The Philadelphia Eagles failed to meet expectations in 2019. In order to avoid doing so again in 2020, they’re going to need some key players to bounce back. Here’s a look at their top candidates.
Cox was hardly bad last year. But he wasn’t quite as impactful as the Eagles ideally needed him to be. Cox finished 2019 with the second lowest sack total of his career. He was also on the low end for tackles for loss and quarterback hits. Cox ranked 18th among interior defenders in Pro Football Focus’s pass rush productivity.
In fairness, Cox was coming off offseason surgery that kept him out of practice until leading up to the Week 1 game against Washington. Cox also had to deal with the rest of the Eagles’ defensive tackle position being decimated for the second year in a row, thus putting more of a burden on him.
Cox will enter this season healthier than he did last season. The addition of Javon Hargrave and return of Malik Jackson could also help when it comes to not needing to rely on Cox to play so many snaps. Not to mention the extra blocking attention they can potentially take off No. 91.
The Eagles are paying Cox to be more than merely good; his $22.8 million cap figure is the highest on the team. It’s time for the 29-year-old to get back to being an elite player.
Sticking with the defensive tackle situation, the Eagles had high hopes for Jackson in 2019. They signed him to a contract worth $30 million with $17 million guaranteed.
Jackson wasn’t able to immediately justify his price tag, however, as he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury during his first game in Philly. Bad luck for a guy who had previously never missed a game due to being hurt.
The Eagles’ decision to give big money to Hargrave makes one wonder just how much they’re counting on Jackson this season. But perhaps the 30-year-old will be able to thrive in a heavy defensive tackle rotation.
Sticking with players who have “Jackson” as their last name, DeSean is one of the most critical bounce-back candidates. We all saw just how much the Eagles sorely missed the vertical element he brings to the offense after he got hurt in Week 2 last year.
Jackson turns 34 this year and he’s missed an average of 5.2 games over the past five seasons. There’s decent reason to believe he won’t be available for all 16 games this year considering that’s only happened twice out of his 12 seasons.
But if Jackson can stay healthy, he could have a pretty good year. The veteran speedster had a real good connection going with Carson Wentz during the offseason that translated into eight receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns in their first regular season game together.
I still don’t believe Jeffery will be on the team this year and I’m hardly alone in that thinking. And even if I’m wrong about that, the 30-year-old seems likely to miss at least six games as he potentially begins the season on PUP.
Jeffery has a pretty low bar to clear as far as bounce-back seasons go, though. Not anonymously criticizing the starting quarterback for the third year in a row is an easy box to check off. Doing better than his career-low 11.4 yards per reception mark from last season should also be attainable.
I’m hardly holding my breath when it comes to counting on Jeffery bouncing back but, hey, I’ll acknowledge the scenario where the Eagles hold on to him and he looks solid.
Expectations for Goodwin should obviously be kept low considering the Eagles acquired him for the mere cost of trading down 20 spots late in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. His average season to this point in his career looks like this: 10.7 games played, 20 receptions, 331.9 yards, 1.9 touchdowns. Goodwin isn’t necessarily a lock to even make the team.
The optimist can point out that Goodwin is only two years removed from his best season. He logged 56 receptions for 962 yards and four touchdowns for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.
It’s not easy to imagine Goodwin coming close to those numbers in Philly. Such a scenario would involve Jackson getting hurt and Goodwin overcoming both injury and inconsistency. The more realistic best case scenario for Goodwin is that he serves as an effective role player and/or insurance policy who brings even more speed to Philly’s offense.
Maddox notched two interceptions and allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap in the NFL as a rookie in 2018. It looked like he was poised to take a leap in Year 2 but that didn’t end up happening. 2019 was instead something of a sophomore slump for the Pitt product; Pro Football Focus had Maddox graded 89th out of 135 corners last season.
Despite this step back, the Eagles are counting on Maddox to be a starter for them moving forward. He’s the current favorite to start at cornerback opposite of Darius Slay. It might not work out so well considering that the diminutive Maddox has had some of his worst games playing on the boundary (see: Chicago Bears playoff game, Green Bay Packers game in 2019). On the flip side, some of Maddox’s best performances have come in the same spot (see: Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans games in 2019).
Maddox’s bright spots inspire hope that the 24-year-old can be a good player. I’ve always been impressed by how he looks in practice since he has a knack for making plays on the ball. We also saw as much in his rookie season.
Maddox might very well be a high variance corner on the outside. The hope is he’ll have more ups than downs.
McLeod was culpable in a number of big passing plays surrendered by the Eagles’ defense last year. There’s pressure on him to rebound as the team looks to give him more responsibility after not retaining Malcolm Jenkins.
Perhaps being two years removed from his 2018 ACL/MCL injuries will make a significant difference for McLeod. Then again, he turns 30 this month and last year’s struggles weren’t just attributed to physical lapses.
One can only wonder how effective McLeod will be. It’d be nice to see him rebound.
Injuries have prevented Clement from building on an encouraging rookie season that was capped off by leading the Eagles in receiving yards in Super Bowl LII. It’s a shame he finished the last two years on injured reserve. He’s now in a spot where he’s not even a lock to make the roster.
Clement will need to earn his spot on the team by staying healthy and standing out in the summer. He tops out of a No. 2 running back at best on this team and really might only be a third or fourth option in Philly’s backfield. It’d still be nice if he could at least be a solid role player for the Eagles like he was in 2017. Maybe he can get back to that.