EAGLES FOOTBALL STARTS TODAY. Here are some last minutes thoughts I felt the need to get out there.
1 - I think Carson Wentz is poised for a really big year
It’s all there for him. He’s healthy after being nearly two years from the ACL injury. He has a great supporting cast to work with. Just looks at all of these names: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement. Add in the fact Wentz should have one of the best offensive line units in the league blocking for him and it just feels like he’s poised for greatness in 2019. Don’t sleep on No. 11.
2 - I think DeSean Jackson’s return is going to be such a big deal for this offense
Jackson is easily the best deep threat that Wentz has ever had. One can also wonder if Wentz might be the best quarterback Jackson has ever played with. Jackson’s ability to create big plays is going to be a breath of fresh air after watching the Eagles’ offense lack explosion in 2019. And if defenses are going to try to take Jackson away, which they will, that’ll open up opportunities for the other guys underneath. Jackson has a track record of making his quarterbacks better; it should be no different with Wentz.
3 - I think Miles Sanders is going to lead the team in rushing
Make no mistake: Howard, Clement, and Sproles are all going to have roles on this team. Sanders isn’t going to become this 20-carry per game monster. That’s just not how the Eagles operate under Doug Pederson and Duce Staley. But Sanders WILL make the most of his touches that he does get. He’s so clearly the most talented back on this team. His ability to make defenders miss is another offensive element the Eagles were so clearly lacking in 2018. Sanders is going to do some damage behind one of the league’s best run blocking offensive lines.
4 - I think the Eagles are trying to lose games if 12 personnel isn’t a major factor in their plans
Two tight end sets saved the Eagles’ season last year. Pederson acknowledged that to some extent by talking about how the coaching staff plans to implement more 12 personnel in 2019. There was evidence of his claim during offseason practices. Now we need to see it in the regular season. We already know that Ertz is one of the best chain-movers in the league. Goedert is also too good to not be getting significant playing time; the second-year tight end is a straight up beast. Getting both players on the field is going to help this team win games. The coaching staff can’t neglect 12 personnel like they did at times last year.
5 - I think we’ll learn a lot about Doug Pederson’s offensive acumen this year
There should be no questions about Pederson’s leadership ability. There have been low points in each of Pederson’s first three seasons where the team could’ve folded and packed things in. Instead, the players have always responded to adversity by fighting hard for their head coach. The remaining question with Pederson is: just how good of an offensive mind is he? He certainly deserves credit for the team’s Super Bowl success in 2017 but he also deserves some blame for the regression in 2018. Pederson has a lot of talent to work with in 2019 so there’s no good reason for the offense to be struggling. The pressure is also on offensive coordinator Mike Groh in this regard. He’d obviously be the first to go before anything happens to Pederson.
6 - I think the lingering injuries on defense are concerning
The good news is that Fletcher Cox, Nigel Bradham, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, and Derek Barnett are all set to play in Week 1. But one must wonder how effective those players will be as they begin the 2019 season after not practicing much in the summer. We saw how Brandon Graham wasn’t 100% last year after missing a lot of offseason reps. Barnett is especially key to watch since the Eagles are really counting the third-year defensive end to make a big leap.
7 - I think the Eagles’ defensive line is still going to be very disruptive
Concerns have been raised about the Eagles’ defensive end position and I get it. Michael Bennett and Chris Long are gone. Graham only four sacks last year. Vinny Curry only had 2.5. Barnett is coming off injury and was even still listed on the injury report earlier this week. There’s no proven fourth defensive end behind the top three guys. On the flip side, Graham and Curry were hampered by injury last year and they’re healthy now. Barnett showed growth in 2018 and he only turned 23 in June so there’s plenty of upside there. Daeshon Hall wasn’t just good in the preseason this year; he was flat out dominant. He looks like he can be a real contributor. And that’s not even to mention the Eagles’ interior defenders. Malik Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, and Hassan Ridgeway have all looked good this offseason. Jackson is the best pass rushing complement that Cox has ever been able to work with. Jernigan is looking like his early 2017 form. Ridgeway gives the Eagles depth the team just didn’t have in their defensive tackle rotation last year. As a whole, this defensive line is still going to be very good and make life difficult on opposing quarterbacks.
.@eagles @DaeshonHall was the #Birds best defensive player this summer playing 123 snaps and more than anything kept showing up and improving. Practices hard, plays hard, and is an ascending player. @Redskins better pay attention to #74. @AggieFootball #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/G63kr1EKQb— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 2, 2019
I think you could safely make the argument that no player in the NFL had a more impactful preseason than DE Daeshon Hall, who played his way onto the #Eagles 53-man roster. Constant disruptor this summer against the QB, showing a well-developed pass rush plan. #FlyEaglesFLy pic.twitter.com/r5KCQWpqWQ— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 2, 2019
8 - I think the Eagles’ unsettled cornerback situation is a little ... unsettling
There are still a lot of questions at corner. How close to 100% is Darby going to be after suffering a torn ACL last November? Is Sidney Jones going to look like the player who stood out early in camp or the one that kind of faded later on? And can Jones stay healthy? How’s Rasul Douglas going to fit into the picture after having a good offseason? Is Avonte Maddox limited to playing just the slot and can continue to make plays like he did last year? How is Jalen Mills going to fit in when he’s back from PUP? If I’m playing the Eagles, I’m looking to test their corners early and often. The young guys very well might respond to the challenge; hopefully that’s the case. There’s upside here. But there’s also downside.
9 - I think the Eagles are definitely the best team in the NFC East
The Cowboys aren’t bad but they’re not as good as some make them out to be. They’re poised to take a step back in 2019 after overachieving in 2018. Dallas ranked 14th in point differential and 21st in DVOA last year. The Cowboys are closer to being average than they are being elite. The Giants, meanwhile, are just wasting their time starting a washed up Eli Manning at quarterback. Washington could be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. The Eagles are going to retake the division crown this year. And that’ll be just the beginning of a deep playoff run.
10 - I think it’s only natural to be worried about the hype
A lot of fans don’t like when there are big expectations for the Eagles. They prefer when the Eagles are underdogs. This is only natural. People fear disappointment. I can’t blame people getting nervous about all the hype this team is getting. But I also fail to see the fun in worrying about the sky falling. Football is supposed to be something we enjoy. It’s just sports; it’s not that serious. Have some fun and dream big as the Eagles get off to a 1-0 start by beating Washington today.