett, Robert Davis, and Shelton Gibson.

Tight Ends

Starters: Zach Ertz
Backups: Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Alex Ellis, Noah Togiai [R]

As the receiving corps was historically inept, the tight end group was historically impressive. Last year, the Eagles tight ends combined for 232 targets, 155 receptions, 1,610 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Not only did that lead the league, but it's the most productive tight end group of the last five seasons. Zach Ertz led the team with 135 targets, 88 receptions, 916 yards, and 6 touchdowns; he remains the team's best passing game target. But second-year Dallas Goedert elevated his play and finished second on the team with 87 targets, 58 receptions, 607 yards, and 5 touchdowns. No team has a better duo, and they should remain Carson Wentz' key red zone targets regardless of how the wide receiver corps improves.

Place Kicker

Jake Elliott: Elliott is entrenched as the Eagles kicker after signing a five-year, $19.3 million dollar extension during the 2019 season. He performed right in line with his career averages last year, making 22 of 26 field goal attempts, with all of his misses coming from 40+ and 35 of 37 extra point attempts. The Eagles haven't given Elliott enough opportunity to be a draftable kicker in fantasy leagues and he often goes undrafted, but is a good bye/injury fill-in option.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Boston Scott, Miles Sanders

Running backs Boston Scott and Miles Sanders both returned kickoffs for the Eagles last year. They could split responsibilities again in 2020 or, if Sanders inherits a larger role on offense, the duties could fall more to Scott.

Punt Returners: Boston Scott, Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor

Returning punt returners Boston Scott and Greg Ward are likely to compete with new rookie receiver Jalen Reagor for the punt returner role in 2020.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Andre Dillard, LG Isaac Seumalo, C Jason Kelce, RG Matt Pryor, RT Lane Johnson
Key Backups: OT Jordan Mailata, OL Jack Driscoll [R], OT Prince Tega Wagano [R]

The line remains strong in Philadelphia, as three of their five starters made the Pro Bowl, Center Jason Kelce remains elite, making All Pro first team and right guard Brandon Brooks joined him on the All Pro second team. There will be two new starters as left tackle Andre Dillard will take over for Jason Peters, and Matt Pryor replaces Brooks, who tore his left achilles in the offseason. The Eagles could sign or trade for someone to replace Brooks, or shift Dillard inside and re-sign Peters. Dillard did start four games at left tackle as a rookie. The team invested a fourth-round pick in RT Jack Driscoll from Auburn.

Team Defense

The Eagles' 43 sacks, 20 takeaways and 3 defensive scores helped them stay relevant in fantasy leagues when the matchup was right. Finishes of 10th and 15th in yards and points allowed highlighted quality play upfront, but the defense was held back by poor play at cornerback. They addressed that this offseason by trading for Darius Slay and signing Nickell Robey-Coleman to give them a shutdown No. 1 and quality depth at slot corner. The linebacker group is largely unproven, but the defensive line is still a strength and one that got stronger with the addition of Javon Hargrave in free agency. They are available in the 15-20 range among team defenses and might prove to be an early season waiver wire pickup in typical leagues and solid #2 defense to draft in best ball leagues.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Derek Barnett, DT Fletcher Cox, DT Javon Hargrave, DE Brandon Graham
Backups: DE Genard Avery, DT Malik Jackson, DT Hassan Ridgeway, DE Josh Sweat, DE Shareef Miller, DE Daeshon Hall

Starting DL: The Eagles have invested heavily on the defensive line throughout Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman's tenures, and few teams have a better starting four. But the team has depth questions, which is worrisome considering Brandon Graham (32) and Fletcher Cox (29) are getting older. Cox is one of the NFL's top interior defenders. He can handle the run like larger run-pluggers, but has the athleticism of a rush end which allows him to disrupt opposing passing games with consistent push up the middle. Free agent splash Javon Hargrave joins Cox to form a dynamic 1-2 punch at tackle. Hargrave may not be a household name, but his play improved year-after-year in Pittsburgh and was one a top-10 interior defense last year by any metric. If he can sustain 2019's level of play, it will be hard for teams to run inside against Philadelphia. On the outside, the team needs Derek Barnett to breakthrough in his fourth year. Barnett is only 23 years old, in spite of being a fourth-year player. He has just 14 sacks in three seasons and doesn't give consistent effort against the run. Brandon Graham never puts up jaw-dropping sack totals, but he's a high-effort, smart player who is a true two-way defender. Coming off a 50-tackle, 8.5-sack season, the veteran leader needs to stay healthy for this unit to reach its potential.

Backup DL: Malik Jackson was supposed to be Fletcher Cox' new running mate when he signed a 3-year, $30 million deal last offseason. But Jackson hurt his foot in Week 1 and missed the entire season. The long-time veteran should be healthy for the 2020 season, and won't be asked to play starters minutes anymore. He'll be the third tackle in the rotation, and the fewer snaps hopefully will raise his per-snap productivity. Hassan Ridgeway is a replacement-level tackle, at best. On the outside, Josh Sweat notched four sacks in 371 snaps last year but his liability in pass coverage is severe.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Nathan Gerry, MLB T.J. Edwards, OLB Duke Riley
Backups: OLB Jatavis Brown, OLB Alex Singleton, OLB Davion Taylor [R], MLB Shaun Bradley [R], Dante Olson [R]

Starting LBs: Howie Roseman has never prioritized the linebacker corps and 2020 is no different. The projected starters may be the least imposing group in the NFC, at least based on their careers to date. Nathan Gerry is the most experienced; he started 12 games last year and made 78 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He makes the plays in front of him, but doesn't have the instincts or athleticism to disrupt opponents off script. T.J. Edwards started four games last year and played the run impressively, but wasn't asked to cover or rush the passer. Duke Riley was an ineffective part-time starter in Atlanta for a few seasons before joining the Eagles mid-year. He only had 14 tackles in 12 appearances. It's hard to imagine Riley holding onto his job if any of the team's new additions have an above average training camp.

Backup LBs: Jatavis Brown is difficult to handicap. In four seasons with the Chargers, he ranged from an impact starter to a deep bench player. What's concerning is the trend; Brown had a Pro Bowl-caliber rookie year in 2016 and his playing time and effectiveness declined in each of the next three seasons. Until we understand whether Brown's reduced role was talent-related, or perhaps conflict with the coaching staff, it's hard to expect much from him. Third-round rookie Davion Taylor has the potential to be the best linebacker on the roster down the road, but it's unfair to expect an immediate impact. He started two seasons at Colorado but was a JUCO player prior to that, and he didn't play high school football. He's athletic, aggressive, and raw. Fellow rookies Shaun Bradley and Dante Olson have an uphill climb to make the Week 1 roster.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Avonte Maddox, FS Rodney McLeod, SS Jalen Mills, CB Darius Slay, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
Backups: CB Rasul Douglas, S Marcus Epps, S Will Parks, CB Sidney Jones, S Rudy Ford, CB Cre'von LeBlanc, S K'Von Wallace [R], Grayland Arnold [R], Elijah Riley [R], Craig James

Starting DBs: There's no question changes were needed in the secondary. It's been a revolving door of ineffective play for the last few seasons, particularly at cornerback. While there are still questions to answer, it's hard to design a scenario where the 2020 cornerback group isn't better than the 2019 version. The trade for Darius Slay solves a lot of problems. Slay's play in 2019 suffered from nagging injuries and a terrible supporting cast, but he has five years of excellent tape when healthy. In the slot, Nickell Robey-Coleman gives the team a proven, consistent veteran. Two of the three slots are markedly better, which leaves the question of whether Avonte Maddox can hold up as the No. 2 outside cornerback. Maddox has started 15 games over two seasons, but he's struggled in every role -- outside corner, slot corner, and safety. Rodney McLeod bounced back to typical form last year, and will function as the defensive quarterback. Jalen Mills, a long-time contributor at cornerback, moves to free safety in place of Malcolm Jenkins. It's a high-risk, high-reward position change.

Backup DBs: Other than free agent Will Parks, no one is guaranteed roles. Rookie K'Von Wallace can develop into a starter in a season or two, but the other rookies will be lucky to make the team as special teamers. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones came into the league as potential every-down players but injuries and inconsistencies have dulled their luster.