There is less than a week until NFL football is back on our televisions. As training camps are starting up and teams are getting an idea of the quality of their roster, predictions for the season are starting to heating up. The Eagles, no doubt, have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL and coming off a Super Bowl win, expectations will remain high for the reigning world champions.
One category of predictions revolves around the highest accolades in the NFL and the numerous players and coaches who will contend for those honors. The Eagles, being as loaded as they are, will have plenty of people competing for award recognition throughout the season.
Most Valuable Player: Carson Wentz was a top three MVP contender for a good part of last season. Before injury cut his second year in the NFL short, Wentz was leading the NFL in passing touchdowns despite only throwing seven interceptions. In fact, he remained second in passing touchdowns by the end of the season despite not playing for three whole games. This year will depend on how ready he is coming off injury, but a healthy Carson Wentz should be among the favorites to win the MVP. With offensive talent around him that is arguably better than last season, Wentz will have the weapons to put up huge numbers in his third season. Considering the MVP is essentially a quarterbacks award, Wentz is easily the most viable candidate on the team heading into the season.
Offensive Player of the Year: While Carson Wentz would likely compete for the OPOY award while competing to win MVP, this award is definitely more open to other positions winning it. Actually, it’s basically an award for the running back or quarterback who didn’t win MVP. In the last 20 years, only running backs and quarterbacks have won the award and a wide receiver hasn’t won it since 1994 (Jerry Rice). So, if Carson Wentz isn’t the team’s biggest contender for this honor, it would have to be Jay Ajayi. Ajayi made his presence felt increasingly over the course of his time with the Eagles last season. With a full offseason on the team and more available snaps with Legarrette Blount gone, Ajayi could see a ton of touches this season. With Carson Wentz coming off injury, the team will likely lean on the run early on to take the pressure off the passing game and Ajayi will be the primary beneficiary of that. While he may not have as great a chance to win OPOY as Wentz does to win it or MVP, his role on the team could at least feature him in the discussion.
Defensive Player of the Year: Fletcher Cox is the best defensive player on the Eagles and one of the top defenders in the NFL. Cox, unfortunately, has never been the type to light up the stat sheet; which is typically important in award contention. The last four defensive players of the year have been pass rushers who totaled double digit sacks, a feat Cox has never accomplished. However, the only 27 year old Cox could always have a statistically outstanding season considering his hurry numbers are always high and there is a thin line between QB hurry production and sack numbers. However, the team has two dark horse candidates for the award with Malcolm Jenkins and Jordan Hicks. Jenkins has consistently been one of the league’s best safeties since coming to Philadelphia and is inarguably the leader of the team’s defense. If Jordan Hicks stays healthy, which is a big “if”, he could easily contend. His last 16 game season featured five interceptions, a fumble recovery and 11 pass break ups. There is no doubt he can light up the stat sheet if he’s healthy and the award voters loves a productive middle linebacker.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: The Eagles have a good problem where their rookies probably won’t need to see the field enough to garner any type of award recognition. The most obvious choice to even sniff the award is Dallas Goedert, who was the Eagles first pick in the 2018 draft. Goedert, being a tight end, is already at a disadvantage because it is a largely unappreciated position when it comes to awards. Also, rookie tight ends are typically unproductive and he further impeded due to the presence of Zach Ertz who is coming off his best season as an Eagle. For what it’s worth; Goedert should have a nice role on the offense in his first season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a solid rookie year given the snap availability, but he will certainly not blow any numbers out of the water to be considered a top rookie.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: If the Eagles chances at having an offensive rookie win an award is low, the chances are even lower for defensive rookies. The team has two promising defenders in their 2018 class with Avonte Maddox and Josh Sweat; guys I think will be impact players down the line. However, both the secondary and defensive line are way too crowded for either to see meaningful snaps unless Maddox has a phenomenal pre-season and wins the nickel cornerback job. Even then, the chances of a slot corner putting up big enough numbers to win an award seems very slim.
Comeback Player of the Year: Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks and Jason Peters were all lost early in the 2017 season. Of those three, Hicks and Peters seem the most likely to return at a high enough level to be considered for the award. Sproles will likely see a very diminished role this year while Hicks and Peters will start. Peters had one of his best seasons ever in 2013, which came right after he missed a season with an Achilles injury. Hicks had his tremendous 2016 season after getting injured early in his rookie year. If Hicks’ play puts him in DPOY consideration, as mentioned above, it would not be crazy for him to take home this award. As for Peters; the Bodyguard should’ve won the award in 2013 and didn’t for whatever stupid reason. Peters is superhuman and a return to form in 2018 wouldn’t even be surprising. The future Hall of Famer would deserve the recognition, but linemen go widely unrecognized in these awards.
Assistant Coach of the Year: The Eagles lost two of their most important offensive assistants during the offseason with Frank Reich and John DeFilipo both getting promotions elsewhere. However; with Jim Schwartz, Mike Groh and Duce Staley still in house, the Eagles still have one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. The award usually is reserved for coordinators, which narrows things down to Groh and Schwartz and of those two Scwartz seems the most likely to be have a units success most intrinsically tied to his coaching where offensive success would largely be attributed to Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz instead of Groh. So if the Eagles defense can live up to its talent level this season, expect Schwartz to get award chatter.
Coach of the Year: All due respect to Sean McVay, who I think is a very good coach, Doug Pederson was the coach of the year last year. Pederson led his team past multiple injuries to important players and team leaders, including their MVP-level quarterback, all the way to a Super Bowl win. Pederson’s performance in 2017 should go down as one of the most impressive coaching feats in NFL history. He is no doubt among the elite offensive minds in the league right now and his new-age philosophy on coaching is paying off in terms of locker room cohesion. There is little doubt he will be able to replicate his impact on the team and now that he has new weapons to play with like Dallas Goedert and Mike Wallace, as well as an emerging Nelson Agholor; Pederson will once again assert himself as one of the league’s best coaches this season.