The Philadelphia Eagles have been an afterthought this offseason. Aside from the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson circus that took place a few months ago, no one outside of Philly seems to care about the Eagles heading into the 2021 season.
You’d be hard pressed to find any article from a national sports outlet claiming the Birds are NFC East contenders this year, let alone contenders in the conference. The negativity surrounding the team is understandable.
Now three years removed from Super Bowl 52, the Eagles are a shell of what they once were. Gone is the head coach who called perhaps the gutsiest Super Bowl play in NFL history; the once MVP quarterback has become a punch line and is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Each key player from the Super Bowl win is now gone or old.
It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but the Eagles are the benchmark for how not to handle success.
The reality of their current situation seems bleak from an outsiders’ perspective. A first time head coach is now at the helm, placed in the middle of one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NFL. Jalen Hurts will have his shot to become the new franchise quarterback in his one-year tryout this season. And the team doesn’t have much solidified star power on either side of the ball.
All of this feels like a recipe for disaster, and it could certainly go in that direction. But, a disastrous 2021 season is not a foregone conclusion.
If everything falls into place, this team has playoff potential.
One look at the roster, there aren’t many glaring holes that need to be addressed immediately. The only position that is a clear weakness right now is cornerback. Darius Slay is the only legitimate outside corner in that group at the moment. Avonte Maddox figures to move to the inside at nickel, his natural position. And the battle for the second outside corner spot will likely be between Craig James, Micahel Jacquet, and fourth round pick Zech McPhearson.
The team could still go out and sign one of the veteran corners left on the open market, Steven Nelson or Richard Sherman.
But outside of that second corner spot, the Eagles have serviceable starters at every other position. The defensive line is just as solid as they were last year, if not better. The linebacker group is improved with the addition of Eric Wilson. Anthony Harris is an upgrade over Jalen Mills at safety.
On the offensive side of the ball, the success of the offense hinges on Hurts and the health of the offensive line. DeVonta Smith is a sure thing at receiver, I’m confident of that. The rest of the young receiving corps should benefit from him. Jalen Reagor is primed for a bounce back year in his sophomore campaign, Travis Fulgham has potential to be a great outside receiver.
At tight end, Dallas Goedert is a stud who should start full time this year, regardless if Zach Ertz is still in the fold. If Ertz does suit up for the Eagles this year, the team will have a dynamic tight end duo.
At running back, Miles Sanders is a great weapon who still needs to refine his skills, but still has the ability to impact any game he’s in. The front office added a lot of great depth behind him this offseason as well, with the additions of Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, and rookie Kenneth Gainwell.
Hurts will have the weapons around him to be successful, it’s up to him to make it all work. He has the talent and the work ethic to improve in the areas he needs to. Simply put, if Hurts has a good year, the Eagles will be in playoff contention. There are obviously other factors that will go into that, but Hurts carries the most weight, as does any quarterback in the NFL.
One of those many factors will be the health of the offensive line. They have great talent from top to bottom, they just need to remain healthy.
It’s fair to overlook the Eagles heading into the season. There are so many unknowns surrounding this roster, it’s impossible to say with any confidence that this team has what it takes to be a contender. If Hurts plays up to his potential, the team finds an adequate starter at CB2, and this talented offensive line stays healthy, there’s no reason this team can’t be good in 2021.
Those are all big ‘ifs,’ but they can all happen. We’ll just have to see if they come to fruition once the season begins in September.