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Which players can the Eagles least afford to lose in 2018?

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Eagles Q&A in the BGN Mailbag.

NFL: Super Bowl LII Champions-Philadelphia Eagles Celebration Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been way too long since I’ve done a Philadelphia Eagles mailbag post, so here we go. Thanks to everyone who sent me a question.

@NotMyBurnerAcnt asks: Outside of Carson Wentz (?), which season ending injury would hurt the Birds the most? (My thought is Fletcher Cox).

This is a real interesting question considering how the Eagles just won a Super Bowl despite missing Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, and Chris Maragos. I guess I can’t really choose any of those guys, huh?

I’m trying to think who the Eagles could’ve lost last year that would’ve prevented them from winning it all. But since you asked about this season, I also have to factor in the current roster.

With that in mind, Cox is a good pick by you. Without him, and with Tim Jernigan’s return date uncertain, the Eagles are likely starting Haloti Ngata and Destiny Vaeao at defensive tackle. The top backups would be ... Elijah Qualls and Aziz Shittu? Now, the Eagles could (and will) have defensive ends Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett take some more snaps on the inside, so that would help. Still, Cox being gone would be very bad.

I don’t want to copy your pick, though, so I’ll say losing Jason Kelce would hurt the most.

The Eagles’ offensive line was one of the biggest strengths of the team last year and the bearded man in the middle graded out as one of the best blockers in the entire league. If Kelce got hurt, the Eagles might have to shift Stefen Wisniewski over from left guard to replace him. I think Wis could be serviceable at certain, but he’s certainly not as special as Kelce. I also don’t know how Wis would handle protection calls and the presnap phase considering he doesn’t have the same kind of chemistry with Wentz. The biggest concern with moving Wis over is that either Chance Warmack, Isaac Seumalo, or a rotation of them both could be starting at left guard. That wouldn’t be pretty. It’s also possible the Eagles could keep Wis at his normal spot and replace Kelce with Seumalo. If Seumalo plays like he did in 2017, however, that could be disastrous.

Some of the worst seasons in recent Eagles history have come when Philadelphia didn’t have Kelce’s A-game. Think about it. The Eagles went 4-12 when Kelce tore his ACL after only starting two games in 2012. Kelce struggled in both 2015 and 2016 as the Eagles finished with 7-9 records in those seasons. He bounced back in a big way in 2017 and so did the Eagles offense. Probably not just a coincidence.

Sticking with the offensive line, Lane Johnson also deserves mention. The Eagles are 19-3 with him and 3-8 without him over the past two years.

Malcolm Jenkins is incredibly valuable to the team due to his defensive versatility. Also the Eagles don’t have any proven safety depth behind him.

Who is your pick, dear readers?

@Randallw37 asks: I truly think Carson Wentz could be a 5 time MVP and win multiple Super Bowls. Am I drinking the green Koolaid?

Is this ‘likely’ to happen? No, it’s not, because winning Super Bowls and MVP awards isn’t easy.

But is it out of the question entirely? No, it’s not.

We saw Wentz’s ceiling last year. We now know he’s capable of being a dominant MVP-level player. He can be the best player in the entire league.

We still need to see if he can stay consistent and maintain this dominance in the way that other NFL greats have before him.

The fact that it even might be possible is very exciting.

@MR_PERFECT6 asks: After 2018 do the Eagles keep Jay Ajayi? And second, does Carson Wentz start week 1 or week 2?

I doubt it. It just seems like Ajayi will warrant more money than the Eagles can reasonably allocate to a running back with knee concerns. Plus Philly will at least still have Corey Clement and 11 draft picks next year to work with.

I feel very confident that Carson Wentz will start in Week 1. The team reportedly believes he’s “shockingly ahead of schedule” and I have no reason to doubt that after watching his encouraging progress throughout OTAs and minicamp.

@timwescott asks: If Philly Goedert lives up to his potential, would you consider trading Zach Ertz for a first round pick? Or would it take more than that?

It’d take more than that. Ertz is 27 years old and signed to a pretty reasonable contract through the 2021 season. He has an incredible chemistry with Wentz (and Nick Foles, too). There should be no rush to get rid of him.

Besides, it’s really interesting to think what Doug Pederson can do with both Ertz and Goedert in this offense. Good luck, NFL defensive coordinators.

@toedoroe asks: Do you see Josh Sweat beating Steven Means out for a roster spot?

I think the only way Steven Means Business isn’t on the roster is if he gets traded. Means doesn’t have immense trade value but he’s an inexpensive player ($955,000 cap hit) at a premium position (pass rush). That’s not nothing. The Eagles could look to move Means, who turns 28 in September and is a free agent after this season, for a Day 3 draft pick.

If Means doesn’t get traded, I think he’ll resume his role as the fifth defensive end behind Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long. Sweat figures to be the sixth defensive end at best. Earlier this offseason, Eagles insider Dave Spadaro projected Sweat as a possible IR candidate.

@thiagozys asks: I’m buying a new jersey. Should I buy a Wentz or a Foles?

Why not both?

@dan_mphillips asks: Do Sixers get Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James?

This is just one of the, like, 20 questions I received about LeBron.

To answer the question: Man, I sure hope so.

I’d be pretty bummed if the Sixers strike out on needle-mover targets and have to run it back with most of last year’s group. I know there’s room for Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and maybe even Markelle Fultz to improve this year ... but I still feel like it won’t be enough to close the gap on the Boston Celtics. Let alone the Golden State Warriors.

And who’s to say the Sixers can land a big acquisition next offseason for sure?

Now is the time to strike. Do what it takes to get Kawhi and LeBron.

The Eagles winning the Super Bowl and the Sixers getting one of the best players in NBA history in the same year would be pretty crazy, huh?

[EDIT: LeBron signed with the Lakers just as I got done writing this answer. Welp. I think I’d still trade for Kawhi. People will say it’s too risky, which it might be, but there’s also risk in not doing anything and then just never actually contending for a title. The unfortunate reality is that this team’s ceiling is probably losing to Boston in the playoffs for the second year in a row.]

@ndutton13 asks: What sporting event would you most like to attend, now the Eagles winning a Super Bowl is off the bucket list?

Really good question, Neil.

Going to a World Cup game at the Linc in 2026 would be pretty cool, especially if the USA actually makes the tournament that time.

I’ve long been wanting to go to a Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge. I know some of you will scoff at my Blues fandom but I have no shame. I started liking the team because of Didier Drogba, who was an awesome player.

I never thought I’d live to see the Eagles have the unlikely championship run that Chelsea had. I’m lucky to have witnessed both as they happened. Storybook stuff.

@MichaelKistNFL asks: Pizza over lobster HOW DARE YOU?

No regrets. I’ve never been a big seafood guy. I’d take pizza over lobster all day.

@mattdjock asks: Who won Super Bowl 52?

The Eagles won the Super Bowl.