An Opportunistic Outlook for the Eagles

An Opportunistic Outlook for the Eagles
Now that the woefully long preseason is over and they are playing for keeps, the Eagles will enter the season with as much or not more optimism as the team had before the Super Bowl winning campaign of 2017.
 
This team, especially on offense, is extremely deep.
 
The same question should be asked that was asked in 2017 – who in the NFC better than the Eagles?
 
The biggest contenders in the NFC appear to the LA Rams, Chicago, Minnesota and New Orleans. On a second tier are Dallas Seattle and Green Bay.
 
Could Atlanta and even the upstart San Francisco 49ers sneak in? Possibly.
 
What this shows is that there is a lot of parity. No super powers, but a lot of really solid teams.
 
The Eagles match up with any of them.
 
In fact their offense is arguably the most talented in the NFC.
 
It’s the big if, but if Carson Wentz stays healthy after suffering season-ending injuries during the later part of the past two seasons, then the Eagles can compete with anybody.
 
The offense may have to carry the team in the early going, but it is certainly capable of doing so.
 
Wentz’s biggest dilemma is who to get the ball to, because there are so many options.
 
The addition of DeSean Jackson, gives the Eagles a much-needed deep threat. He might be 32 years old, but during training camp he wowed everybody with his speed.
 
Jackson has a broken finger on his left hand, but he is expected to play.
 
The Eagles also have one of the top red zone threats in Alshon Jeffery, who despite missing three games with injury, still had 5 receptions for 843 yards and six TDs.
 
Nelson Agholor is a solid slot receiver and one gets the impression that rookie JJ. Arcega-Whiteside will get his chances as well.
 
That isn’t even taking into consideration that the Eagles have arguably two of the top five tight ends in football in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
 
Ertz set a single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 116 (for 1,163 yards and eight TDs).
 
Due to the fact that the Eagles have more weapons, it’s likely that Ertz won’t near 116 receptions, but he will sill get plenty of opportunities.
 
With all the threats, somebody will have to be open and few work the middle of the field better than Ertz.
 
The running game seems significantly improved. In fact, last year’s two leading rushers, Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood, didn’t make the team.
 
Jordan Howard, acquired from the Chicago Bears, and rookie Miles Sanders, the second-round pick from Penn State, will be the top two running backs.
 
Corey Clement, a Super Bowl hero as a rookie, had an injury-plagued second season, but he appears healthy and is a third down threat who can also be a return man.
 
Then there is 36-year-old Darren Sproles, who has battled injury issues the past two years, but is another potential home run threat out of the backfield and dangerous punt returner.
 
The offensive line is among the best in the NFL.
 
The defense is solid, although the most dominant player, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, is still coming off a foot injury that he suffered in the Eagles 20-14 playoff loss at New Orleans. It will be interesting to see if he is ready for the beginning.
 
In Tim Jernigan and free agent signee Malik Jackson, along with Cox, the Eagles have one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the NFL.
 
Safety Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles most important defender. Last season he played in 100 percent of the defensive snaps. He has not missed a game in his first five seasons. Last year might have been his best as he kept the Eagles secondary competitive despite a rash of injuries.
 
The cornerbacks are a question since Ronald Darby is coming off a knee injury. Sidney Jones had a good training camp, but he must show he can stay healthy.
 
Linebacker is a question, especially with Nigel Bradham still recovering from injury. He is among the most underrated players on the Eagles.
 
Kicker Jake Elliott is a great long-range performer, but he isn’t always consistent on shorter range. Still, he has proven to be a clutch performer.
 
Doug Pederson, entering his fourth season, is one of the best emerging coaches in the NFL.
 
Of course, injuries will determine how the Eagles end up, as it will for any NFL team, but there is great optimism entering the season, that appears well justified.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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