It’s really impressive the way the Eagles have retooled without going through a true rebuild. After three straight playoff appearances from 2017-2019, including a 2017 Super Bowl Championship, the Eagles fell all the way to 4-11-1 in 2020. Making matters worse, the Eagles did so despite having the third highest combined average annual salary of their roster and, after years of expensive rosters, lacked significant financial flexibility to add to the team in free agency. And yet, just a year later, the Eagles are coming off of another post-season appearance and the arrow seems to be pointing up into 2022 and beyond.
How the Eagles have transformed their situation so quickly is complex, but a lot of it can be traced to the trade of Carson Wentz, a trade in which the Eagles were somehow able to get a 2022 first round pick and a 2021 third round pick for a declining quarterback who was owed 103 million over four years on the remainder of his contract. At this point, the Eagles could have used their first pick on a quarterback to replace Wentz, picking 6th in a loaded quarterback class, a draft slot where the Eagles could have chosen between Justin Fields and Mac Jones if they had stayed put.
Instead, the Eagles decided to bet on 2020 2nd round pick Jalen Hurts, who was highly raw, but showed flashes in a 4-game stint as the starter down the stretch in his rookie season. Rather than taking a quarterback at 6, the Eagles traded down with the Dolphins, accumulating another 2022 first round pick in the process, and ultimately selected wide receiver Devonta Smith to give Jalen Hurts someone to throw to. With three first round picks scheduled for 2022, the Eagles would have plenty of draft capital to try to acquire or trade up for another quarterback if Hurts had struggled as the starter in 2021.
Hurts wasn’t spectacular in 2021, but he showed his dual threat ability, completing 61.3% of his passes for an average of 7.28 YPA, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, while rushing for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns on 139 carries (5.64 YPC), and he played well enough, along with the rest of this team, for the Eagles to finish in a wild card spot in the NFC. Overall, he finished as PFF’s 14th ranked quarterback across 15 starts and, while he didn’t prove to be a clear long-term franchise quarterback, he did more than enough to justify keeping his job into 2022, especially since he is still on a cheap rookie deal.
Hurts will be eligible for an extension next off-season, so the Eagles will have to make a decision on his future at some point, but, when they do, they will be doing so having seen even more of him on the field. The Eagles seem to have somewhat hedged their bet on Hurts, trading out of one of their first round picks this year to get another first round pick next year, picking up an extra 3rd in 2022 and an extra 2nd in 2024 from the Saints in the process. With two first round picks scheduled in a better quarterback draft a year from now, the Eagles could have options if they decide that Hurts isn’t worth paying long-term.
The Eagles also used one of their first round picks this year to get Hurts even more help, trading for Titans’ wide receiver AJ Brown, a dominant young wide receiver who the Titans were unwilling to sign to the kind of extension the Eagles were willing to give him, locking him up long-term on a 4-year, 100 million dollar deal immediately after acquiring him. I’ll get into Brown more later, but, with Brown in the mix, and full season as the starter under his belt, it’s well within the realm of possibility that Hurts takes another step forward in year three, especially as a passer.
The Eagles also have a solid backup quarterback for Hurts in Gardner Minshew, who fared well in two starts in place of Hurts last season, completing 68.7% of his passes for an average of 7.32 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and an interception. When the Eagles acquired Minshew from the Jaguars for a late round pick last off-season, many felt Minshew was being acquired to add competition for Hurts, after he showed some promise in 20 starts in two seasons in Jacksonville (93.1 QB rating), but Hurts played well enough in 2021 that Minshew is not a legitimate threat to his starting job.
Going into the final year of his rookie deal, Minshew could find himself as a starter elsewhere in 2023, but, for now, he will remain in Philadelphia as an above average backup capable of leading the team without a significant drop off in Hurts’ absence. In addition to being a capable passer, Minshew also has some athleticism, albeit not as much as Hurts, averaging 4.93 YPC on 105 career carries. Hurts continuing to improve is the key to the Eagles taking a step forward in 2022, but they will be able to get by with Minshew for a few weeks if needed. This is a solid quarterback room and an inexpensive one at that.
AJ Brown comes over from Tennessee after three seasons with the Titans, who took him in the 2nd round in 2019. In those three seasons, Brown has surpassed 1000 yards twice and has averaged a 69/1114/9 slash line per 16 games, all before his 25th birthday, but even that doesn’t tell the whole story of why Brown is such a good acquisition, as Brown did that despite playing on a run heavy offense, which makes him a perfect fit for the Eagles, who also have a run-heavy offense. On a per route run basis, Brown has been among the best wide receivers in the league throughout his career, averaging 2.61 yards per route run, second most by a wide receiver over the past three seasons, only behind Davante Adams. Brown has also finished in the top-9 among wide receivers on PFF all three seasons, the only wide receiver in the league to do so.
If he played on a more pass-heavy offense, Brown likely would be among the league’s leaders in receiving on an annual basis, but, even in a run heavy offense, he’s shown he can be a true #1 wide receiver and surpass the thousand yard mark consistently. He’s also never complained about playing on a run-heavy offense and willingly serves his role as a run blocker as well, so he’s really a perfect fit in Philadelphia. The Eagles may open their offense up more with Brown being added, but having a quarterback like Jalen Hurts who takes off and runs a lot on his own will always limit the amount of passes a team has per game.
Brown’s addition moves Devonta Smith into the #2 wide receiver role, but he has the upside to be a #1 caliber wide receiver long-term, as he posted a 64/916/5 slash line as a rookie, despite playing on a run-heavy offense, and ranked 25th among wide receivers on PFF in overall grade. The 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s not hard to see how Smith has the potential to take a step forward in year two. He might not get as many targets with Brown in town, but he’ll face more single coverage and should be a more effective and efficient target in his own right. Brown and Smith could be one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL for years to come.
The Eagles also have a talented tight end in Dallas Goedert. A 2nd round pick in 2018, Goedert always showed a lot of promise early in his career, both as a receiver and as a run blocker, finishing 10th, 5th, and 6th among tight ends on PFF in overall grade in the first three seasons of his career respectively, but he never posted big receiving totals (33/334/4, 58/607/5, 46/524/3) because he was the #2 tight end behind established starter Zach Ertz. However, Ertz was traded midway through the 2021 season, the final year of his contract, and Goedert took off, totalling 41 catches for 614 yards and 2 touchdowns in 10 games, which extrapolates to 66/982/3 per 16 games.
Not only did Goedert’s raw totals increase, but he also became more efficient, with his yards per route run average jumping from 1.59 over the first three seasons of his career to 2.34 in 2021, 2nd best in the league among tight ends, only behind George Kittle. Goedert also remained a strong run blocker and finished as PFF’s 3rd ranked tight end overall. Like Ertz, Goedert was also going into the final year of his contract last season, but the Eagles kept him on a 4-year, 57 million dollar extension. It makes him the third highest paid tight end in the league in terms of average annual value, but he’s only going into his age 27 season and has shown a tremendous upside, so he should be worth what the Eagles paid him.
With Brown, Smith, and Goedert all likely to dominate targets on a run heavy team, the Eagles likely won’t have many targets left over for other receivers. The Eagles have actually given up a first round pick to acquire a wide receiver in three straight years, taking Jalen Reagor in the first round in 2020, before taking Smith in the first round in 2021 and trading for Brown this year, but Reagor has been a massive bust, averaging just 0.93 yards per route run in two seasons in the league, while totaling just 64 catches in 28 games. Reagor may still have theoretical upside, but he’ll likely be no better than the 4th receiver entering the year, with fellow 2020 draftee Quez Watkins likely the favorite for the #3 receiver job.
Watkins was just a 6th round pick and he was actually the third wide receiver the Eagles took in 2020, but he has been by far the best wide receiver they took that year, posting a 43/647/1 slash line as the de facto #2 wide receiver last season and averaging a decent 1.54 yards per route run average in his career. Even if he doesn’t have more untapped upside, Watkins should be a solid #3 wide receiver. He might not get a lot of targets, but he should be a relatively efficient option. The Eagles also have Zach Pascal, a mediocre veteran player who was signed this off-season after averaging an uninspiring 1.15 yards per route run in four seasons with the Colts. He will compete for playing time in this receiving corps and may also be ahead of Reagor on the depth chart.
After Ertz was traded last season, undrafted free agent rookie Jack Stoll moved into the #2 tight end role, but he wasn’t used much in the passing game, catching just 4 passes for 22 yards. He did play 331 snaps, so he had a somewhat significant role, but he was only a capable blocker at most. He could improve a little bit going forward, but I wouldn’t expect much to change for him in year two and he’s likely to continue not having much of a role in the passing game. He could also face competition from veteran Richard Rodgers, who has a decent 1.19 yards per route run average for his career, but is going into his age 30 season and played just 69 snaps total in 3 games last season. There’s not likely to be much need for depth tight ends and wide receivers on a run-heavy offense with a talented trio of top options.
The Eagles’ offensive line was a big part of the reason for this team’s turnaround from 2020 to 2021. The 2020 Eagles’ offensive line led the league in adjusted games lost to injury, with just one of their expected starting five offensive linemen playing more than 9 games, but better health wasn’t the primary reason for their improvement in 2021. In fact, of the four expected starters who missed significant time in 2020, only one of them was still with the Eagles as a regular starter in 2021.
That one offensive lineman is right tackle Lane Johnson though and he was a big part of the reason for their turnaround, even if he’s only one player. Johnson has had durability problems throughout his career, missing 29 total across the first 8 seasons of his career from 2013-2020, and, after a relatively down year across just 405 snaps in 2020, it was fair to wonder if he was breaking down physically and on the decline, now on the wrong side of 30.
However, Johnson turned the clock back a little bit in 2021, finishing 11th among offensive tackles on PFF, his 7th finish in the top-23 in nine seasons in the league. He still missed 4 games and, now going into his age 32 season, there are still concerns that he could start to decline and/or miss more time with injury. Even if he does decline, he has a good chance to remain at least an above average starter when healthy, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t have quite as good of a season as he did a season ago.
Fortunately, the Eagles have a good swing tackle who can fill in for Johnson if needed in Andre Dillard. Dillard was actually a first round selection by the Eagles in 2019 and was expected to be their long-term left tackle, but he spent his rookie year mostly on the bench behind veteran Jason Peters and then, when he was expected to take over for Peters, he was one of the many expected starters on the 2020 Eagles’ offensive line to miss significant time with injury, actually missing the entire season.
In his absence, Jordan Mailata established himself as the long-term left tackle, finishing above average on PFF in 10 starts, leaving Dillard with a bench role again in 2021. Dillard has hardly played in his career, playing just 677 total career snaps, but he’s held up pretty well in limited action and would likely start for several teams around the league, so he’s a good backup option to have. He could probably hold down the fort for an extended period of time if need be.
The Eagles locked Mailata up with a 4-year, 64 million dollar extension last off-season, with the 2018 7th round pick heading into the final year of his rookie deal, even though he only had been a starter for one season, and it proved to be a forward thinking extension, with Mailata improving even more in his second season as a starter, finishing as PFF’s 3rd ranked offensive tackle, an improvement that was as big of a reason as any for the Eagles’ improved offensive line from 2020 to 2021. Mailata is a one-year wonder in terms of being an elite level offensive tackle and he’s not a guarantee to repeat the best season of his career, but he’s also only going into his age 25 season, may have further untapped upside, and could develop into one of the best offensive tackles in the league for years to come.
Center Jason Kelce also had a much better year in 2021 compared to 2020, another reason for this offensive line’s improvement. Kelce was the only Eagles starting offensive lineman who didn’t miss time with injury in 2020, actually playing all 16 games, but he was just PFF’s 12th ranked center, a big drop off for a player who had finished #1 among centers on PFF in three straight seasons prior to 2020. Kelce was also getting up there in age so, like Johnson, it was fair to wonder if his best days were ahead of him, but, instead, he bounced back with a 3rd ranked finish among centers on PFF, while making every start, for the 7th straight season.
Kelce is now heading into his age 35 season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he declined, but he also still has a good chance to remain an above average starter even if he does. Going into the final year of his contract, Kelce could easily be entering his final season in the league, having contemplated retirement in recent off-seasons, but the Eagles have prepared for the future by drafting Cam Jurgens in the 2nd round of this year’s draft to be their center of the future. He would also fill in if Kelce happened to miss significant time or if he dropped off consistently and needed to be benched.
The Eagles also used a 2nd round pick on an offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft, taking Landon Dickerson, who fared pretty well in 13 rookie year starts, primarily at left guard, finishing slightly above average on PFF, another part of the reason why the Eagles were improved upfront last season. He could take another step forward in 2022 and, even if he doesn’t, he should remain at least a solid starter, now locked in as the starting left guard long-term.
The only position unsettled on this offensive line is right guard. Nate Herbig made 17 starts for the Eagles over the past two seasons as an injury replacement, mostly at right guard, and he held up pretty well, but he’s no longer with the team. With Herbig gone, the Eagles will be hoping for a healthier season from Isaac Seumalo, who not only missed significant time in 2020 (7 games missed) when most of the Eagles’ offensive linemen did, but also missed another 14 games with injury last season.
Prior to his last two injury plagued seasons, Seumalo was PFF’s 19th ranked guard in 16 starts in 2019 and the 2016 3rd round pick has mostly been a solid starter when healthy in 43 starts in 6 seasons in the league, so, still only going into his age 29 season, he has a good chance to be a solid starter if healthy this season, but that could be a big if, given his recent history. Seumalo will be pushed for his starting role by 2020 4th round pick Jack Driscoll, who will likely settle in as a backup, but he held up pretty well in nine starts last season and could be a capable starter long-term. The Eagles could also give Cam Jurgens a look at guard, while he’s waiting to take over for Kelce at center long-term. Even with an unsettled situation at right guard and a couple key players getting older (Kelce and Johnson), this is a talented offensive line with plenty of depth.
The Eagles had a great running game last season, finishing 4th in the NFL with 4.94 YPC and leading the league with 2,715 total rushing yards, but that was primarily because of quarterback Jalen Hurts, as, not only he did lead the team in carries, yards, and touchdowns, but also his ability to take off and run makes it harder for the defense to play the run straight up and opens up more running lanes for running backs, which was especially the case for the Eagles, given their talented offensive line. The running backs themselves were not bad though, with Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell all earning average or better grades from PFF.
Sanders led the group with 754 yards on 137 carries (5.50 YPC), despite being limited to 12 games. A 2019 2nd round pick, Sanders has never surpassed 179 carries in a season and has benefitted from being in some good running situations, but his career 5.08 YPC average is impressive and he should continue being effective, still in a good running situation. Scott was Sanders’ direct backup and had 87 carries on the season, but 47 of those came in four games when Sanders was out, meaning if Sanders is healthier in 2022, Scott likely won’t have much of a role. He has a 4.35 YPC average for his career, but he also has just 228 career carries and the 87 carries he had last season were a career high.
Gainwell was the Eagles’ least effective runner last season in terms of PFF grade, but he wasn’t bad, with a 4.28 YPC average on 68 carries and he was also the most effective of the bunch in passing situations, with a 1.39 yards per route run average. His passing game success was not surprising, considering he had 51 catches for 610 yards in his final season at the University of Memphis, before the Eagles took him in the 5th round in 2021. Sanders and Scott also had a passing game role, but neither one was as effective as Gainwell, averaging 0.81 and 1.00 yards per route run respectively.
Sanders had a 1.61 yards per route run average as a rookie in 2019, but he has seen that drop drastically to 0.72 over the past two seasons, while Scott has just a 1.00 yards per route run average over the past two seasons, so Gainwell should continue having a big passing game role, possibly even a bigger role, now in his second season in the league. He could also have an expanded role as a runner and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him overtake Scott as the #2 on the team for carry opportunities. This isn’t the most talented backfield, but the Eagles have some solid options.
The two fixtures on the Eagles defensive line for years have been edge defender Brandon Graham and interior defender Fletcher Cox, first round picks in 2010 and 2012 respectively, who have been with the Eagles their entire careers. Both are on the decline, however, now on the wrong side of 30. I will get into Fletcher Cox later, but Graham is coming off of mostly a lost season due to a torn achilles, playing just 50 snaps in two games before the injury last season.
It’s a tough injury to come back from for a player going into his age 34 season, but, even if Graham isn’t as good as he was in his prime, he could still be an above average rotational player for the Eagles in 2022. In total, Graham had 56 sacks, 82 hits, and a 14.8% pressure rate from 2012-2020, while playing at a high level against the run, only missing one game total in nine seasons, and finishing in the top-11 among edge defenders on PFF in seven of those nine seasons.
The Eagles have prepared for life after Graham and even made Graham take a pay cut down to 7.5 million on a restructured contract, so Graham won’t be expected to play as big of a role as he has in the past. Josh Sweat, a 4th round pick in 2018, has broken out in Graham’s absence and the Eagles added Haason Reddick in free agency as well, bringing him in on a 3-year, 45 million dollar deal. Sweat had shown potential in the past prior to last season, but he had only played 842 snaps in three seasons, with his highest snap total only being 422 in 2020.
In 2021, with Graham out, Sweat got a chance to start and play a bigger role (654 snaps) and he responded with the best year of his career, finishing 23rd among edge defenders on PFF and totaling 7.5 sacks, 7 hits, and a 11.1% pressure rate as a pass rusher. Sweat is a one-year wonder in terms of being an above average starter, but he’s also only going into his age 25 and has the upside to be even better going forward. The Eagles clearly believe in his long-term potential, locking him up on a 3-year, 40 million dollar deal just a few games into last season, which was the last year of his rookie deal.
Reddick, meanwhile, was a 1st round pick of the Cardinals in 2017. He entered the league with a lot of potential and versatility, but took until his 4th season to find his best position at the NFL level, finishing 24th among edge defenders on PFF in 2020, after being middling at best early in his career. He especially played well as a pass rusher in 2020, with 12.5 sacks, 8 hits, and a 13.6% pressure rate. Reddick was still met with a cold market last off-season as a free agent and had to settle for a one-year deal with the Panthers worth just 6 million, but Reddick proved it again in Carolina, with 11 sacks, 11 hits, and a 10.0% pressure rate, leading to a much bigger deal from the Eagles this off-season. Reddick is a middling run defender at best, but, still in his prime in his age 28 season, he should continue his effectiveness as a pass rusher with his new team.
The Eagles also brought back Derek Barnett as a free agent and he’ll give them the depth the Eagles have always liked on the defensive line. Barnett was a first round pick in 2017, but hasn’t developed into more than a solid rotational player. He’s at his best against the run, but is underwhelming as a pass rusher, with 21.5 sacks, 52 hits, and a 9.9% pressure rate in 64 games in his career, which is why he had to settle for just a 3-year, 15.21 million dollar deal from the Eagles in free agency this off-season. He will almost definitely play a smaller role than the career high 718 snaps he played last season, with Graham returning from injury and Reddick being added. The Eagles also have 2021 6th round pick Tarron Jackson, who showed some potential on 253 snaps as a rookie. This is once again a deep and talented edge defender group.
While Brandon Graham had to take a pay cut in order to stay on the roster for 2022, Fletcher Cox was actually released this off-season and tested the open market, before returning to the Eagles on a reduced deal. He’ll still make 14 million this season, but he’s set to hit the open market again next off-season, so this could easily be his final season in Philadelphia, and, going into his age 32 season, Cox has shown significant decline in recent years.
Cox has still been an above average starter, but he’s dropped off significantly since finishing in the top-8 among interior defenders on PFF in every season from 2015-2019, excelling against the run and totaling 35.5 sacks, 66 hits, and a 12.7% pressure rate over those four seasons. His pressure rate has dropped to 9.3% over the past two seasons and his run defense dropped off significantly as well. He could still have another couple solid seasons left in the tank, but he could also continue declining and his best days are almost definitely behind him.
With Cox’s days with the team likely coming to an end soon one way or another, the Eagles used a first round pick on Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. The Eagles also have Javon Hargrave, who is a solid starter next to Cox, so Davis will begin his career as a reserve, but the Eagles rotate linemen regularly and with, Hargrave also heading into a contract year, there should be an opportunity for Davis to become a starter in 2023 one way or another. Hargrave has struggled against the run since joining the Eagles on a 3-year, 39 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago, but he’s excelled as a pass rusher, with 12 sacks, 14 hits, and a 11.0% pressure rate in 31 games.
Hargrave has also been a better run stopper in the past and has an impressive 10.5% pressure rate for his career, so he has the upside to be a more well-rounded player in 2022, which will be his age 29 season. The Eagles also have 2021 3rd round pick Milton Williams as a reserve option with upside, but he struggled as a rookie, finishing 110th out of 146 eligible interior defenders on PFF, and he is no guarantee to be significantly improved in his second season in the league in 2022. With Cox, Hargrave, and Davis atop the depth chart, Williams won’t have a big role, as the Eagles have a locked-in top trio of interior defenders, even if Davis is a rookie and Cox is an aging player on the decline.
Alex Singleton led the Eagles in tackles each of the past two seasons, with 257 combined tackles total over that stretch, but he went elsewhere as a free agent this off-season and the Eagles are arguably better off without him. Singleton was a solid run stuffer, but he struggled mightily in coverage and has never earned more than a middling grade from PFF for a season as a result. Meanwhile, Singleton’s replacement, Kyzir White, is a more complete player.
A 4th round pick in 2018 by the Chargers, White was an average or better linebacker in all four seasons in Los Angeles, with his best year coming last year, when he finished 27th among off ball linebackers in overall grade on PFF and played the 17th most snaps in the league by an off ball linebacker with 979. He might not be quite as good in 2022, but he should still be at least a solid starter, so he was a great value on just a 1-year, 3 million dollar deal.
The Eagles also added Georgia’s Nakobe Dean with a third round pick, but he’s unlikely to have a big role as a rookie, with incumbent every down linebacker TJ Edwards very likely to be ahead of him on the depth chart, playing roughly the same role as a year ago. Edwards had almost as many tackles as Singleton last season (137 vs. 130), but was the much better overall player, finishing 11th among off ball linebackers on PFF in overall grade.
Undrafted in 2019, Edwards played a career high in snaps last season, but he also was PFF’s 23rd ranked off ball linebacker across 492 snaps in 2020, after flashing on 112 snaps as a rookie, so he’s not a complete one-year wonder. Even if he doesn’t match the best season of his career again in 2022, he should still form a solid linebacker duo with White, with Dean serving as depth and a third linebacker in obvious running situations. A potential first round pick before injury concerns, Dean profiles as a future starter long-term, but will have to wait his turn, with Edwards and White both hitting free agency next off-season.
The Eagles also have 2020 3rd round pick Davion Taylor, who theoretically has upside, but he’s struggled mightily across 283 career snaps and the addition of Dean is not a good sign for his long-term chances. Taylor probably has a better chance of not making the Eagles’ final roster than he does of carving out a consistent role in this defense. This is a solid linebacking corps, with a pair of solid starters in Kyzir White and TJ Edwards and a promising third option in Nakobe Dean.
Cornerback was arguably the position where the Eagles were most improved from 2020 to 2021. The Eagles acquired long-time Lions #1 cornerback Darius Slay two off-seasons ago to upgrade their secondary, giving up a third round and a fifth round pick and paying Slay near the top of the cornerback market on a 3-year, 50.05 million dollar extension, but he struggled through a career worst year in his first season in Philadelphia, while the rest of the Eagles’ cornerbacks were given worse.
In 2021, things were much better, in large part to a bounce back year from Slay, who finished 7th among cornerbacks on PFF, his 6th season in the top-28 at his position over the past 8 seasons. Slay is now going into his age 31 season, so there is some concern that he may decline, especially since he’s not long removed from his down 2020 season, but he has a good chance to remain at least an above average starter for another season.
The Eagles also benefited from signing veteran cornerback Steven Nelson to a 1-year, 2.5 million dollar deal. Nelson was a consistently average or better starter in his years with the Chiefs and Steelers, but was available at a reasonable price last off-season after the cap strapped Steelers let him go ahead of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him 8.25 million. Nelson didn’t have the best season of his career in Philadelphia, but was still a solid starter across 16 starts, which gave the Eagles a much needed #2 cornerback. Nelson was only on a one-year deal though and signed elsewhere this off-season, so the Eagles were in the market for a replacement this off-season.
They found one in James Bradberry, who was in a similar situation as Nelson last off-season, owed 13.5 million non-guaranteed from the Giants and forced to settle for 7.25 million on a one-year deal as a free agent. Bradberry wasn’t as good of a value as Nelson, but he could be an upgrade. A 2nd round pick in 2016 by the Panthers, Bradberry has been a bit inconsistent in his career, but he’s been at least an average starter throughout his career (91 starts in 92 games), with his best season coming in a 7th ranked finish on PFF in 2020. Still only in his age 29 season, Bradberry should remain at least a solid starter in his first season in Philadelphia.
Avonte Maddox was the Eagles’ #3 cornerback last season and he also was a big part of why this cornerback group improved from 2020 to 2021, as Maddox struggled mightily in 2020, finishing 132nd out of 136 eligible cornerbacks on PFF across 509 snaps, before finishing the 2021 season as PFF’s 22nd ranked cornerback across 729 snaps. A 4th round pick in 2018, Maddox was never more than a middling cornerback in his first three seasons in the league and only played about half the snaps, so he’s a one-year wonder, but he’s still only going into his age 26 season and it’s possible he’s permanently turned a corner and will remain an above average cornerback going forward. If Maddox slips up or any of the Eagles’ cornerbacks suffer an injury, they have 2021 4th round pick Zech McPhearson waiting in the wings and he showed promise on 179 snaps as a rookie in a similar reserve role.
Safety was one of the Eagles’ weaker position groups last season, with middling veterans Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris being the starters. McLeod signed with the Colts this off-season for his age 32 season, but the Eagles probably won’t miss him much and his likely replacement, 2019 6th round pick Marcus Epps, could easily prove to be an upgrade, after earning above average grades from PFF on snap counts of 365 and 505 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. He has the upside to be an above average starter and should hold off his top competition for the role, 2020 4th round pick K’Von Wallace, who has struggled across 386 career defensive snaps.
Harris remains as the other starter, for his age 31 season. Harris had a couple years in his prime when he was one of the best safeties in the league, finishing 5th among safeties on PFF in 2018 and 2nd in 2019, but he hasn’t come close to playing at that level in any of his other five seasons in the league and he’s fallen off pretty quickly in two seasons since his last dominant year, finishing the 2021 season as PFF’s 57th ranked safety out of 98 eligible. Harris could remain a capable starter and may even have some bounce back potential, but he could also easily continue declining and struggle for most of the season. Slay and Maddox might not repeat last year’s strong performances and Harris could be a weak spot in this secondary, but both Epps and Bradberry could prove to be an upgrade on the player they are replacing and, overall, this is still a solid secondary.
The Eagles had a middling special teams last season, ranking 15th in special teams DVOA, with their biggest strength being kicker Jake Elliott, who was among the best in the league at his position. Elliott returns for 2022, but their special teams were otherwise underwhelming last season and they didn’t make any significant changes to any part of this unit. If Elliott can continue his elite play, this should remain a solid overall special teams unit, but they would likely struggle if he happened to regress.
The Eagles weren’t good enough to win the division or to get out of the first round of the playoffs last season, but they have a good chance to do one or both of those things this season, primarily due to the addition of AJ Brown, who is a perfect fit for their run heavy offense, which he should elevate significantly by giving them a legitimate #1 receiver to go with talented complementary pass catchers Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, as well as a talented offensive line and running game. The Eagles also added Haason Reddick, Kyzir White, and James Bradberry this off-season, who should all be above average starters for them on defense. This team doesn’t have any real weaknesses now and should be among the better teams in the league. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.
Final Prediction: The Eagles beat up on bad teams last season, but they still have one of the easiest schedules in the league this season and are better on both sides of the field. They are legitimate contenders, especially in the weaker NFC.
Prediction: 12-5, 1st in NFC East