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State of the Eagles: 2020 Regular Season Primer

It’s been a wild ride so far this year. Will the Eagles deliver in kind?

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

It’s been an insane year, and a... strange... summer, but here we are - on the precipice of another season of professional football. It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared that having a season might be a bad idea, but it seems that (for the time being) the plan the NFL has put in place is working. Only a matter of time before we know how that works once teams travel.

Another interesting development will be just how bad the quality of play will be league-wide in the first few games with a truncated training camp and no crowds in the stands. Preseason games were also nixed, and we were instead treated to playoff hockey, which abruptly ended last week after the Flyers tied their series with the Islanders 3-3. (Game 7, as we all know, was canceled and did not occur in this universe or any other.)

But enough about the weirdness of sports in 2020. Let’s move on to why we are really here - a season preview of your Philadelphia Eagles. In this article:

  • Some thoughts on the Eagles’ initial 53-man roster and practice squad
  • Every Eagles fan’s favorite topic - the injury report
  • Season outlook and score predictions

Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in.

Roster Rabble

Our dear leader, BLG, offered some keen thoughts on individual players after the roster was set. Here’s a more of a birds-eye view of what I saw from the roster:

  • The Eagles went light on both offensive linemen and cornerbacks. For the OL, part of it is a symptom of how injuries have ravaged their depth and how they value versatility among their blockers. Jason Kelce is the only listed center, but Isaac Seumalo can easily slide over there if need be (knock on wood). Matt Pryor is now the presumed starting right guard after Peters moved back to tackle(!), and could possibly be the backup tackle unless the Eagles sign Cordy Glenn, which in fairness appears imminent. Jack Driscoll, a rookie that has shown promise in training camp, also has experience at both tackle and guard.
  • As mentioned before, the cornerback depth looks a little shallow, until you consider the fact that they kept 6 safeties. The Eagles have hinted all offseason that they are trying to transition to a “positionless” secondary, where cornerbacks and safeties can rotate into different assignments as needed. The split between cornerbacks and safeties seems to reflect this, as a few of their “safeties” have cornerback experience that, when deployed properly, can disguise coverage assignments and bait the quarterback into making mistakes. I don’t think we need to be too worried about the cornerback depth just yet.
  • One last thing on cornerbacks - both Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas were cut. Cutting Sidney was an easy call. He had the talent, but unfortunately injuries derailed him and he couldn’t put it together. Going back to the “positionless” secondary, it’s curious that the Eagles didn’t give Douglas a stab at safety before moving on, but it’s something they have been adamant about not doing since they drafted him. They’ve been nothing if not steadfast there, and while cutting their losses was ultimately the right move, here’s hoping that these guys can find success elsewhere (that’s not the NFC East).
  • Maybe I’m being a homer, but I like what the Eagles have at other positions. Both running back and wide receiver may be - dare I say it - deep when you consider the promising talent they were able to stash on the practice squad. The quarterback room is a nice blend of stable if unspectacular known quantities and dynamic talents. The tight ends are top-heavy with talent (if a little on the shallow side). The defensive line has some question marks, but could be a top-5 unit if we can get some kind of progress out of Barnett and Sweat. And finally, keeping 6 linebackers is... a lot... but considering their blend of strengths in run support and pass coverage, and their mitigated role in a Schwartz defense, I’m not ready to assume they will be a liability.

Eagles Training Camp MVP: The Injury Cart

Another year, another round of devastating injuries to a single position group for the Eagles. I can understand some of the complaints about yet another medical staff that has seemingly failed to prevent injuries. But I think it’s best to give them more of a chance. In a strange offseason without any organized team activities prior to training camp in late July, the ability of the medical staff to monitor the players’ health and habits was severely reduced. These are of course professional athletes who actively try to take care of their bodies, but whatever personal regimens they have won’t be the same as those of the Eagles’ medical staff. I find it hard to really pin the injuries on them.

After ravaging the defensive backs in 2018 and wide receivers in 2019, the injury bug is now working its way through the offensive line, sidelining left tackle Andre Dillard and right guard Brandon Brooks with season-ending injuries. For a time, the Eagles were reluctant to move Peters back to his natural position at left tackle, presumably because he was demanding more money. I thought not paying him was the right call, mostly because the Eagles need to prepare for “life after Peters” at some point, they need to roll as much cash as possible into 2021, and there is a nonzero chance that COVID gets the season canceled at some point, making 2020 a total bust anyway. Why spend that money on a 39-year-old left tackle for a season that might not end with the Super Bowl?

The one wrinkle to not moving Peters would be that the offensive line has a direct impact on Carson Wentz’ health. He’s proven to be quite fragile and exposing him feels like a recipe for disaster. So I can understand arguments to pay Peters to protect Wentz, but while moving Peters would have cost money, reshuffling your offense to protect Wentz would have been free. Maybe the Eagles assign a running back or tight end to chip on Carson’s blindside. Maybe they design plays that move the pocket, or call more rollouts (they didn’t do enough of this last year, in my opinion).

What I’m getting at is there were options to mitigate the impact of losing Dillard without paying JP. Fortunately for the Eagles, they don’t have to worry about that just yet, as Peters has reportedly agreed to go back to playing tackle without a pay bump. Considering his advanced age, the Eagles should still have some kind of contingency plan in place for left tackle (Cordy Glenn, anyone?), but for the time being they will be able to get their best offensive line combination out on the field, sans Brooks and Dillard. As frustrating as “old Peters” can be with his late-game breathers and knack for false starts, he’s still a better option right now than whatever the Eagles were going to put out there with him at right guard.

When looking at injuries at other positions, outside of the “short term” ailments suffered by Will Parks and Jalen Reagor, I imagine the other banged up players (Barnett, Johnson, Sanders, etc) are more or less being rolled in bubble wrap out of an abundance of caution to get them ready for the regular season. For what it’s worth, most reports seem to indicate this is the case. We’ll know soon enough if that’s the case on Sunday.

Season Outlook and Win-Loss Predictions

My in-season “State of the Eagles” posts are published quarterly and feature my score predictions for the next four games, but for the season primer I also offer my thoughts on the upcoming season as a whole. Before the slew of injuries, I was actually rather bullish on the Eagles heading into 2020 and saw them as a borderline 12-win team. Obviously the ravaged offensive line changes this calculus, but I still think this can be a 10-6 team as they stand now, and maybe they steal another win if things come together. Right now I have them losing to the 49ers, Ravens, Seahawks, Packers, Cardinals, and Cowboys (in Dallas). That should be good enough to secure one of the seven playoff spots, if not win the division outright. I’ll have explanations for every game as the season unfolds, but for the time being let’s take a look at Weeks 1-4:

  • Week 1, at Washington: Given how strange this offseason has been, and with the rash of injuries the Eagles have already suffered at key positions, I really wouldn’t be shocked if they drop this game to the nameless Washington Football Team. Ron Rivera always plays Doug hard and he has the experience to get his team ready in an abbreviated training camp. That being said, I think the continuity advantage the Eagles have here with Doug as the tenured leader makes the difference here. It’ll be a close one, though. Eagles win, 21-17
  • Week 2, vs Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay is a good coach, and the Rams have some talent (even if they are top heavy). But Goff’s performance has struggled ever since the middle of 2018, and west coast teams generally do not play as well when they’re traveling across the country. The superior coach has won every time these teams have played since McVay was hired - and in both cases the Rams were playing at home. I don’t see how they pull one out here in Philly. Eagles win, 28-20
  • Week 3, vs Cincinnati: In the first marquee matchup between The Brothers Taylor, the Bengals will be starting college football phenom Joe Burrow in his second ever professional football game after a shortened offseason which was mostly virtual and involved losing their starting tackle to injury (sound familiar?). The Eagles are known to make inexperienced quarterbacks look like vintage Aaron Rodgers, but I’m optimistic that won’t happen in the second game of the season. Eagles win, 31-14
  • Week 4, at San Francisco: The Eagles take their first real road trip in Week 4, flying out to the Bay Area to take on the defending NFC champions. Doug always gets his teams to play hard against the league’s elite, but I don’t see this offensive line holding up against Nick Bosa. And the idea of anyone in the Eagles’ back seven going up against George Kittle is enough to give me nightmares. The Eagles will keep it close, but I have the Niners pulling away late here as the Eagles get worn down. 49ers win, 28-16

If this all comes to pass, the Eagles will be sitting at 3-1 after a quarter of season play. I think we would all take this kind of start, but as we’ve all seen from the past few years, it’s not about how you start - it’s about how you finish. But, what say you? How many games will the Eagles win this year? Can they overcome injuries for a fourth straight season? What are your thoughts on the roster? Sound off in the comments below!

Poll

How many games with the Eagles win this year (assuming 16 games)?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    7 or fewer
    (77 votes)
  • 29%
    8-9
    (539 votes)
  • 59%
    10-11
    (1084 votes)
  • 6%
    12+
    (125 votes)
1825 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How will the Eagles do in their first 4 games?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    0-4 (BOO)
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    1-3
    (45 votes)
  • 29%
    2-2
    (488 votes)
  • 53%
    3-1
    (878 votes)
  • 13%
    4-0
    (221 votes)
1647 votes total Vote Now