Sunday’s 37-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys ended what has been an underwhelming season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Many thought it could be a potentially easy road to a division title since the NFC East has a recent history of struggling for wins. It turns out it was the Eagles who struggled to get wins more than any other team in the division.
There were several weaknesses were exposed during that game, from the offensive line’s penalties or the secondary allowing big plays. Nothing appeared to go right for the Eagles especially in the second half. Now with the playoffs out of sight, the team must look into the future.
The obvious big storylines are whether quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson, and general manager Howie Roseman will return in 2021. Nothing is known at this time, but Pederson stated on Monday that he feels confident he will return as the head coach.
A lot of fingers have been pointed at those three for the outcome of an awful 2020 season, but there is a much more glaring issue – Depth, depth, and depth.
Injuries have become the new norm in Philadelphia and nothing appears to have been able to fix that. The moves keep being made in the draft and free agency, but nothing has changed. New medical staffs are assembled almost yearly, but it’s the same problem over and over again and a lack of depth at key positions continues to burden the birds.
Draft History Since 2016 is Not Impressive
Roseman’s biggest complaint from fans is he simply hasn’t drafted well since Pederson has been head coach. This is a fair assessment given the product fans see on the field every week.
The 2016 draft class is the only one in this ‘era’ (2016-2020) that has a player who was actually voted into the Pro Bowl: Carson Wentz. Wentz, guard Isaac Seumalo, and safety Blake Countess (who only just re-signed after another stint elsewhere) are the only players from that class who remain on the team, with Wentz and Seumalo being the only two to start games.
Philadelphia’s 2017 draft class wasn’t exactly much better. Derek Barnett and Nathan Gerry are the only ones remaining. Barnett has shown flashes of being good, but injuries have kept him off the field. Gerry has shown inconsistency despite being very good in coverage at times. Cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas were exiled from Philadelphia this offseason after disappointing stints as backups.
Every player from the 2018 class is still on the team and has made some kind of impact. The best draft class in the Pederson era is highlighted by seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata who has impressed this season to the point of potentially being the future left tackle for the Eagles. Second-round pick Dallas Goedert has elevated his game the last two seasons and could replace Zach Ertz if he leaves the team. Avonte Maddox and Josh Sweat have been good role players, but offensive tackle Matt Pryor has struggled this season filling in for injuries.
It could be too early to evaluate the 2019 draft class, but Miles Sanders could be the team’s best pick with a promising future. First-round pick Andre Dillard has too many questions especially since he missed this season to injury and only played a handful of games last season. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has 12 catches in two seasons and appears to be a bust as their second-round pick.
Again, the 2020 draft class can’t be properly evaluated yet, but Jalen Hurts appears to be the best of the class and might be the future quarterback of the team. First-round pick Jalen Reagor has shown flashes of big-play potential, but questions still surround what the team has in him. Outside of those two, not much to be excited about yet with too many questions with each player.
Some starters have come from the draft classes in the Pederson era, but overall, fans expected more role players to appear. That hasn’t occurred as much as they would have hoped so. The development of those players hasn’t faired well either which fingers could be pointed at Pederson.
Injuries Exposed Depth Issues for Eagles
How many times have fans seen the Eagles struggle with injuries over the last three seasons? This year has been no exception with the offensive line taking their hits. The unit has gone through more offensive line rotations than any other group in NFL history. Jason Kelce has been the only lineman who started every game this season.
The Eagles’ secondary is the other unit that has had its bruises over the last couple of seasons. It’s a similar situation where the team lost key players in Rodney McLeod and Avonte Maddox. How much did this impact the unit? Well, the Eagles’ defense has had the worst two weeks in franchise history, giving up over 500 yards in the last two games.
The secondary is mostly to blame for all the yardage allowed. Kyler Murray threw for 406 yards two weeks ago and Andy Dalton threw for 377 yards on Sunday. If fans included Arizona punter Andy Lee’s 26-yard completion in the Arizona game, that’s 809 passing yards allowed in two weeks.
A glaring issue was the disappointing performance by undrafted rookie cornerback Michael Jacquet who performed well against Arizona two weeks ago in place of Avonte Maddox. Dallas exposed him with nine targets, allowing seven catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the most yards by an Eagles defender in five years. That resulted in Jacquet being benched and Jalen Mills being moved from safety to cornerback.
Losing Fletcher Cox to injury in Sunday’s game exposed issues with depth on the defensive line and a lack of leadership. Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett’s absences were felt heavily on the outside and the Eagles were outscored 34-3 after Cox left the game. With no pass rush and a failure to contain Ezekiel Elliott in the running game, it shows the interior defensive line needs some attention on the bench.
How Do the Eagles Fix the Depth Issue?
The ultimate problem is the team won’t have the salary cap to fix many issues on the team. Philadelphia has to face the reality that they won’t be able to sign many players since Carson Wentz’s contract is taking up a lot of money. Where does this leave the team?
With the most likely reality being the team will have a top-seven pick in the NFL Draft in 2021, this is their opportunity to find real talent to step up right away. Whether that comes in the form of an elite receiver or a shutdown cornerback, Roseman will have a ton of pressure to pick the right player.
Another factor is Doug Pederson has to do a better job of developing the young players. There have been more misses than fans would like in the last five drafts. Partial blame is on scouting and the other half has been on coaching. It appears Pederson and Roseman might have one more season to get it done. They’d better…as patience will be running thin.
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