We are five months away from the start of the 2021 NFL Season. Expectations are low for the Eagles when it comes to their expected win total this year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t players worth getting excited about.
The outlook of this team might be bleak for the time being, but there are a few players that I’m excited to see more of in a few months.
Who’s Hot: Jordan Mailata
Jordan Mailata might be the most exciting Eagle on the entire roster. Is it worrying that the talent level is so bare on this roster that I’m more excited to watch the growth of a developmental tackle? Maybe. Does that take away from what Mailata showed last year? Not at all.
Nobody really understood why Mailata was benched for the injury-prone Jason Peters, but when the Aussie was given a chance to start, he really looked solid.
2021 is an important season for Mailata. His contract expires after this year, and the eyes of the NFL are on him to show continued improvement. There is a big chance he is even named the team’s starting left tackle by week 1, displacing former first-round pick Andre Dillard.
Mailata brings tremendous upside, a lot of heart, a loveable personality, and youth to an otherwise ageing and injury-plagued offensive line.
Who’s Not: Derek Barnett
I went on record when Barnett was drafted that I thought he was a bad selection at the 14th overall pick. His production has not been one of a first round pick thus far and he’s now entering the option year of his rookie contract. Valued at $10M, this is a big year for the Tennessee product.
What doesn’t help Barnett’s case is the pressure he now faces. Depth at DE is minimal right now. Josh Sweat has surged in terms of production and is probably going to be pushing for starting reps next year, while Brandon Graham heads the rest of what is a relatively unproven group. The Eagles are probably going to add a piece or two between now and training camp, and Barnett’s failure to rise up to the occasion on a consistent basis is only going to work against him.
Who’s Hot: TJ Edwards/Alex Singleton
Why am I excited to see these two?
Because they aren’t Nate Gerry.
All jokes aside, the LB position is still one of need. But there was a lot to like from Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards last year. Singleton ended up getting over 120 tackles last year, while Edwards showed signs that he can be very good against the run.
Would a player like Micah Parsons significantly improve the defense? Yes. Is Howie drafting a LB in the first round? No. Especially not with 28-year-old Eric Wilson likely manning the MIKE spot for 2021.
So without much in the way of reason to press for a MIKE linebacker anymore, Edwards and Singleton have every right to make me excited for 2021 as the starting WILL and SAM backers, thriving in the areas Wilson isn’t as strong, and enabling him to showcase the main strengths in his game.
Who’s Not: Avonte Maddox
Avonte Maddox is a fourth round pick. Anyone who expected him to be a Richard Sherman-like steal in the 2018 draft was always kidding themselves. He’s okay for what he is – A 5’9″ corner who belongs in the slot.
Unless they move Maddox back to his natural position, I’m not going to be excited for him to be picked on repeatedly every week.
The Eagles need to work out whether they want to lean on Maddox as their starting nickel, or continue to trial him on the outside. This decision will have a large impact on their draft plans, but it’s not like Maddox has given the Eagles a lot of confidence. He’s struggled with a few injury setbacks over the course of his young career and at the fault of the former coaching regime, has been moved around so much that it’s hard to get a gauge on where he’s at in terms of his development. The Eagles could well double dip as a result.
Meh: Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders is an intriguing player. He certainly has the potential to be a top 10 RB in the NFL. The concerns with him stem from both injuries and a decline in play. A hamstring injury caused him to miss four games last season, but the coaching staff seemed almost scared to run the ball with Sanders in the second half of most games. When he did rush, it was behind a banged up offensive line, only adding to his problems.
He also was not the receiving threat we all expected him to be last year after such a promising rookie campaign. The Penn State product dropped seven passes, and fumbled four times.
There’s a lot to like about Miles Sanders. There’s also a lot to be wary of.
Who’s Hot: Dallas Goedert
I’m excited for the potential of this athletic freak to be given the chance to be the sole option at TE.
Like Sanders, he’s had injury problems, but Goedert is an excellent blocker, he is very good after the catch, and is a matchup nightmare for any defense. It’s hard not to be excited about the idea of watching him thrive under a Head Coach who really put an emphasis on tight ends during his time with the Colts.
Who’s Not: Jalen Hurts
Let me start this by saying: I WANT to be excited to see what Jalen Hurts can do. I WANT to be excited about the outlook of this team. There’s just not much to be excited about on a team that went 4-11-1 last year, with limited cap space, and a poor drafting record.
Jalen Hurts deserves his chance to be the starting QB and has proven he has already shown buckets of potential and a strong style of leadership. However, the Eagles have concerns at every skill position and their offensive line has had plenty of injury concerns.
When you add in some early teething problems that are bound to surface for a new coaching staff, it feels more that Hurts is being set up to fail more than anything else. I just can’t get excited about watching him work his tail off, for the front office of this franchise to do nothing to help him out. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but only time will tell.
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