As the 2017 season quickly approaches for the Philadelphia Eagles, there is a certain electricity in the air surrounding the Novacare complex and their new look team. Led by second year head coach Doug Pederson, a young franchise Quarterback in Carson Wentz, and the look of a tenacious defense, the hopes of a magical season may not be too farfetched, as this Eagles roster is smothered in talent across the board.
With that said, I decided to make a few well thought out (absurd) predictions for the upcoming season, and the players that will be tabbed to represent the great city of brotherly love.
1. Eagles defense will emerge as a top 5 unit
When looking at the Eagles defense, this one isn’t too far gone. The subtle additions of DT Timmy Jernigan, DE Chris Long, and rookie DE Derek Barnett, just add more fuel to the fire that is the Eagles front seven. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are already considered two of the better players at their positions and with another year under their belt in the new scheme, 2017 could see them become even more dominant. LB Jordan Hicks is already a top prospect at his spot on the field and could really look to take another huge step this year as a playmaker. Add this monster of a front to a pair of difference makers at safety and you have something cooking. We all need to see what happens on the corners, with second year Jalen Mills, veteran Patrick Robinson, and rookie Rasul Douglas, but as far as skillset goes, they are already leaps ahead of the prior starters. If the young core of corners can play even just a little worse than the core of guys did last year, then we could see a defense that could be destroying offenses all year. (Personally I think these young corners could become stars)
2. Donnel Pumphrey will make plays all over the field
When the Eagles drafted the young RB in the fourth round, there was a lot of head scratching as the team was thought to be in need of a bruiser type of back. Instead, they drafted the 5’8, 180 lbs, playmaker out of SDSU…and one who is the perfect fit for the Eagles Offense.
With OTA’s and Minicamp in the books, it’s clear that the Eagles are looking to fully utilize his skillset. Almost like a thinner Randall Cobb with the Green Bay Packers, Pumphrey has seen time,in the offensive backfield, Slot, out wide, and returning punts and kickoffs during the offseason so far. There is no question that Pederson plans on getting the most out of their young new shiny toy…which is why I believe he will make a lot of plays from many different places on the field. It may not be right off the bat, but as time goes on and the offense really figures out his best placements, he could be looking to be a true weapon in this new era west coast offense.
3. The defense will collect at least 50 sacks this year.
After racking up 34 sacks last year, the new balanced front seven should run rampant under Jim Schwartz. The attention that was once draped over Fletcher Cox has now dissipated across the line, opening up a huge opportunity for the Eagles to wreak havoc with a flurry of pass rush specialists on offensive lines that simply can’t defend all angles at once.
4. You get a thousand yards…and you get a thousand yards…and you get a thousand yards!
With all the additions of talented players to go along with a promising second year for QB Carson Wentz, don’t be surprised to see a few players hitting the 1,000 yard marker. New RB LeGarrette Blount is coming off his best year as a pro with the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots, and at 30-years old, he has enough tread on the tires to be the workhorse back he was brought in to be. He doesn’t give much by way of the passing game, but he was signed to beat up defenses, control clocks, and score touchdowns…and that’s what he will do.
Free agent signing Alshon Jefferey, was signed to be the number 1 target for a team who hasn’t had one for a few seasons. Expect him, to see a lot of targets, and with it being yet another contract year for the former Bear, expect him to catch a lot of them.
Another player who could benefit from the new signings is Jordan Matthews, who was forced to be the guy during the last two seasons. He saw a lot of double coverage but now with the threat of their new number 1, he looks to devour the nickel and safeties forced to cover him. Don’t be surprised if TE Zach Ertz has a thousand yard season and dominates defenses this year for that same reason.
5. Jordan Hicks? Pro Bowler.
It should have happened last year, but here we are. After an incredible rookie year that was cut short by an injury, Hicks followed through again by becoming a vocal leader on the Eagles Defense in year two. Picking off passes at an alarming rate, while finishing behind only fellow LB Nigel Bradham in team-total tackles last year, Hicks looks set to explode as one of the most exciting up and coming linebackers in the league.
6. Agholor makes good
The early talks have been that WR Nelson Agholor has looked a lot smoother and has been catching the ball much cleaner then previous years. Considered a bust by some having not lived up to his 1st round status yet, I consider him a late bloomer, as he has shown all the tools one needs to be a playmaker at this level. This year, he puts it all together and finally makes good on the field. With the upgrade of talent around him, he is no longer thought of as the be-all, end-all at the wide out position, and that takes away a lot of the pressure. This year he will go out there, play fast and steady, and have a strong year, catching somewhere around 50-60 passes and scoring at least 5 times. These may not seem like amazing numbers, but he will have a better year than last season and take the next step in his career.
7. Malcolm Jenkins, gets his respect.
How is Jenkins not considered one of the top-2 safeties in the NFL? Has no one seen his tape since coming to Philadelphia? Jarius Byrd who?? Jenkins was largely used as a “slot cushion” after the injury to Ron Brooks, but a revamped CB corps will allow him to shine at his strongest spot, Safety. Alongside Rodney McLeod, Jenkins could be on course for a career year with a strong supporting cast around him…and it may also be the year he finally gets the respect he deserves.
8. The Mack-10 (Hollins) hype, will only increase during the season.
He may not have 1,000 yards, or maybe he does, who knows? But he will be a legit threat in the red zone, as he gives Wentz a bigger target. He will also help add to an already strong special teams core and make a lot of plays on all cores of that. The hype on Hollins will only build as the season progresses.
9. The Eagles, will be in the NFC East race up until week 17.
That’s as far as I’m going. I am not saying we make the playoffs, but when you look at the level of play the Eagles potentially have on their roster, there is a real possibility that the team will be in it until the end. Dallas didn’t get better on defense. Washington got worse on defense. The Giants, don’t really have the line to protect Eli. The Eagles have a legitimate chance…that’s all I’m saying.
10. This is Howie do it.
Mark my words, there is a storm coming. This storm will be in the shape of a trade. I’m not sure how big, or how small, but before the pre-season is over, Howie will strike, and add to the future of this team. Enough said!
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports