With the start of training camp only days away, the excitement of having football is brewing like never before. Although fans won’t be allowed at Lincoln Financial Field this season, don’t expect that to stop them from repping their Eagles but right now there are other people that need to rep their team like never before this season. This group of individuals really need to step up and help the Eagles have a successful 2020 campaign. Here’s my list of the ten most important Eagles for the upcoming season.
10. Andre Dillard
Even with Jason Peters back, it’s still going to be the Andre Dillard show at Left Tackle but that doesn’t mean that JP’s shadow won’t be looming over Dillard and adding more pressure to the 2nd-year player.
Dillard stepped up last season when the team called his number due to an injury to the aforementioned Jason Peters. Dillard’s first start as the #1 left tackle is coming with some added excitement, especially after Brandon Brooks mentioned that Dillard has put on extra weight this summer, jumping from 315 lbs to 335 lbs. Weight was one of the main concerns when it came to Dillard’s progression. he already has the athleticism and skill set to be a great LT but the added weight will help Dillard’s development massively.
9. Zach Ertz
The Importance of Zach Ertz should never be overlooked. Since 2016, he’s been the only consistent receiver in this offense and shattered almost every record possible along the way. Ertz is coming off a huge injury scare that almost threatened his career. To see if Zach can return back to his top form is very key. The Eagles added necessary speed to the outside in hopes that it will open up the middle of the field for their elite tight ends. Ertz has a lot riding on him this season especially with the pressure a contract negotiation on the horizon. With Dallas Goedert looking to secure his first post-rookie-deal contract too, Ertz has to be at his best to demonstrate his value.
8. Jalen Reagor
Look, you don’t draft a wide receiver in the first round with Reagor’s potential if you don’t expect him to contribute in a big way. While the Eagles can afford to be patient with Jalen Reagor, the fact of the matter is that they need him to explode on the scene for several reasons. With DeSean and Alshon, both on the hot seat, Reagor’s role on this offense is already much more important now than it was on draft night, and he hasn’t even played a game yet.
The rookie wideout is said to be learning strictly behind DJax for a reason. They won’t risk cross-training him as many have witnessed what that did to JJAW last season. Reagor is young and quick, he’s everything they wanted Agholor to be but he has the mental strength to withstand the chaos of playing in Philadelphia.
7. Jim Schwartz
You can’t limit the importance of this season to players only. Since 2016, Jim Schwartz has ridden the strength of his defensive line. He’s had nothing but great results when his lines have been healthy. It also helps when you have Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham as the anchors of the line. This season will be a bit different for Schwartz though, it seems things have taken a turn for the better.
The Eagles let Ronald Darby walk but traded for one of the top cornerbacks in the game – Darius Slay. They also signed one the most underrated defensive tackles in the game in Javon Hargrave. Roseman has also given Jim a bit more juice with the signings of Will Parks and Nickell Robey-Coleman. They drafted a stud in K’Von Wallace and signed a steal for a UDFA in Grayland Arnold.
For the first time in his tenure, Schwartz will have a secondary that’s able to compete with the best of offenses. He has a corner that can shadow the top wideout of opposing teams without a problem. What Schwartz does with this defense now will be very detrimental to his tenure with the Eagles. It’s time for Jim to put all on the line with these underdogs.
6. Lane Johnson
Lane Johnson will be the anchor of this offensive line this season. Kelce, while still consistent, is nearing the end of his career, Jason Peters is switching positions at 38 years old, and Brandon Brooks is down again. With a young Andre Dillard is looking to establish himself as the alpha on the other side of the line, Johnson has to be more than just a leader this time around, he has to set the example. He has to bring consistency and energy to a line that looks a lot different all of a sudden. There’s no doubt that Lane is the most important lineman this season, he’s the anchor that keeps this unit together.
5. Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders was able to set Philadelphia on fire during his rookie season, but what will be in store for year two? Sanders will be the focus in the running back room as Jordan Howard has officially departed to Miami. While the Eagles have focused on the running back by committee approach in the past, one thing is for certain; Doug Pederson has never had a running back like Miles Sanders before.
They tried it with Sproles but he couldn’t stay healthy long enough for them. It worked for Blount but Corey Clement provided them with the receiving ability. Now, Pederson has the swiss army knife that is Miles Sanders. Sanders showed last season that he can run with the best of them and catch with them as well. He had over 500 yards receiving and over 800 yards rushing. It’ll be on Doug Pederson to allow Sanders to flourish as no other back has under him.
4. Fletcher Cox
There’s no doubt that last season, Fletcher Cox just didn’t have the dominance to his game that we’re used to seeing. He finished the season with only 3.5 sacks, which was seven fewer than what he had in the previous season.
Although he didn’t register more than a handful of sacks, Cox was still able to create chaos for opposing offenses as he earned a PFF grade of 84.5. There’s no question when it comes to the talent of Cox, but whether it was a lingering injury or something else, last season was disappointing.
This will be a very important season for him as now he’ll be surrounded by a group of other DT’s that favor him. Between Hargrave, Jackson, and even Ridgeway; Cox should be able to find himself in more favorable situations next season. With a player like Hargrave, who may also demand double teams, by his side for the foreseeable future, it may just be the breather that Cox needs to go back to wreaking havoc.
3. Darius Slay
Now look, I know that the folks over at EA Sports have Darius Slay rated as the 9th best corner in the NFL but I’m here to yell from the top of the Philadelphia City hall that they haven’t WATCHED THE TAPE! Period. Anyways, for the first time since Assante Samuel, the Eagles have themselves a cornerback that has the ability to changed the landscape of a game with a single play. Darius Slay is arguably a top 5 corner in the NFL.
He has the third-lowest completion percentage in the NFL for the last three seasons at 51.8%. His football IQ is far above average, his awareness is also what makes Slay a phenomenal defender. He also has 19 interceptions since entering the league in 2013 with 104 pass deflections. It’s hard to believe that he’s an Eagle, isn’t it? I know. I can’t stress just how important Slay is to this defense. He’s the mentor that the young corners need and the playmaker that the coaches need. This defense will go as far as Slay takes them.
2. Carson Wentz
I know what you’re thinking. How is Carson Wentz not the most important Eagle?! Well look at it this way, he’s the most important player on the Eagles without a doubt. Wentz had a rough start to last season but finished strong with a depleted roster. I shouldn’t have to stress to you that Carson Wentz’s 4-0 run in the final four weeks of the season to lead his team to a division title. I also shouldn’t have to tell you that Wentz threw for over 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns while only giving up 7 interceptions. I shouldn’t have to express the fact that this will be the first time that Wentz has receivers that fit his playmaking ability and big arm but I’m doing it anyway.
Unfortunately, Carson isn’t perfect. He has his moments. Wentz has to be more cerebral this season, there’s no room for error now. Wentz fumbled 16 times last season while only 9 of those being recovered. He was blitzed 184 times while being hurried only 67 times on these occasions but Wentz was also hit 53 times. He’s not injury prone, to me that phrase has no weight in a sport built for gladiators. Where I’m getting at is now that he has the speed, Wentz has to trust his receivers more than ever if he wants to play into February. Carson’s growth in the turnover department will be key.
1. Doug Pederson
Dougie P. Dougie too fresh to stress. He is the MOST important Eagle this season. Pederson fell victim to his softer side as he allowed Mike Groh and Carson Walch to continuously make him look like the court jester. While we all love and adore Coach Pederson, the fact of theater is that he has to show that he’s truly the one steering the ship, and the culture he’s created has no room for weak links. Pederson literally has a board of councils surrounding him on the offensive side while Jim is still doing his thing for the defense. Pederson has to show that he’s able to not only hold himself accountable but his staff as well.
While he’s accomplished great feats to start his coaching career, Doug still has all the potential in the world to be one of the greatest of all time. He has the intellect and demeanor. His players love playing for him but its time that we see him take his play-calling to the next level. I’m not talking about wildcat plays with Jalen Hurts. I’m talking about finding ways to get the ball downfield quicker and running the ball consistently especially with a talent like Miles Sanders back there.
This season will be very important for both Pederson and Wentz, so now more than ever they have to be on the same page. The offense has to run like the well-oiled machine that it’s expected to be due to all the incredible minds on staff.
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports