There are a ton of question marks surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles as they prepare for the 2021 season.
A rookie head coach, a first year starter under center, and several new starters on each side of the ball. Some may say it’s a recipe for disaster, while others (like myself) say it gives the Eagles an advantage because teams won’t know what to expect. Nevertheless, we won’t find out what this team will truly look like until training camp rolls around in August.
Until then, all we can do is speculate as to what our Philadelphia Eagles will do this season. And unfortunately, there are more questions than concrete truths regarding this team at the moment.
Let’s take a look at three of the biggest question marks facing the Birds offensive unit this season.
Disclaimer: I won’t be focusing on Jalen Hurts or Nick Sirianni in this piece, they’re the obvious question marks and they deserve an entire piece of their own. If you want to read up on my expectations for both entering the 2021 season, click here.
Can Miles Sanders solidify himself as one of the league’s best backs?
We all know Miles Sanders has the talent to be a premiere back in the NFL. Since 2019, he’s the only back in football who has three 70-yard runs. Since entering the league, his 4.9 yards per carry average ranks him fourth among backs with at least 300 carries. And his 1,685 scrimmage yards since 2019 is the 12th-highest among running backs.
Those numbers alone seem like ‘elite’ stats, but Sanders has struggled with consistency during his two years in the NFL, and his former head coach Doug Pederson often went away from the running game, even when it was working.
During his career, Sanders only has seven games with at least 16 carries, and he’s never averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry for three straight weeks. Like I said, some of that has to do with the offense he was playing in. Not only did Pederson neglect the run game for long stretches, in 2020 the offensive line was in complete shambles and the offense as a whole was broken. But Sanders has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.
He had nagging injuries throughout the 2020 season, forcing him to miss four games. With such a light workload, that’s definitely concerning.
Nick Sirianni will most likely run a more balanced offensive attack. While Sanders will be the feature back in this offense, the team went out and acquired a handful of running backs to help complement Sanders. Kerryon Johnson is an effective third down back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, fourth round pick Kenneth Gainwell was arguably the best receiving back in this year’s NFL Draft, and if Jordan Howard can recapture his ability from a few years ago, he’s certainly a nice change-of-pace guy.
All of the pressure won’t be on Sanders with this group, but in crunch time when the team needs a play, he’ll be the one looked upon to make that play.
His rookie contract only runs through 2022, so the team will need to make a decision on Sanders sooner than some may expect. If he comes out this year and proves he is one of the best backs in the league, that decision should be an easy one.
Was Jalen Reagor worthy of his first round selection last year?
While it’s hard to grade anyone based off last year’s offense, it’s impossible to deny Jalen Reagor disappointed a bit in his rookie year. He was injured for a large portion of it, but when he was healthy, his game-breaking speed and big play ability never materialized on the field.
With a new coaching staff and a revitalized wide receiving corps, Reagor will have every opportunity to prove he was worthy of the first round selection last season.
The addition of DeVonta Smith should do wonders for Reagor’s development. Now that he won’t have the pressure of being a No. 1 wideout, the majority of opposing defense’s attention will be on Smith, leaving Reagor to operate more freely at the X position.
Nick Sirianni has a track record of developing wideouts, too. He’s taken a handful of unknown names and molded them into solid NFL wideouts during his coaching career.
Like Sanders, Reagor certainly has the talent to be a solid NFL wide receiver. He had the worst quarterback play in the league last year, and he was in an offense that was fundamentally broken. His career path isn’t set in stone after one disappointing rookie season when the odds were so stacked against him.
If he can remain healthy, Reagor should be in for a big sophomore campaign.
Can this aging offensive line stay healthy for 17 games?
On paper, the Eagles have one of the better offensive line units in all of football. Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Jason Kelce are all among the best at their positions. Jordan Mailata showed a lot of growth last year as the team’s left tackle. Isaac Seumalo is a serviceable left guard, but if Landon Dickerson is fully healthy by the beginning of training camp, he could nudge Seumalo out of that starting spot.
The only question surrounding this group is can they stay healthy? Recent history would tell us no, they can’t.
Over the past two seasons, Johnson has started in 19 of a possible 32 games. Brooks has tore both of Achilles in a three year span, not to mention a dislocated shoulder in the final game of the 2019 season. Jason Kelce has been the consistent one of the bunch, but at 33 years old, it wouldn’t shock anyone if the injury bug finally caught up to him. And his eventual replacement, Dickerson, has a bad injury history of his own.
Chances are, at least one of the starting offensive lineman will go down for an extended period of time this season. But, if they can at least stay healthy for the majority of the season, the Eagles should be in good shape. They have a good amount of depth at each position to mitigate any devastating injuries as well.
In my opinion, the offensive line is the biggest offensive key for the Eagles this season. They’ll make Jalen Hurts’ job easier, Sirianni will be able to open his playbook a bit more, and the running game should be effective.
We know they are a top-10 group, just as long as they stay healthy.
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