The 2020 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have a lot of tough decisions to make as they try to get this team back to Super Bowl contention. Today we continue our position-by-position roster outlook series by examining the running back position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back.
Regular season stats: 690 snaps, 69 targets, 39 receptions, 363 yards, 9.3 average, 3 TD ... 2 rushes for 7 yards ... 2 fumbles
Review: There was pressure on Agholor to produce in 2019. His $9.4 million salary ranked 26th among all players at his position in terms of annual value. Spoiler alert: he did not produce. Agholor egregiously dropped a potential game-winning touchdown in Week 2. That was just one of the many mistakes he made. He totally failed to establish himself as a much-needed vertical threat with Jackson missing. Agholor managed to create some separation, sure, but he regularly struggled to track the ball in the air. Agholor re-aggravated a knee injury he originally suffered early in the season while failing to track a potential game-tying touchdown against the Patriots in Week 11. Agholor missed Week 12 and came back in Week 13 before then having to sit out for the rest of the season due to apparent swelling in his knee.
Outlook: It’s in the best of interest of both Agholor and the Eagles to move on this offseason. Agholor’s contributions to the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII win should always be cherished. It’s just hard to not think about all the frustrating moments that Agholor has provided since failing to fully live up to expectations as the team’s 2015 first-round pick. There were many times where it felt like he was actively making the team worse, as opposed to just being a non-factor. Agholor is bound to sign with another in free agency.
Nelson Agholor: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 493 snaps, 73 targets, 43 receptions, 490 yards, 11.4 average, 4 TD ... 1 rush, 2 yards, 1 TD
Review: Jeffery scored two touchdowns in Week 1 before getting banged up in Week 2. Jeffery returned in Week 4 but the injury seemingly lingered because he looked hobbled and not very effective. Amidst his on-field struggles, Eagles sideline reporter Howard Eskin outed Jeffery as the source of the anonymous criticism about Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense. Jeffery had three bad drops in Week 9 before suffering a foot injury that caused him to miss multiple games. Jeffery had a good game against the Dolphins in Week 13 before then suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 14. He was placed on injured reserve and the offense started to look better without him.
Outlook: Due to Howie Roseman inexplicably guaranteeing Jeffery’s 2020 money prior to the 2019 season, the Eagles are in a really bad spot with his contract! Cutting him means $26.1 million in dead money. But how are the Eagles really going to bring him back into the fold after he’s seemingly anonymously criticized the team’s starting quarterback two years in a row? Not to mention how he was ineffective in 2019 and his 2020 doesn’t project to be much better as he turns 30 and comes off a Lisfranc injury. The Eagles might be able to do an NBA-type salary dump trade where they actually give up a draft pick (4th round selection?) in order to recoup an extra $10 million they’d lose by otherwise cutting him. I have a hard time believing Jeffery is going to be back in 2020. The offense and team chemistry improved when he wasn’t around late in the season.
Alshon Jeffery: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 486 snaps, 22 targets, 10 receptions, 169 yards, 16.9 average, 1 TD
Playoff stats: 12 snaps
Review: JJAW was forced into playing time due to multiple receiver injuries. He didn’t look ready for the moment. JJAW dropped a game-winning touchdown on the Eagles’ final play of the game in Week 3. He then couldn’t get on the field behind an incredibly unproductive Hollins. JJAW’s playing time increased with Jeffery getting hurt and Hollins geting cut but he didn’t do much with those extra snaps. He dropped another touchdown in Week 15 and generally looked lost on the field, often running wrong routes. Really just a bad rookie season.
Outlook: The idea that JJAW needs some time to develop might have some merit. But it’s entirely possible he’s just not very good. So many other rookie receivers showed so much more promise than JJAW did in 2019. I don’t know how the team could possibly view him as a sure bet to take a big step forward in 2020. I mean, hopefully that’s the case, but what reason is there to feel super confident that’s going to happen?
JJ Arcega-Whiteside: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 395 snaps, 22 targets, 10 receptions, 125 yards, 12.5 average
Review: Hollins figured to mostly be a special teams contributor — his admitted preference — before multiple receiver injuries forced him into playing time. Hollins struggled to contribute on offense; he didn’t have a single reception in eight straight games before the Eagles released their 2017 fourth-round pick.
Regular season stats: 308 snaps, 40 targets, 28 receptions, 254 yards, 9.1 average, 1 TD ... 1 rush, 5 yards
Playoff stats: 50 snaps, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards
Review: Ward had some flashes in the preseason but the Eagles chose to keep Hollins over him. Receiver injuries prompted the Eagles to promote Ward to the 53-man roster in Week 3 but he was waived and added back to the practice squad. Ward’s second promotion took place in late November. He logged some key first down conversions during the Eagles’ Week 14 overtime win against the Giants before then catching the game-winning touchdown against Washington in Week 15. Ward then went off for a season-high 71 yards against the Cowboys in Week 16. He absolutely stepped up down the stretch to help the Eagles win the NFC East. 20 of his 31 receptions moved the chains and one more went for points. Pretty efficient. He was legitimately the No. 1 receiver on the team by the end of the season. Who would’ve thought?
Outlook: I don’t think Ward is a lock to make the 2020 roster. There’s context to be considered (see: emphasis on quick passing attack) but this was ultimately a player who ranked 93rd out of 102 receivers in yards per reception. It’s not like he was some dynamic threat; his mere competence was impressive when contrasted with how awful the team’s other receivers had been. I do think Ward’s in solid position to make the team as long as he looks good in the offseason once again. But I don’t think it’s like the Eagles are viewing Ward as a sure-fire starter in the slot and they’ll stop themselves from upgrading on him.
Greg Ward: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 134 snaps, 12 targets, 4 receptions, 33 yards, 8.3 average
Review: The Eagles re-re-signed JMatt in November when injuries had them down to just four receivers. Crazily enough, he actually led all Eagles skill players in snaps played in Week 11 and Week 12 combined. He was ineffective and the Eagles waived him. Wasteful signing.
Regular season stats: 103 snaps, 3 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
Playoff stats: 48 snaps
Review: The Eagles signed Davis to their practice squad in early October after Washington waived their 2017 sixth-round pick. He was promoted to the roster after Jeffery was placed on IR. Davis only had one reception that counted; his nice 39-yard contested catch in Week 17 was unfortunately wiped out by a holding penalty on Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Point being: Davis has some kind of ability.
Outlook: Davis will need a really good offseason just to make the team in 2020. Perhaps the snaps he took will help his development. He only turns 25 in April.
Robert Davis: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 65 snaps, 10 targets, 9 receptions, 159 yards, 17.7 average, 2 TD
Review: Jackson and Wentz had strong chemistry in offseason practices and that relationship carried over into in the regular season. For one game, that is. Jackson suffered a groin injury that prevented him from playing again until Week 9. Then Jackson re-aggravated his injury and was placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery. Had Jackson had the surgery earlier in the season, he could’ve potentially been back for the team’s stretch run. Had the Eagles won their wild card game, Jackson would’ve been eligible to return in the divisional round. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see that happen. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of the Wentz-to-Jackson connection in 2019, period. The team sorely lacked his big play ability. The offense would’ve been a lot better had he not gotten hurt.
Outlook: Jackson turns 34 this year and he hasn’t played in all 16 games since 2013. The Eagles can’t merely count on him to stay healthy like they did in 2019. The Eagles won’t be moving on from Jackson considering cutting him creates $12.5 million in dead money. It’s possible he does avoid injury in 2020 and proves to be the reliable weapon for Wentz that we thought he could be. But the team needs to have a better contingency plan for Jackson this year.
DeSean Jackson: Stay or go?
Regular season stats: 15 snaps, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 48 yards
Playoff stats: 13 snaps, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards
Review: The Eagles signed Burnett to their practice squad in mid-December before promoting him to their roster just two weeks later. Burnett leapfrogged some other receivers in the organization, even playing more snaps than JJAW in the playoff game. Burnett’s biggest contribution was his 41-yard diving reception in Week 17.
Outlook: Burnett will have to stand out in the offseason to earn a roster spot. He’s actually only 22 years old, making him the youngest receiver on the team. He’s at least worth keeping around on the practice squad in 2020. Interested to see how he looks during practices and preseason games.
Deontay Burnett: Stay or go?
Playoff stats: 2 snaps
Review: Gibson spent the entire 2019 regular season on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad. The Eagles then re-signed him to their roster ahead of the team’s playoff game. Gibson demonstrated the valuable impact that a deep threat offers in just two snaps played against the Seahawks. He drew the attention of two defenders and opened up space underneath for a 16-yard Ward reception on his first snap. Then Gibson drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty on his second snap.
Outlook: The odds are stacked against Gibson. He’ll need to have a really strong offseason to even have a chance to make the team.
Shelton Gibson: Stay or go?
Review: Michel caught the attention of Eagles fans by burning Adoree’ Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown during the team’s preseason opener. The Eagles waived him final cuts, though, and he remained a free agent until the team re-signed him to the practice squad in early December. The Eagles opted to promote Davis and Burnett to the roster instead of Michel.
Outlook: Michel turns 27 in July so he’s hardly some young developmental prospect. He’s fighting an uphill battle to make the team but he could have some flashes in the offseason, just like he did last year.
Stay or go: Marken Michel?
Review: The Eagles signed Green, a 2019 sixth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons, to their original 10-man practice squad in September. The team opted to promote Ward, Davis, and Burnett to the roster instead of him.
Outlook: Green has a jitterbug profile at 5-8, 191 pounds. He did it all at the University of Louisiana at Monroe: receiving, running, and returning both kicks and punts. Could be an interesting guy to watch in offseason practices. He might have some juice.
Marcus Green: Stay or go?
Review: The Eagles signed Cracraft to their practice squad on Christmas Eve. Then they signed him to a reserve/future contract.
Outlook: The 25-year-old Cracraft has some kick and punt return experience. Also has a great name. Long shot to make the 2020 roster but he’ll get a look in offseason practices.
River Cracraft: Stay or go?
WHO COULD SIGN
Robby Anderson is an obvious target since the Eagles previously tried to trade for him. The 26-year-old is going to have a very active market in free agency; signing him won’t be cheap. I do wonder if he’ll cost more than the Eagles are willing to pay. Signing Anderson would give the Eagles at least two legitimate deep threats, assuming DeSean Jackson can stay healthy. Fun to think about.
Breshad Perriman should be more affordable than Anderson. The 2015 first-round pick was a bust with the Baltimore Ravens but he’s coming off a career year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he had 36 receptions for 645 yards (17.9 average) and six touchdowns. Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl was part of Baltimore’s scouting department when Perriman was drafted.
I don’t see the Eagles going for an older option like A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders. Relying on veteran players hasn’t worked out so well for them, especially at receiver (DeSean, Mike Wallace). They need to add a player who can be around with Wentz for multiple seasons.
NFL DRAFT OPTIONS
Written by Ben Natan:
There’s no doubt the wide receiver position should be at the top of the list for Eagles draft needs. Not only has it been a hole on the roster for two years, but this is an extremely rich draft at the position and the Eagles would be silly not to dip into it, if not twice.
Picking 21st could put Philadelphia out of range of top tier prospects like Jerry Jeudy or Ceedee Lamb, though if they fell to the teens the Eagles would be smart to make a move for them. However it’s not so bad picking 21st when players like Henry Ruggs III and Tee Higgins could be there. Ruggs is a natural speedster with lots of untapped potential where Higgins is an all around dominant player with great size and athleticism.
Potential Eagles targets are abundant at the back half of the first round. Laviska Shenault Jr. is a YAC monster and a big play threat. Jalen Reagor is a physical playmaker who can stretch the field and KJ Hamler is a speedy, smooth route runner with soft hands.
There are also very solid, “safe” players who might not be dynamic additions to a passing corps, but they could contribute and produce immediately. Justin Jefferson is a “big slot” type of receiver who is phenomenal at attacking zone coverage and getting yards after catch. Bryan Edwards has great hands and ball skills despite not being an elite athlete. Tyler Johnson is a jack of all trades receiver who doesn’t have any dominant traits. Michael Pittman Jr. is another player whose savvy and football IQ could make him an early contributor on any team that drafts him.
A name to keep an eye on as a second or third round pick is Brandon Aiyuk out of ASU. Aiyuk has speed for days and is phenomenal tracking the ball down the field. The Eagles could fall in love with his potential.