Philadelphia Eagles Season Preview
NFC East - Philadelphia Eagles
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Round 1 – Offensive tackle, Andre Dillard, Washington State
Round 2a – Running back, Miles Sanders, Penn State
Round 2b – Wide receiver, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Top draft pick Andre Dillard may not necessarily see that many snaps during his rookie season if veteran tackle Jason Peters is able to stay heathy for once, but the athletic former Washington State product has the potential to become a fixture along the offensive line for years to come. While scouts rave about his quickness and agility, it is clear he still has work to do with his hands and will need to add more power to his game. An accomplished pass blocker who will be expected to improve as a run blocker, Dillard still has plenty of work to do to become a complete player. That being said, he should be more than serviceable as a starter if pressed into action early.
Miles Sanders saw limited action at Penn State behind Saquon Barkley and left college with just one season of any note on his resume, but the young running back appears to have most of the qualities teams look for in a feature back. A patient runner blessed with a good change of pace and impressive cutting ability, Sanders projects to be a three-down back capable of contributing as a receiver and a blocker. Philadelphia fans should expect to see a lot of the second-round draft pick in 2019.
The selection of wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside may have been something of a luxury pick for a team hardy short on options at the position, but the former Stanford product should still see snaps on offense as a rookie. Projecting as more of a possession receiver than a deep threat, while Arcega-Whiteside lacks the top-end speed of the other receiving options available in the draft this year, his strong hands and route running abilities compare favorably with all of them. The rookie should carve out a role as a valuable red zone target while he adjusts to life in the NFL.
For a team with a reputation of making high profile signings during free agency, most of the Eagles money was spent on retaining their own this offseason. Quarterback Carson Wentz was the biggest beneficiary of this policy thanks to a new four-year deal worth $128 million, but sizeable contracts were also agreed with defensive end Brandon Graham and veteran tackle Peters among others. Center Jason Kelce and safety Rodney McLeod were the recipients of reworked deals as well.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson was the big ticket signing of free agency and a trade for DeSean Jackson from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reunites them with a player who spent his first six seasons in the NFL with Philadelphia. Former Washington Redskins linebacker Zach Brown and former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort were decent low-price free agent additions. A trade with the Chicago Bears that brought Jordan Howard to town in return for a sixth-round draft pick was a solid move given the cost.
Backup quarterback Nick Foles was perhaps the most notable loss on offense, but his departure should not be too acutely felt if Wentz can avoid injury again. The same can be said of the defection of wide receiver Golden Tate to the New York Giants given the trade for Jackson.
A trade that sent defensive end Michael Bennett to the New England Patriots in return for a fifth-round draft pick might not have been the wisest move of the offseason considering what they got in return, but there is enough talent on the roster to replace him. The defensive line should also be helped by the arrival of Vinny Curry from Tampa Bay who will help make up for the loss of defensive end Chris Long to retirement.
Losing linebacker Jordan Hicks to the Arizona Cardinals was a significant departure given the talent that remains on the roster at the position. However, given his recent injury history in Philadelphia, opting to let him go was probably the right choice rather than attempting to match the four-year deal worth $34 million he received from the Cardinals.
Wentz would be a star player if he could stay healthy long enough to complete a full season or take part in a playoff game, but until he can do that he will remain on the fringe of the elite names at his position. Zach Ertz is arguably one of the best tight ends in the league and is coming off his best season as a pro in 2018 and his first year with more than 100 receptions and one thousand yards receiving.
All-Pro center Kelce has been among elite the players at his position for some time and is part of one the stronger offensive line units in the NFL that includes impressive tackle Lane Johnson.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins is another Eagles player at the top of his game, as is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. With the addition of Malik Jackson during free agency, they should form one of the better defensive tackle duos in the league.
The 2017 Super Bowl champions are genuine contenders for the title once again in 2019, but without the insurance of Foles on the roster, their chances of success rely on Wentz playing all 16 games. The Eagles have enough talent on both sides of the ball to be able to compete with anyone and are worthy favorites with the bookmakers to win the division.
Perhaps their only weakness on defense is a linebackers group that mostly lacks starting experience and the coaching staff will be hoping their new signings can revitalize this unit. Injuries significantly hampered the effectiveness of a secondary that looks decent on paper and a defense that was among the league leaders in turnovers two years ago was one of the worst last season. Assuming they can avoid the issues that plagued them in 2018, a healthy Philadelphia defense should rebound this year.
Thanks to an array weapons at receiver, tight end and running back, the Eagles will not struggle to score points, but they will need to be better against the pass if they are hoping for a deep run in the playoffs. The elite passing teams will cause Philadelphia problems if their struggles in the secondary continue.
Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt: “An injury-free Carson Wentz now has to show why he, and not Nick Foles, is currently with the Eagles.”
“He has shown glimpses of being an elite quarterback but needs to remain fit if he is to realise his potential. If he can manage it and the Eagles defense keeps him on the field, odds of +1600 to win MVP represent a very good bet indeed.”
Based on the 2018 record of their opponents, Philadelphia will theoretically have the 26th ranked schedule in terms of difficulty heading into 2019. They will face teams that accumulated a combined record of 121-133-2 last season for a winning percentage of .477.
Outside of a series of tough games against the NFC North, there are few teams on the schedule who should pose much of a problem for the Eagles. Games against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 and 16 could well decide who wins the division, while two difficult home matches with the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks after a well-timed bye will be a good indicator of their chances of success in the playoffs.