Eagles: 5 players that must step up to get the team back on track

After two weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles sit at 1-1 and have question marks on both sides of the ball. But it’s safe to say they have exceeded early season expectations thus far. A dominating win in Week 1 followed up by a very winnable game in Week 2.

2-0 would have been great, but the season is still young. This team has a lot of room for improvement and seems to be trending in the right direction.

If Nick Sirianni’s team is going to cement their status as the best team in the NFC East, a few players will need to step up.

Here are five players who need to improve their play moving forward if the Eagles are to be in the playoff picture at season’s end.

Fletcher Cox

With Javon Hargrave’s excellent play through two games, Fletcher Cox’s ineffectiveness hasn’t been as glaring, but he’s failed to have a significant impact in either game.

Against Atlanta, Cox didn’t record a single tackle. Through two outings, he has a total of four combined tackles, none for a loss, one quarterback pressure, and one quarterback hurry. No quarterback knockdowns or sacks. Despite being 31 years old, Cox is still supposed to be the best defensive lineman on the team, but he just hasn’t lived up to that billing so far this season.

Now that Brandon Graham is out for the year, Cox will need to pave the way for the rest of the defensive line. He’s not a vocal leader, but he can lead with his play which will in turn help the rest of the defensive lineman on the field.

Derek Barnett

It’s now or never for Derek Barnett. The former 14th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft has failed to live up to expectations. The sad part is he’s become known for his egregious personal foul calls rather than his pass rushing ability. Nevertheless, he’ll have his opportunity to prove himself now that Graham is out for the year.

The team has already shown their commitment to fellow pass rusher Josh Sweat, handing him a contract extension last week. This is a contract year for Barnett, too, and if he doesn’t show up in Graham’s absence he won’t be an Eagle next year. Simple as that.

Through two games this year, Barnett has accumulated six combined tackles and one quarterback hit. Again, no sacks. His PFF grade on the season is 58.5, which would be his worst season grade ever from PFF.

There’s no excuses for Barnett anymore. He needs to play better or he’ll be gone.

Zach Ertz

While I firmly believed having Zach Ertz remain on the team for this year would be best for both parties, it hasn’t panned out that way through two weeks.

His 54.1 overall grade from PFF is actually worse than his overall grade last season (57.3). He’s not getting the volume of targets I was expecting, only seeing four through two games — but he’s also just not getting open at a high clip either.

At this point, he’s taking playing time away from Dallas Goedert, who is clearly the better tight end right now. Goedert is a sound receiver and an excellent blocking tight end, whereas Ertz seems to have clearly lost a step. But, if the veteran can turn it around as the season continues, he can become a true asset for Jalen Hurts and this Eagles offense.

Having two stud tight ends is invaluable, and right now the team appears to only have one. Hopefully Ertz can change that in the near future.

Alex Singleton

It’s pretty clear that Jonathan Gannon knows he’s limited at the linebacker position. Six different linebackers saw snaps on Sunday against the 49ers. Out of those six, Alex Singleton struggled the most.

Per PFF, “Alex Singleton, who played more than anyone (57 snaps), earned a sub-50.0 PFF grade upon first review and missed four tackles.” Not great for the guy most people expected to be the team’s best linebacker entering the season. He’s not the only backer that has struggled so far. As expected, Eric Wilson has been terrible against the run, posting a run defense grade of 41.4 according to PFF.

The Eagles linebacking corps has lacked any kind of real talent for the past two years. So with Singleton struggling, they have no one to turn to. It’s the same reason Nate Gerry was given such a long leash last season. Ironically, Singleton was the guy who stepped up and provided some consistency to the position. But now he finds himself in a similar position to the guy he took the starting gig from.

If he doesn’t step up soon, Gannon will likely turn to one of his younger guys like Shaun Bradley or Davion Taylor.

Jalen Reagor

The talent is clearly there with Jalen Reagor, but he’s still struggling to put it all together. That was again evident in Sunday’s loss to the Niners. With just 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Hurts hit Reagor down the sideline for a touchdown that increased the Eagles lead to two possessions. Only it didn’t count because he stepped out of bounds before catching the ball.

Reagor ended up finishing the day with just two receptions for five yards on five targets. Immense physical talent, but not much to show for it. It’s the little things in Reagor’s game that need to be cleaned up. And he certainly has a good supporting cast around him to accomplish that.

Sirianni is a hands-on teacher of the game and spends a lot of time with the receivers. Hurts has a relentless work ethic and everyone feeds off it. Reagor will get better, and he needs to for the sake of this offense. They’re still lacking a legit outside threat other than DeVonta Smith.

If all goes according to plan, Reagor will end up being that guy. Through two games, he’s been better than he was in his rookie campaign. Now it’s time to take that next step.

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