With the 2019 NFL Combine in full swing and free agency on the horizon, the question echoes across the Eagles fandom and franchise alike: What do we want?
Over the last few weeks, I tracked through the roster and compared team needs to the depth and talent of this year’s draft class. Here’s how the Eagles’ needs look.
Keep the trenches young: A lot of the Eagles’ recent success has hinged on the success of the offensive and defensive lines. However the Eagles face questions on how they’ll keep those units in tip-top shape. Both groups will likely have outgoing contributors (Jason Peters, Brandon Graham) and also face questions regarding starter health (Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Brooks). I group the two lines together because both are premium positional groups and upgrading them will likely demand the most capital, draft or otherwise.
You can’t teach speed: One glaring weakness on last year’s offense was the inability to find big plays in the run or passing game. The Eagles lack of home run-threat types seriously held back the offense. The Eagles need to look for athletic pass catchers or ball carriers that don’t allow defenses to compress the field against Philly. This would also largely benefit the incumbent skill players because it would take attention away from them to make plays underneath.
More bellcow: Not totally divorced from point number two, the Eagles need a guy in their backfield who can lead a rushing game. A series of band-aids patched a glaring problem in 2018, but none of the backs from last year should be depended on to be primary ball carriers going forward. The team might not need an elite running back, but they need a guy who can give them 20 solid carries in a pinch. The lack of consistency from the running game last year constantly had the Eagles playing behind the sticks and it’s due time the team addressed this need with a long term fix.
Get that damn ball: The Eagles ranked 25th in the league with 10 interceptions last season. This lack of ball production is symptomatic of the mediocre secondary play the Eagles had for much of the year. While the unit admirably tightened up down the stretch, there is no guarantee that it wasn’t an aberration with overperforming young players. To be fair, the Eagles have some reason to be encouraged by their young defensive backs, but they could still add another playmaker to the mix to really solidify the group.
Mind the Middle: The Eagles have a big need at linebacker. While the urgency isn’t on the same level of addressing other positions, it’s obvious they could add some more talent to the group. Nigel Bradham is the only player under contract for next year who is a sure thing. Nathan Gerry was underwhelming in limited time and Kamu Grugier-Hill showed promise but isn’t irreplaceable. The team could absolutely spend high at the linebacker position and nobody should blink an eye. However, the “premium” of the position means it doesn’t have to be the top priority for the Eagles this offseason.