Almost every offseason I’ve been overly and sometimes unrealistically optimistic about the Eagles as the season draws near. Sometimes it’s a player I think will explode onto the scene and post huge numbers. Sometimes it’s something as simple as starting the season on a 3-4 game winning streak. Other times; however, it’s an off the wall crazy feeling that the Birds are going to the Super Bowl (damn you, 2011 Dream Team). This season I’ve decided to no longer internalize my sky high expectations for the team and present you my five shamelessly bold predictions for the 2017 Eagles:
1. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will rank as the top safety duo in the league
The safety tandem of Jenkins and McLeod was a success in Year 1 of their partnership. Both safeties graded as top 20 safeties, according to PFF, and for good reason. The two combined for 112 tackles and accounted for 6 of the team’s 16 interceptions. Both safeties possess incredible instincts and range, and should dominate this season with one year of experience together under their belt. Expect this safety duo to be the heart and soul of #NoPhlyZone this season.
2. Zach Ertz will lead the team in receptions and crack 1,000 receiving yards
I know you’ve probably heard it all before- “Zach Ertz will breakout this year” “Ertz will make his mark this season” “Eagles TE will have a huge impact”- but Ertz is honestly primed to produce at a high level this season. When Jordan Matthews was shipped to Buffalo, 117 targets were shipped out as well. Although Alshon Jeffery will get the lion’s share of targets in the passing game, I’d expect Zach Ertz to be right behind him.
Ertz has been incredibly reliable throughout his career, ranking eighth amongst tight ends in receptions (247) and receiving yards (2,840), since entering the league in 2013. Combine that with the fact that he’s the number two option in an offense with a true number one receiver, and Ertz is a safe bet to produce at a high level in 2017. I’ll go on record and say that Ertz finishes with a stat line of 85+ receptions/1100+ yards/7 TDs and whole lotta highlights:
3. The Eagles will rank Top 3 in sacks
This past season was a bit of a let down for the defensive line. Many, including myself, expected the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense would unleash its pass rushing attack. Although the team still managed to notch 34 sacks (tied for 16th), there is certainly room to improve. The Birds, to their credit, added pass rushing specialists Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long this offseason. I think DC Jim Schwartz will dial up the blitz a bit more now that the cornerback situation is a bit more stable, and this change should lead to an uptick in sacks. Put me down for 42+ sacks for Philly.
4. Sproles goes out with a bang
This season marks the end of an incredible career for the dynamic Darren Sproles. The electric, pass-catching back has been nothing short of a swiss army knife throughout his NFL career. Sproles has made his presence felt as a running back, receiver, and kick/punt returner. Perhaps most impressively, Sproles has never recorded less than 1,108 all-purpose yards in a season, and is just a mere 672 all-purpose yards away from ranking 5th all-time in the category- which would surpass HOFers Marshall Faulk and Tim Brown. Sproles should should break the record with ease as he caps off his historic career.
5. The Eagles will have 8 Pro Bowlers
Clean up the coffee you just spit all over your screen and don’t bother rubbing your eyes to see if you read this prediction correctly. Eight Eagles- Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Darren Sproles, Brandon Graham, Zach Ertz, and Brandon Brooks- will make the trip to Orlando to participate in the Pro Bowl. I really think the offensive line will rank as a top 5 unit in the league this season, as reflected in my Pro Bowl predictions. Sproles makes the squad as a return specialist.
Graham finally earns the respect he deserves. Jenkins and Cox continue to dominate. Ertz, according to my earlier prediction, will likely rank as the top tight end in the NFC, thus earning him his first Pro Bowl berth.
If my gutsy calls come true this season this will certainly be an entertaining season, and would that would likely result in a playoff berth. Or they could go against everything I predicted and make me look like a fool. Feel free to leave a comment on what you agree and disagree with, and share your own shamelessly bold predictions.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports