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Why the Eagles need a wide receiver more than a cornerback

It’s getting close to trading season, and Howie Roseman has some choices to make.

NFL: OCT 06 Vikings at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At the start of the season, virtually everyone involved with the Eagles knew they were going to win games on the backs of the offense.

Sure, the defense looked like it had a chance to be decent, but there were questions about edge rushers, the cornerback position had depth but no superstars, and the linebacking corps was a question mark. Five weeks into the season, their depth at defensive tackle has been decimated and the cornerbacks are once again savaged by injuries, although they all turned in a stellar performance last Sunday when the D piled up 10 against the Jets.

New York is horrible and there is nothing concrete you can take away from the defense’s effort against the overmatched Luke Falk, but it was the offense’s performance, and the continued absence of DeSean Jackson, that has many people worried.

It’s clear something is not quite right there. Against Green Bay, the offense looks great. The O-line is dominating and pushing guys around, and then the next week against New York, there are penalties everywhere and Wentz can’t get the ball downfield. It’s been too up-and-down and there doesn’t seem to be a clear identity.

Carson Wentz’ numbers also aren’t great — 21st in yards per game, 19th in passer rating, 31st in completion percentage, and 27th in yards per attempt — although the team is once again among the tops in the league in red zone efficiency (6th) and third down conversion rate (2nd). He’s also got a 10-2 TD-INT ratio, which is outstanding. And...

What this team needs more than anything else is for DeSean Jackson, the team’s most important player not named Carson Wentz, to come back now. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this week.

It’s no coincidence that the only game in which Jackson played from start to finish, Week 1 against Washington, is the only game in which Wentz threw for more than 300 yards (313) and had his highest air yards per attempt (9.56) of the season.

Alshon Jeffery is a solid receiver and the Eagles would be worse off without him, but he’s not a downfield threat, especially as he hobbles through a calf injury. Out of 142 receivers and tight ends with at least 10 targets this year, Jeffery ranks 105th in yards per reception (9.93). In Nelson Agholor’s last 117 offensive snaps, he’s hauled in one reception for 20 yards and is ranked 90th out of 94 wide receivers by PFF. Mack Hollins has been a non-factor and it’s extremely disappointing that second round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside has done nothing in Jackson’s absence.

Sure, Zach Ertz is still around, and he ranks fourth among NFL tight ends with 29 this year, but Dallas Goedert, who many predicted would have a break-out season this year as a receiver, has just 10 targets in four games with a meager five catches for 43 yards and one score. When rookie running back Miles Sanders is your best big-play pass-catching threat, you know you need help, which is why trading for help at the wide receiver position should be a higher priority than a cornerback right now.

DeSean may be back in time for Dallas, but for how long after that? Jackson suffered his injury after just one week, after not playing much in the preseason, and will have missed his fifth game of the season if he doesn’t play on Sunday (counting the Falcons game in which he played just one series in Atlanta). It’s fair to wonder how productive the speedster is going to be the rest of the way and how often he’ll be available. One hopes Jackson will come back and be fine the rest of the way, but even if he is, getting another top flight receiver should be priority No. 1.

Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs, who the Eagles will get a good look at this Sunday, has reportedly asked the Vikings to trade him. While it’s unlikely Minnesota would do that, it’s certainly possible if the Vikings hit the skids between now and the trade deadline. An incredibly unsubstantiated Instagram account claims the Eagles have called Cleveland about potentially dealing Odell Beckham Jr. but who knows if there’s anything to that. There probably isn’t. Still, if he is available, Roseman certainly should be on the phone. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green is someone who could be on the move if the 0-5 Bengals decide to sell, but he’d be a rental, he’ll turn 32 in July of next year, and he’s been injured recently (14 games since 2018, including five this year). Jason LaCanfora recently wrote there are teams willing to deal a first rounder for Green if he’s healthy, but that seems like a steep price given his inability to see the field this year. And one has to wonder if trading for an injury-prone guy to replace another injury-prone guy is such a good idea.

There are lesser options out there, too — The Jets’ Robby Anderson (whom the Eagles reportedly pursued last year), Miami’s DeVante Parker, Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders, and Atlanta’s Mohamed Sanu could potentially be dealt but are a step below the names above, although all could be had for much less.

Yes, the Eagles have a clear need at cornerback. Avonte Maddox, Cre’von LeBlanc, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones are all banged up. Rasul Douglas, Orlando Scandrick and Craig James are obviously not the three guys you want starting every week, but some combination of Maddox, Darby, Mills, LeBlanc and Jones should be back relatively soon. When they are, the Eagles will have a plethora of solid, if unspectacular, options at cornerback.

That said, if the Jaguars suddenly decide to make Jalen Ramsey available for a 1 and a 2, Roseman has to be in on that. If Denver’s Chris Harris is available for a 3, Roseman has to be biting. If Patrick Peterson is available for something similar, Roseman has to be interested. Any of those players would be an immense help in the secondary and make the defense that much stronger.

But the Eagles are an offense-focused team. They’re going to win by outscoring people, and if Roseman has his choice of Jalen Ramsey or Stefon Diggs/Odell Beckham Jr. on which to spend a first round pick (with other components being a part of those deals, obviously), he should opt for the wide receiver, all things being equal. It would give Wentz, the team’s best and most important player, another top-flight target, force Agholor off the field in three-wide receiver sets, and open up an offense that hasn’t really clicked yet this season get on track.

Poll

What’s the bigger need for the Eagles?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Wide receiver
    (1641 votes)
  • 56%
    Cornerback
    (2149 votes)
3790 votes total Vote Now