OTA’s should be taking place right now, but the current pandemic has forced NFL teams to think outside the box and prepare their players for a grueling summer remotely. As the new season lies on the far horizon, it’s a perfect time to look at last year’s rookie class and what’s expected of them going into their sophomore season.
The starting LT torch has been passed down to the Washington State product who will now be responsible for protecting the blindside of Carson Wentz for years to come. Dillard showed a significant amount of promise through a string of appearances in his rookie season that included impressive outings against the Bears and Bills.
Of course, there was whatever happened against the Seahawks where he was oddly thrown to the Wolves at RT, but overall, Dillard handled himself fairly well.
In terms of an expected step up, there may be none bigger than the leap from backing up a Hall of Fame tackle, to manning the left tackle spot for good.
Talking of batons being passed, Miles Sanders is now officially the star of the Eagles backfield, as evidenced by the team’s lack of intent to really replace Jordan Howard with a back of similar reputation, although they have added ones of similar style, elevating Sanders to be the jack-of-all-trades.
We all know the expectation now. Sanders himself has voiced his intent to go out and become league MVP and whether or not he does that, hearing such confidence after an astounding rookie breakout is encouraging.
Just how explosive was that breakout?
From Week 7 and beyond, Sanders was one of just eight running backs to average 5+ yards per carry. Additionally, he and Aaron Jones were the only two to do so while also compiling 250+ receiving yards. By season’s end, Sanders was one of just six players to record 500+ rushing and receiving yards- Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, and Austin Ekeler being the others.
In fact, between the Seattle game and week 17 against the Giants, Sanders averaged 4.8 yards per rush on 92 carries and was even more lethal in the passing game: 29 receptions, 6.8 yards per reception. All of that with 4 touchdowns.
Sanders won’t be expected to take a monumental step as much as he will be to maintain his current trend of becoming one of the most dynamic threats at the position. A step he seems almost destined to take.
The second-round pick is often overlooked due to the total rebuild the WR position experienced this offseason, but make no mistake, JJAW will be expected to be a solid part of the rotation.
With Wentz being so prolific in the redzone, the Eagles will need a jump-ball specialist, especially with Alshon Jeffery’s tenure all but coming to a certain end and an injury seeming likely to rip him of at least half a season.
The Stanford product has a huge opportunity to make up for lost time and put clamps on the ‘X’ position and while expectations aren’t overly high after a disappointing rookie year, the opportunity to take a quantum leap may be the highest of the group.
Miller saw just 2 special teams snaps all year as a rookie. While it’s difficult comparing him to Josh Sweat, both were fourth-round picks and Sweat played in 68 defensive snaps…which is notable in contrast considering the second-year breakout the FSU product enjoyed.
Miller will have a new DL coach to try and squeeze the best out of him and without a real sense of depth at the position and some long-term questions to answer, the Penn State graduate will have a prime opportunity to make his presence felt in 2020.
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports