Malcolm Jenkins recently said that it’s “not crazy at all” to think the Philadelphia Eagles can make the Super Bowl this year. It’s safe to say the reactions to his comments were mixed. Some argued that he has a fair point. Others were like “WTF are you crazy!”
We should all be able to agree that the Eagles are not Super Bowl favorites by any means. But the NFL is so unpredictable at times that it’s impossible to rule it out. And if you think the Eagles can make the playoffs, there’s always a shot they can get hot in the postseason and go on an unexpected title run. We’ve seen the New York Giants do this, unfortunately.
I’m not expecting the Eagles to win the Super Bowl this year, but I do think they’ve upgraded from last year. I do think the playoffs are within reach. Philadelphia made a number of important offseason acquistions, such as Alshon Jeffery and Timmy Jernigan. Carson Wentz could provide the team with a big boost if he steps up in Year 2.
One concern about the Eagles’ roster is the lack of depth. I think people make too much of this sometimes because it’s not like there are a ton of stacked rosters elsewhere in the league. Every team has their weaknesses and flaws.
But how do the Eagles stack up? In order to address this question, let's revisit Pat Kirwan's 13-question activity to determine whether NFL teams have enough roster depth to win a title.
1 - Does the team have a backup quarterback who can go at least 2-2 in a 4 game stretch?
Yes. Look, I’m far from the biggest Nick Foles fan. But even I can acknowledge he belongs in the NFL as a backup. Foles didn’t have a great spring, which isn’t encouraging, but his overall track record is good for backup standards. Foles had a winning record as a starter. I sure hope the Eagles never have to see him play this season, but if he does, I’m fairly confident he can get you to two wins in four starts. The Eagles sure better hope he can considering the money they’ve invested in the backup quarterback position.
2 - Does the team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
Yes. If Allen Barbre isn’t starting at left guard, which is very possible, he could serve as the first offensive lineman off the bench at every spot except center. Or the Eagles could even go with second-year blocker Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Big V got some playing experience last year while filling in for Lane Johnson. Whether he figures to be a starter in the long-term remains to be seen, but I feel OK with him as a backup. The Eagles might very well need to count on their tackle depth this year considering Jason Peters is now 35 years old.
3 - Does the team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
Yes. The Eagles re-signed Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year deal worth up to $10 million. That’s good money for a backup. He has plenty of starting experience at both interior positions. Isaac Seumalo also fits the bill here if Barbre is starting at left guard. And Barbre can’t play center but he can fill in at both guard spots. I haven’t even mentioned Chance Warmack yet. Offensive line depth is hardly a concern for the Eagles.
4 - Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
No. The Eagles don’t even have a starting running back they can count on for consistent 100-yard performances. LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to get the kind of touches where he’s featured that heavily. Darren Sproles has never been a full-time player and that’s not going to change at his age 34 season. Donnel Pumphrey is going to be involved in the Eagles’ passing attack; he’s not just a runner.
Wendell Smallwood is the only player who could deliver that 100-yard rushing day. He has the potential to do it, but he’s far from a sure bet. The Eagles still very much need a long-term answer at running back.
5 - Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
Yes. The Eagles have good depth behind Zach Ertz with Brent Celek and Trey Burton. Celek is mostly a pure blocker at this point while Burton played a career-high number of offensive snaps last season. Burton gives the Eagles another target in the passing attack. This is a solid group.
6 - Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
No. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Jordan Matthews are the Eagles’ top three wide receivers. You can debate the order they’re in (after Alshon at No. 1), but those are main three guys. Matthews is a slot guy only. He can’t really play on the outside in an extended role. If he could, we would have seen it by now. The Eagles have talked about it but it’s never really materialized, even in a season like last year when the Eagles had virtually nothing at receiver.
There’s no question the Eagles dramatically improved their wide receiving corps from last year. But there’s still room for improvement.
7 - Does the team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
Yes. The Eagles have some nice depth at defensive end. Brandon Graham is locked in as a starter. The other spot will go to either Vinny Curry or Derek Barnett. I’m partial to the rookie taking the job, but it probably doesn’t matter who “starts” much because Jim Schwartz likes to rotate his defensive linemen. Along with those three, the Eagles also have Chris Long. He’ll be a nice role player to have. The presence of Steven Means gives the Eagles even more depth. They’re covered in this area.
8 - Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
Yes. Assuming Beau Allen is healthy, that is. There’s optimism that Allen will be back by Week 1 but that’s not a guarantee. In any case, he will play this season, it’s just a matter of when. Allen has proved to be a nice rotational player. That’s his ideal role. He can start in a pinch, though, as he proved last year when Bennie Logan missed some games due to injury. Allen can also play goal line fullback which is a nice bonus.
9 - Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
Maybe. Aaron Grymes could earn that role after having a strong spring and standout summer last year. Ron Brooks is also still around, though he’s Just A Guy (JAG) at best. The Eagles also experimented with Jalen Mills in the slot with Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas on the outside during OTAs. I like what I’ve seen from Grymes, so I have some hope he could be a quality player. Not a star by any means, but decent at least.
10 - Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
No. The Eagles have enough bodies to play four corners (Robinson, Mills, Douglas, and one of Grymes/Brooks) but they’re certainly not deep at the position.
11 - Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
Yes. The Eagles used a third safety last year when Malcolm Jenkins was moved down to play in the slot. Jaylen Watkins filled in on the back end and the results were not great.
There’s hope the Eagles might have an upgrade on Watkins. Former Ravens safety Terrence Brooks, who Philadelphia claimed on waivers last season, flashed in limited opportunities during the 2016 season. He also made some plays in spring practices this year. The 25-year-old Brooks could very well earn the third safety job behind obvious starters Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.
12 - Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
Yes. Darren Sproles might not be playing for too much longer but he’s still one of the best punt returners in the league. He can obviously contribute as running back and as a receiver as well. In addition to Sproles, the Eagles have Smallwood who can return kickoffs.
It’ll be interesting to see how often Philadelphia gets fourth-round rookie Donnel Pumphrey involved in return duties. He rarely handled these responsibilities during San Diego State games but he repped these situations in practice. It shows because Pumphrey didn’t look awkward while returning kicks/punts during OTAs and minicamp.
13 - Does your team have a special teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside in a pinch?
Yes. Najee Goode fits this description in the short-term. Joe Walker has an opportunity to leapfrog him in the pecking order if he can get healthy and pick up where he left off last summer. Walker was showing some potential before he suffered a season-ending injury. It’s important that the Eagles have a solid middle linebacker due to the fact Jordan Hicks has suffered from a number of injuries in his playing career.
Compared to this time last year, the Eagles definitely appear to be in better shape. They still have some weaknesses, but they’re trending in the right direction. Wentz is obviously the ultimate make-or-break factor in Philadelphia’s quest for Super Bowl contention.
Do you think the Eagles can realistically win the Super Bowl this year
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