The Philadelphia Eagles are entering a season with possibly the most loaded depth chart they’ve had in years. Not solely based on talent but based on depth. After the Johnathan Cyprien signing, the Eagles seem pretty stacked at almost every position. Which the begs the question, with all of this talent, who could be the potential X-factors for this team? Here are my five X-factors for the upcoming season:
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
What was once a weak spot in the roster, Linebacker may be one of the few positions that have a diamond in the rough to go along with homegrown talent. Kamu Grugier-Hill is entering his fourth season in the NFL and final contracted year. Before 2018, Kamu was mainly known as a backup to Michael Kendricks or a special teams ace.
Last season, after the release of Kendricks, Grungier-Hill found an open door that would lead to so much more! He finished his season by doubling his combined tackles and also finished with his first sack and interception of his career. While playing with a thumb injury that definitely hindered him at times, he still found a way to keep himself on the field. Leading the team in special teams tackles in back-to-back seasons on top of his defensive emergence, Grugier-Hill finds himself ahead of the curve this offseason. The Eagles are slowly incorporating Zach Brown while Bradham is nursing himself back to full health. Hill can not only be a standout this offseason but possibly a key contributor in that linebacker rotation.
“Everybody has just different things they are working on, different things they are trying to keep polished and different things they are trying to fill.” Jim Schwartz said after a practice last week. “But I think [LB] Kamu [Grugier-Hill] over the course of the last two years has become better versus blockers. He’s become more of a physical presence inside. Everybody knows the athletic ability that he had but he was always sort of considered a hybrid player or a light player.”
CB Sidney Jones & CB Rasul Douglas
This pair has been through a roller coaster ride in their first two years with the organization. Jones has found it difficult to consistently stay healthy while Douglas has found it hard to just get playing time. While Jones continued to battle injuries in 2018, Douglas found a way to not only stand out, but also help his development while filling in for the injured corners. Now with Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills still recovering from their season-ending injuries, Jones and Douglas have seen a heavy dose of first-team reps.
According to multiple reports Jones has been the best corner on the field and looks to finally be completely healthy. Douglas isn’t far off, he’s had a great camp so far as well. Douglas and Jones can accompany Maddox to being the team’s full-time corners if they take the necessary steps this season, which would make a huge impact on a defense that’s searching for a long-term, youthful impact. With Darby and Mills in their contract years and each corner having question marks surrounding health and a future in Philadelphia, there’s no time like the present for a secondary breakout from this dynamic duo.
WR Nelson Agholor
It can be difficult to stand out in a crowded offense. Eagles slot receiver Nelson Agholor may experience that first hand this season. It’s going to be up to him to find ways to be a playmaker for Wentz and a loaded offense. Back in the 2017 season, Agholor finished with 8 touchdowns due to his playmaking ability in the slot. Last season, he only managed to score half of that. What didn’t help was the acquisition of Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions. His arrival seemed to phase Agholor spelling a loss in confidence from the organization. Although Pederson and Roseman recently shared their confidence in their young receiver, they also stressed the importance of having Nelly on this team. Agholor has a great opportunity to shine and be a core player for years to come with DeSean Jackson by his side. If the shifty receiver can pick up on half of the things Jackson can show him then he may be everything the Eagles hoped he would be. He’s in a big contract year now and the Eagles weirdly picked up his 5th-year option for $9.4 million.
WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson will be the biggest X-factor for this team. His speed has grown to be an addiction for Carson Wentz. Not only does he provide the deep ball that this team has so badly craved but the attention he attracts will open up the field for players like Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. That’s an incredible impact for a team that hasn’t been able to scare defenses with the deep ball. Jackson led the league last year in yards per target with 18.9. He’s also the NFL’s active leader in yards per catch. Even at the age of 32, Jackson still possesses great speed. As crazy as this sounds, Jackson could be in-line for a career season with Wentz at the helm.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports