Five big questions the Eagles need to answer in 2021

NFL: DEC 13 Saints at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) carries the ball out of the endzone in the first half during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

We are officially less than one week away from Eagles football. With so much excitement surrounding the team after a transformative offseason, we can now turn our attention to the questions that the team will need to answer in 2021. There are plenty of them, but here are five pretty important ones.

Is Jalen Hurts the real deal?

Perhaps the biggest question facing the Eagles this season lies on the shoulders of Jalen Hurts and it’s not necessarily his own fault, either. Through trading Carson Wentz, Howie Roseman was able to acquire an extra second-round pick (that should become a first), giving the team three potential first-rounders. This is more than enough ammunition to move up for a quarterback, or trade for the services of a more proven signal-caller if Hurts falters or faith in him wavers.

For Hurts, the mission is simple. Eradicate the fumbles, show progression as a passer who can feel comfortable in the pocket, and find trust in his receivers. All three of these objectives are attainable in his first full NFL season and there’s little reason to doubt he could far exceed expectations. But even with that in mind, if he’s unable to please the front office to a point where they wouldn’t be turning and looking at QB prospects walking past them at the senior bowl, or resist picking up the phone when a proven QB becomes available, then it could be another bumpy offseason in Philadelphia.

Which Tight End becomes ‘the man’?

The Eagles have two great tight ends at two very different points of their careers. Zach Ertz may never be this affordable in his career again after a dismal 2020 campaign and an offseason of endless trade rumors, while Dallas Goedert has been on the fringe of a breakout since entering the NFL. Both are in contract years.

Realistically, only one will remain in Philadelphia, but who? The surprising rise of Tyree Jackson will undoubtedly play a factor if he can continue to impress his coaches, potentially giving the Eagles a more affordable long-term option to pair with a vet like Ertz, and there is always the chance that Goedert plays himself above Philadelphia’s pay-grade. However, a lot can change over 17 games and it is more than likely to.

Is it time to pay Jordan Mailata?

We all know just how good Jordan Mailata currently is and his ceiling is already at dizzying heights. But, just like the two tight ends, he too is in a contract year. The decision that the Eagles now have to weigh up is how soon they pay him. If they jump the gun and give him a payday within the next few weeks, it’s doing so on the assumption he will at the very least play at the same level for the considerable future. With Andre Dillard in the wings and on a would-be much cheaper contract for a little longer, just how big is the gap in talent between the two, and is it worth paying a lot for?

The other option is to wait and hope that they can pay Mailata at the end of the season. The issue in doing so is that if he takes another monumental stride in his development, as he has every year he’s been in the NFL, he could be deserving of an average yearly value far higher than what Roseman is willing to pay.

The smart thing would be to wait a few weeks and gauge his performances through the opening four games and make a decision there and then, jumping the trend whatever the case may be.

How many long-term starters do the Eagles have?

The Eagles are a young team at heart, but many of their starters are currently veterans on prove-it deals, or older players whose contracts are about to see an astronomical rise thanks to Howie’s manoeuvres. After a strong draft and with plenty of capital in their pocket, it looks as though a youth infusion is underway, but just how many of those players would be ready to step into bigger roles?

What if Fletcher Cox is traded due to his astronomical cap number next year? Is Zech McPhearson ready to play outside despite being undersized and struggling in preseason? Can T.J Edwards become the next MIKE behind Eric WIlson? What if Rodney McLeod can’t stay healthy?

There are a lot of key positions without a real secure future locked in, however they are all knee-deep in upside and potential. It’s going to be a fun season and one that ultimately should see the rise of a few new young guns. But how many will be ready to take on an even bigger responsibility next year?

Can Jeff Stoutland do it again?

The Eagles live and die by their offensive line, but the end of an era is upon us. Jason Kelce will not play forever and retirement has been a word many have been scared to say in recent times. However, the Eagles have done very little to bring in legit help at his position, be it in terms of a potential heir to the throne or a simple backup. Kelce has remained an incredibly durable player, but if he went down last season, I dread to think what would’ve happened.

Second-round pick, Landon Dickerson, has snapping experience, and both Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo worked at the center spot during the summer. How those three pieces of the puzzle will eventually fall into place is a mystery, but if they can’t find a viable center prospect soon, then the level of urgency has to increase when it comes to the draft and free agency…unless Jeff Stoutland can wave his magic wand again.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire