Philadelphia Eagles 2020 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The future seemed very bright for the Eagles after their Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2017 season. Not only did they win the Super Bowl, but they were able to do it despite losing quarterback Carson Wentz to injury late in the season and having to turn to backup Nick Foles. Prior to the injury, Wentz was a possible MVP candidate and was Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked quarterback in just his 2nd season in the league, so getting him back to a team that had won the Super Bowl even without him seemed like a recipe for long-term success.

Instead, things have not been quite as good. The Eagles have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, but have done so at just 9-7 both times. In terms of first down rate, they ranked 15th on offense, 8th on defense, and 8th in differential in 2018 and 15th on offense,10th on defense, and 12th in differential in 2019, good but below expectations for a team that some thought would be a perennial Super Bowl contender. Head coach Doug Pederson who looked like an offensive wizard in their Super Bowl season has proven to be overmatched without top offensive assistant Frank Reich, who has since taken over as the head coach with the Colts.

Carson Wentz hasn’t been bad, but he’s fallen to 14th and 16th among quarterbacks on PFF over the past two seasons respectively, making his strong 2017 look like an outlier, he hasn’t gotten the help he’s needed around him, and he hasn’t made it through a season without suffering a serious injury, totaling just two drives worth of playoff action thus far in his career. All in all, in the regular season, he’s completed 63.8% of his passes for an average of 6.90 YPA, 97 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions, while adding 785 yards and 3 touchdowns on 206 carries (3.81 YPA) on the ground, good numbers, but definitely not consistently elite.

In 2017, the Eagles could surround the quarterback, either Wentz or Foles, with a Super Bowl contending roster because they had just 4.4% of their cap space committed to Wentz and Foles combined, with Foles on a backup deal and Wentz on a rookie deal. Now Wentz, signed to a 4-year, 128 million dollar extension with 81.97 million guaranteed last off-season, takes up 9.4% of the cap in 2020 himself and is projected to take up 16.6% in 2021. 

The Eagles have gotten creative to fit the most expensive team in the NFL by average annual salary under the cap, but it’s getting harder and harder to consistently put Super Bowl caliber supporting casts around the quarterback and they’re already 52 million over the projected 2021 cap, assuming it doesn’t get cut by revenue losses. It might not be totally fair to knock Wentz as being injury prone just because he’s suffered some untimely injuries late in the season, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he was able to stay healthy in 2020, but unless he can consistently find his 2017 form, it’s going to be tough for this team to be the perennial contender they once looked like they might be.

Given Wentz’s tendency to get hurt, it’s unsurprising the Eagles prioritized the backup quarterback spot in free agency this off-season, but what was surprising is that the Eagles used the 53rd overall pick on Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts to be that quarterback. Hurts has the upside to develop into a long-term starter, but the Eagles need a short-term backup and Hurts comes into the league very raw, so the Eagles almost definitely would be in better hands with a veteran backup this season. Hurts’ athleticism could allow the Eagles to use some creative packages, but it’s hard to justify the Eagles taking Hurts where they did, given Wentz’s age and the Eagles’ inability to realistically get out of his contract until 2023. The Eagles will have to hope Wentz can finally stay healthy for a full season this year, as Hurts would likely struggle as a rookie.

Grade: B+

Receiving Corps

The Eagles’ biggest problem on offense last season was their receiving corps, particularly the wide receiver position. Things looked strong at the position going into last season, as they retained their leading two wideouts from 2018, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, and added veteran DeSean Jackson and 2nd round rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the off-season. However, Jeffery and Jackson were limited to 493 snaps and 65 snaps respectively with injury, while Agholor and Arcega-Whiteside both struggled mightily, and the various other options the Eagles tried at the position, Greg Ward (308 snaps), Mack Hollins (395 snaps), Robert Davis (103 snaps), Jordan Matthews (134 snaps), all were underwhelming as well. By the end of the season, the Eagles were calling up players from the practice squad to play significant snaps in 3-wide receiver sets and they had backup quarterback Josh McCown available to be the 4th wide receiver if needed.

With Jeffery and Jackson set to return from injury and Arcega-Whiteside going into his 2nd year in the league, things would have been better by default at wide receiver for the Eagles in 2020 even if they didn’t made any big moves at the position, but they clearly made upgrading the position a priority, adding 4 wide receivers on draft day, including veteran Marquise Goodwin, who came over from the 49ers for a swap of sixth round picks. Fifth round rookie John Hightower and sixth round rookie Quez Watkins are unlikely to make much of an impact right away, but first round rookie Jalen Reagor should be in the mix for snaps immediately.

Reagor will likely primarily compete for the #3 wide receiver job with Arcega-Whitside, who still has upside, despite averaging a 0.55 yards per route run and finishing in the bottom-3 at his position in Pro Football Focus, but Reagor could also have opportunity for even more playing time if Alshon Jeffery isn’t ready for the start of the season after suffering a serious foot injury down the stretch last season. Even if Jeffery plays week one, it’s reasonable to expect him to miss the whole off-season program and, going into his age 30 season coming off of a serious injury, he might not be the same player.

Injuries are unfortunately nothing new for Jeffery, who has played one full 16-game season in his last 5 tries, having missed a total of 20 games in the other 4 seasons combined. Prior to that stretch of injuries, Jeffery topped 1000 yards in back-to-back years in 2013 (89/1421/7) and 2014 (85/1133/10) and was on a similar pace in an injury limited 2015 season (54/807/4 in 9 games), but he’s been limited to a 68/923/7 slash line per 16 games over the past 4 seasons and I would expect that to continue to drop. 

Jeffery has still earned above average grades from PFF in each of those 4 seasons, but that’s a dropoff from his early prime when he finished in the top-25 in 3 straight seasons from 2013-2015, including top-6 finishes in 2013 and 2015. Jeffery may still be able to give the Eagles something in 2020, but the Eagles would have undoubtedly cut him this off-season if doing so wouldn’t have caused them to incur a huge dead cap hit.

Fellow veteran DeSean Jackson has a much better chance of bouncing back off of an injury ruined season and figures to at least start the season as the nominal #1 option. Jackson’s age is an even bigger concern, as he’ll turn 34 this December, but he’ll at least have a healthy off-season and he showed a great connection with Carson Wentz in limited action last season, averaging a ridiculous 4.18 yards per route run on 38 routes in his first season back in Philadelphia, most among any wide receiver with at least 10 targets last season.

Jackson has been frequently banged up in his career, playing all 16 games just twice in 12 seasons in the league with the Eagles and Buccaneers, but last season was also the first season he’d ever played fewer than 9 games, so he hasn’t had a lot of serious injuries and he’s had an impressive 62/1076/6 slash line per 16 games in his career, with 9 straight above average seasons on PFF. He’s likely on the decline and will probably miss at least a couple games with injuries, but he could still be the team’s leading receiver.

Veteran off-season acquisition Marquise Goodwin will just likely be reserve depth, but the Eagles need good depth, as both Jeffery and Jackson are aging and injury prone, Arcega-Whiteside is very raw, and Jalen Reagor is a rookie. In 7 seasons in the league, Goodwin’s 56/962/2 slash line in 2017 stands out, as he’s never topped 29 catches in any of his other seasons in the league, and he’s now going into his age 30 season, but he’s one of the fastest situational deep threats in the league with a career 16.6 yards per catch average, so he should provide valuable wide receiver depth for the Eagles.

With the Eagles’ wide receivers struggling in 2019, tight ends became a focal point of this offense and the Eagles fortunately have arguably the best tight end duo in the NFL, with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert leading this team with slash lines of 88/916/6 and 58/607/5 respectively. Ertz has been one of the best tight ends in the league for years, averaging a 86/914/6 slash line over the past five seasons and finishing in the top-18 among tight ends on PFF in all 7 seasons he’s been in the league, including five top-10 finishes.

Goedert was right behind Ertz in yards per route run last season though (1.69 vs. 1.64) and is arguably the more complete player, as he’s a strong run blocker as well, while Ertz can struggle in that aspect. A 2nd round pick in 2018, Goedert has shown a lot of potential as a part-time player in two seasons in the league (1.57 yards per route run) and could be even better in his third season in the league, while Ertz’s age is beginning to become a concern in his age 30 season and he could begin to decline soon. Either way, they should remain one of the best tight end duos in the NFL, even if their target shares drop in a better overall receiving corps.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

With the Eagles so thin in the receiving corps last season, their 3rd leading receiver behind their top-2 tight ends was actually pass catching running back Miles Sanders, who flashed with a 50/509/3 slash line. Sanders did that on 317 routes run, giving him a 1.61 yards per route run average that ranked 10th among running backs and he also was Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked running back in pass catching grade, despite being only a 2nd round rookie. Sanders has the upside to get better as a receiver going forward.

Sanders also has the upside to get better as a runner and he’ll need to. His 4.57 yards per carry average last season on 179 carries is impressive, but he didn’t consistently keep this offense on track as a rookie, ranking 34th out of 45 qualifying running backs with a 45% carry success rate, 

despite running behind an offensive line that was PFF’s highest ranked in team run blocking grade. Overall, finished with PFF’s 57th lowest run grade among 61 qualifying running backs. The Eagles let #2 running back Jordan Howard (4.41 YPC average and a 8th ranked 53% carry success rate) leave in free agency and didn’t replace him, so they’ll be counting on a lot from Sanders this season and it remains to be seen if he can rise to the challenge of being a feature back. Even if he has a higher success rate this season, that may not be reflected in his YPC average if he isn’t able to sustain a high percentage of breakaway runs.

With Howard gone, Boston Scott is expected to move up from the #3 back spot to the #2 spot, even though he had an underwhelming 4.02 YPC average in the first 61 carries of his career last season. How much work he takes from Sanders may be up to Sanders and how well he plays, as he has a clear path to every down work in this offense if he plays well. If both Sanders and Scott underwhelm in training camp, it wouldn’t be expensive for the Eagles to add a veteran to the mix, which could be a wise option at a thin position.

Grade: C

Offensive Line

Not only did the Eagles’ offensive line excel in run blocking last season, they also were one of the best pass blocking teams in the league, ranking 3rd in team pass blocking grade on Pro Football Focus. That offensive line will look different in 2020 though and probably won’t be as good. The biggest loss was right guard Brandon Brooks, who tore his achilles in June, a devastating blow, as not only was Brooks was PFF’s top ranked guard in 2019, but the Eagles don’t have a clear replacement, having lost top reserve offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai this off-season as well, after he flashed on 477 snaps last season.

Third year offensive lineman Matt Pryor figures to get the first crack at the job, but he’s played just 79 snaps in 2 seasons in the league and wasn’t highly thought of coming out of college, going in just the 6th round in 2018. Outside of him, the Eagles’ best option is probably 4th round rookie Jack Driscoll, so it definitely wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Eagles go out and add a veteran at some point, with Brooks having just gone down a couple weeks ago as of this writing.

One veteran option could be simply reuniting with long-time left tackle Jason Peters. Peters started 140 games on the blindside for the Eagles in 11 seasons with the team and he still finished 6th among offensive tackles on PFF in 13 starts in 2018, but was not brought back this off-season, ahead of his age 38 season, in favor of 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard. Peters likely wouldn’t be a candidate to move to guard, but the Eagles could move Dillard inside there for a year and would likely upgrade two spots at once. Drafted 22nd overall, Dillard is probably the future at left tackle, but there’s some concern about handing the blindside job over to him after 337 underwhelming snaps as a rookie as an injury replacement, especially with Brooks also gone. For now, Dillard is tentatively locked in on the blindside and he has obvious upside, but he’s far from a sure thing.

While left tackle and right guard are question marks, this rest of this offensive line remains the same. Right tackle Lane Johnson is probably their best offensive lineman with Brooks out. Drafted 4th overall in 2019, Johnson has made 92 starts in 7 seasons in the league and has finished in the top-23 on PFF in 6 straight seasons, with 4 finishes in the top-10 and a career best 2nd ranked finish in 2019. Johnson is going into his age 30 season, but he’s shown no sign of slowing down and even if he did decline a little he’d still be one of the best players in the league at his position.

Center Jason Kelce has also been one of the best players at his position for a long-time, making 108 of 112 starts over the past 7 seasons and finishing in the top-5 among centers on PFF in 6 of those 7 seasons, including 3 straight #1 finishes. Kelce’s age is becoming a concern though, going into his age 33 season, so he’s unlikely to be quite as good this year as he’s been in the past few years, even if he ends up among the top players at his position once again when all is said and done.

Left guard Isaac Seumalo is also coming off of a strong season, finishing 18th among guards on PFF, but he’s not nearly as proven as Johnson and Kelce. Seumalo was a relatively high pick, going in the 3rd round in 2016, but he was underwhelming in 15 spot starts in his first 3 seasons in the league, before breaking out as a 16-game starter in 2019. He’s a one-year wonder and might not be as good in 2020, but he could also remain a solid starter for years to come, only going into his age 27 season. The Eagles will badly need him, Kelce, and Johnson to stay healthy on an offensive line that is already missing key players from last season and that lacks depth overall.

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

Even with the Eagles lacking much financial flexibility this off-season, they still did make one big signing to somewhat offset their other losses, signing ex-Steeler defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a 3-year, 39 million dollar deal. Hargrave will have a cap hit of just 3.45 million this season thanks to some creative cap structuring, but Hargrave’s money will show up on the cap at some point or another, so the financially inflexible Eagles need any big contracts they sign to pan out. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be too much of a concern with Hargrave, who was one of the best defensive players available in free agency this off-season, regardless of position. 

A third round pick in 2016, Hargrave was primarily a base package nose tackle in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense for the first three years of his career, maxing out at 493 snaps, but he flashed as a pass rusher (8.1% pressure rate), in addition to playing well against the run, and in 2019 he took over an every down role in the absence of Stephon Tuitt and broke out with the best year of his career. He finished as Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked interior defender on a career high 680 snaps, stuffing the run at a high level and adding 4 sacks, 2 hits, and a 13.1% pressure rate. Hargrave might not be quite as good as last year in 2020, but he has three down ability inside at defensive tackle in the Eagles’ 4-3 defense and is still very much in the prime of his career in his age 27 season.

Hargrave will start alongside incumbent Fletcher Cox and they’ll be arguably the best interior defender duo in the NFL, as Cox has been consistently one of the best defensive tackles in the league in recent years. Cox finished last season 8th among interior defenders on PFF and that was actually his worst finish since 2014. All in all, Cox has made 119 starts in 8 seasons in the league and he has finished in the top-14 among interior defenders on PFF in 6 straight seasons, with 39.5 sacks, 71 hits, and a 11.9% pressure rate over that stretch, while playing at a high level against the run. Going into his age 30 season, Cox’s age is becoming a concern, but he should remain one of the better players at his position for at least another couple seasons.

The Eagles will also get Malik Jackson back as a reserve, after a foot injury ended his 2019 season after 32 snaps. Jackson was once one of the better players in the league at his position in his prime, finishing in the top-31 among interior defenders on PFF in 4 straight seasons from 2014-2017, but he fell to 96th out of 130 qualifiers in 2018, missed most of last season, and now is heading into his age 30 season, so his best days are likely behind him. The Eagles likely would have let him go this off-season if his salary wasn’t guaranteed on the 3-year, 30 million dollar deal he signed last off-season, but he could still be valuable in a reserve role behind arguably the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL. This is one of the best interior defender groups in the league, a big upgrade from last season when they were very thin behind Cox.

Grade: A

Edge Defenders

Along with Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave in the middle, the Eagles also have a dominant player on the edge of this defensive line in Brandon Graham. Like Cox, Graham is a former first round pick (2010) who has been consistently one of the best players in the league at his position for years. Graham’s career got off to a slow start because of two injury plagued years and then it took him a few years to become a regular starter, even after playing at a high level as a reserve, but in total he’s finished in the top-19 among edge defenders on Pro Football Focus in each of the past 8 seasons, including 6 seasons in the top-10. 

Also a high level run stuffer, Graham has totaled a ridiculous 15.0% pressure rate over those past 8 seasons, including five seasons as a regular starter (73 starts). Graham’s age is becoming a concern, going into his age 32 season, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down, though his 16th ranked finish among edge defenders was his “worst” season since 2014. Even if Graham declines in 2020, he should remain among the better players at his position.

Another former first round pick (14th overall in 2017) Derek Barnett remains as the starter opposite Graham, although he hasn’t been the same caliber of player. Barnett was a solid reserve as a rookie (424 snaps), got off to a decent start to the 2018 season in his first year as a starter, before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season after 6 games, and then last season in his first full season as a starter, he disappointed, finishing as PFF’s 89th ranked edge defender out of 118 qualifiers. Barnett is still only going into his age 24 season with a high ceiling and it wouldn’t be hard for him to be better in 2020 than 2019, but it becomes less and less likely every year that he will ever deliver on his promise.

Vinny Curry was the top reserve last season with 393 snaps played and he excelled as a situational pass rusher (16.0% pressure rate), but he was not brought back for his age 32 season. In his absence, the Eagles could get more from last year’s #4 defensive end Josh Sweat, who was alright in 352 snaps in the first legitimate action of his career, after being drafted in the 4th round in 2018, but most likely it will be Genard Avery, a mid-season trade acquisition last season, who sees the biggest uptick in snaps with Curry gone.

Avery only played 34 snaps after being acquired by the Eagles, but they gave up a 2021 4th round pick for him, so they clearly have a role for him in mind long-term. Avery still has two years left on his rookie deal, so the Eagles likely made that move with the future in mind more than the present. Now that Avery has more time in the system under his belt, I would expect him to play significantly more, especially with Curry’s departure freeing up snaps. Drafted in the 5th round in 2018 by the Browns, Avery played a hybrid off ball linebacker/edge defender role as a rookie and flashed as a situational pass rusher, with 4.5 sacks, 8 hits, and a 11.5% pressure rate, but he weirdly fell out of the rotation entirely in 2019, playing just 5 snaps with the Browns, before being traded to the Eagles. 

With the Eagles, Avery is likely to just focus on being a reserve defensive end rather than playing linebacker as well. He’s undersized at 6-0 250, but he could still be a valuable situational rusher for them going forward. With him and Sweat, the Eagles have adequate depth behind Graham and Barnett, though Barnett remains a question mark, having been underwhelming through 3 seasons in the league.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles have the highest payroll in the NFL in terms of average annual salary. It’s also a pretty top heavy payroll, with 9 players making at least 10+ million annually and 12 players making at least 8+ million annually. One consequence of a top heavy payroll is that there are some position groups that get very little investment. For the Eagles, that is definitely the case in the linebacking corps this season. 

The Eagles released veteran Nigel Bradham ahead of a 8 million non-guaranteed owed to him in 2020, even though he was their best off ball linebacker last season and led the position with 717 snaps played. The Eagles also lost their 3rd linebacker in terms of snaps played Kamu Grugier-Hill (300 snaps) in free agency and released veteran hybrid safety/linebacker Malcolm Jenkins ahead of 7.85 million non-guaranteed. As a result, they are reworking their linebacking corps on the fly and they are doing it without making significant outside investments.

Free agent acquisition Jatavis Brown is probably the closest thing to a replacement for Bradham that they added this off-season, though the Eagles signed him for close to the minimum. A 5th round pick in 2016, Brown played 40.5 snaps per game in his first 3 seasons in the league, faring well in coverage, but struggling against the run, but in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019, Brown was limited to just 94 defensive snaps as primarily a special teams player. It wouldn’t be hard for him to carve out at least a role as a situational coverage linebacker, but he’s a very underwhelming starting option and may end up focusing on special teams.

Another free agent acquisition Will Parks is probably the closest thing to a replacement for Malcolm Jenkins, as Parks has the versatility to play safety, slot cornerback, and linebacker, but he’s never topped 597 snaps in a season in 4 seasons in the league, so he’s probably not an every down option, and he’s earned a below average grade from Pro Football Focus in 3 of those 4 seasons, so he’s an obvious dropoff talent wise from Jenkins, even if he does have the same versatility. Parks will likely see sub package snaps as a linebacker, in addition to any snaps he may play in the secondary in base packages.

Holdovers Nathan Gerry and TJ Edwards will also be in the mix for snaps. Gerry ranked 2nd on the team with 620 snaps as a linebacker, so he’ll likely be locked into a starting role in 2020, even though he struggled last season, finishing 61st out of 100 qualifying off ball linebackers on PFF in the first significant action of the 2017 5th round pick’s career. He’s unlikely to be much better in 2020, but the Eagles don’t really have another option.

Edwards, meanwhile, flashed on 112 snaps as a run stuffer last season, despite being just an undrafted rookie. He showed he deserves a larger role in his 2nd season, but he’s still a projection to that role, so he’s no guarantee to develop into a long-term starter. The Eagles also have veteran Duke Riley, who played just 29 snaps for the Eagles last season, but played 632 snaps between 2017-2018 (16 starts) with the Falcons, primarily as a base package run stuffer. He’ll be in the mix for a base package role with Gerry and Edwards, even though he struggled mightily with the Falcons. Third round rookie Davion Taylor could also be in the mix, though he enters the league very raw. This is a very underwhelming linebacking corps.

Grade: C-

Secondary

The Eagles will also have to replace Malcolm Jenkins in the secondary and he was a solid starter last season, even if the aging veteran had dropped off a little from previous seasons. Also gone are veteran backups Andrew Sendejo and Johnathan Cyprien, who have starting experience in the past, so this is a very different safety group from last season. I already mentioned Will Parks, who will be in the mix for snaps in the secondary as well. He’ll primarily be competing for playing time with converted cornerback Jalen Mills and 4th round rookie K’Von Wallace, with Mills being the likely favorite for the job. 

A 7th round pick in 2016, Mills has primarily played cornerback thus far in his career, but he’s earned a below average grade from Pro Football Focus in 3 of 4 seasons in the league and he has adequate size (6-0 196), so the Eagles are trying him at safety, though he’s no guarantee to be better there. He also hasn’t been durable in recent years, missing 15 out of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons combined.

Rodney McLeod remains as the other starting safety, re-signed to a 2-year, 8.65 million dollar deal this off-season, after making all 16 starts in 2019. McLeod didn’t fare all that well last season, finishing slightly below average on PFF (56th out of 100 qualifying safeties), after 4 straight above average seasons prior to 2019. He also missed most of 2018 with a knee injury and is now going into his age 30 season, so it’s unlikely he finds his prime pre-2018 form again. He should remain a capable starter, but an underwhelming one.

Part of the reason why Mills is moving to safety is because the Eagles are significantly deeper and more talented at cornerback this season than they’ve been in the past. The headline move was the acquisition of long-time Lions #1 cornerback Darius Slay for the price of a third round pick, a fifth round pick, and a 3-year, 50.05 million dollar extension, but the Eagles also made a great under the radar signing when they signed slot cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman to a one-year deal that doesn’t pay him much more than the minimum.

Slay should be an upgrade over anyone the Eagles had at cornerback last season, but he was a risky acquisition at a high price, as he’s actually coming off of a pretty down season, finishing below average on PFF, after five straight seasons in the top-28 at his position prior. Slay is still relatively young in his age 29 season, so he has obvious bounce back potential, but he’s also never finished higher than 10th among cornerbacks on PFF in 7 seasons in the league, so he could easily prove to not be quite worth top cornerback money over the duration of his new contract. 

Robey-Coleman, meanwhile, has finished above average in 4 straight seasons, including 3 straight seasons in the top-20 among cornerbacks on PFF. That’s a little misleading because Robey-Coleman is a pure slot cornerback (85.3% of his snaps on the slot), who predictably struggles outside at 5-8 180 when asked to play there, but his 0.77 yards per route run allowed on the slot over the past four seasons is among the best in the NFL and, only going into his age 28 season, I don’t expect that to suddenly change in Philadelphia. Even if it’s only for a year, Robey-Coleman will likely be a steal for an Eagles team that has had trouble finding a consistent slot cornerback in recent years.

At the other outside cornerback spot opposite Slay, the Eagles have a trio of holdovers competing for playing time: Rasul Douglas (583 snaps in 2019), Avonte Maddox (518 snaps), Sidney Jones (293 snaps). Douglas and Maddox both earned below average grades from PFF, finishing 116th and 89th respectively out of 135 qualifying cornerbacks last season, and have never been better than a middling cornerback since entering the league as a 2017 3rd round pick and a 2018 4th round pick respectively. Both still have some potential, but it’s possible neither ever develops into a consistent starter. 

Jones was a little better last season, but didn’t play that much and has been limited to just 643 snaps in 3 seasons since being drafted by the Eagles in the 2nd round in 2017, in part due to injury, in part due to ineffectiveness. He also has upside, but the #2 cornerback is a question mark. The addition of Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman make them better at cornerback, but the loss of Malcolm Jenkins without a true replacement will be significant and this is still a questionable secondary overall.

Grade: B-

Conclusion

The Eagles still have a lot of veteran talent on this team, but it’s tough to keep all your players under the cap once you start paying your quarterback at the top of the market, after some underwhelming drafts, and the cracks are definitely getting bigger on this roster, with an underwhelming defensive backend, and a declining offensive line and running game. They should still compete for a playoff spot this year and aren’t in real trouble until next season when they have to figure out how to clear at least 50 million in cap just to get to even, but they’re significantly behind the Cowboys in the division, as the Cowboys should have better luck in close games this season, and the Eagles are not guaranteed to pick up one of the three wild card spots either, in a loaded NFC. It would help if they could find more low cost help in free agency at positions like linebacker, guard, and running back. I will have an official prediction closer to the start of the season.

Update: The Eagles re-signed Jason Peters and he will replace Brooks at right guard, at least to start the season, though it wouldn’t surprise if he ended up at left tackle if Dillard doesn’t progress. Either way, he’s a big re-addition for this team and he improves their playoff chances.

Final Update: The Eagles continue to have injury problems, with their receiving corps becoming even more banged up and Jason Peters now moving back to left tackle to replace Andre Dillard, who is also out for the season for injury. They could still make the post-season, but they’re a long way behind the Cowboys.

Projection: 8-8 (2nd in NFC East)

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