State of the Franchise

The Philadelphia Eagles season ended Sunday night when they were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks 17-9 in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs. Looking back at this injury, adversity filled year, I want to give a position by position state of the union style address and what the front office, (General Manager Howie Roseman, VP of Player Personnel, Andy Weidl and VP of Football Operations, Andrew Berry) have to do this off-season to get this team back on track.

Quarterback

Quarterback Carson Wentz finished the season with 4,039 passing yards, throwing 27 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions, all while not having a single receiver go over 500 yards on the year. Wentz led the Eagles to the playoffs after a tumultuous 5-7 start. For myself, the goal of this season was to simply get Wentz healthy for a full 16 games and get him playoff experience. Step one was accomplished but step two failed to reach its full potential due a dirty and egregious hit from Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Wentz would be taken out with a head injury and 40 year old journeyman Josh McCown would come in and do the best he could but he couldn’t get the job done. Looking at the big picture in terms of this position, Wentz showed he was a franchise QB this year, however the fact still remains that this team needs a back-up QB who can step in and be competent at the position in case of injury, the best thing to do for this is draft a QB late round (please no Clayton Thorson crap again).

Running Back

This past season rookie running back Miles Sanders unequivocally established himself as the future of the backfield, rushing for 818 yards on the ground(the most by a rookie RB in franchise history) and tallying 1,327 scrimmage yards which led all rookies. Sanders also became one of seven rookies in NFL history to rush for over 800 yards and catch for at least 500 yards. RB Jordan Howard, who was acquired from the Chicago Bears in an off-season trade, rushed for 516 yards and had his season cut short due to a shoulder injury. With Howard’s contract set to expire this off-season, the front office has a decision to make. Depending on his market, Roseman should explore resigning him, if the price is too high, there are guys in the draft who can take over the power back role. Darren Sproles has already said he plans to retire and Boston Scott, who was called up from the practice squad will take over his role in the offense. I would look for Roseman to attempt to resign Howard however, if the market starts to heat up, I think they spend a late round pick on a power back.

Wide Receiver

Much has been made of the fact that no wide receiver on the Eagles roster had at least 500 yards. Whether it’s attributed to injuries or regression, the point stands that this organization needs more out of the WR position. From drops to production issues, this unit was subject to a lot of scrutiny. The last 1,000 yard receiver came in 2014 when Jeremy Maclin was the team’s number one receiver. The starting wideouts to start the year were, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor. Jackson played one game, where he caught two TDs, Jeffery was in and out of the lineup, and Agholor played but was a disappointment majority of the year. Rookie second round pick, JJ Arcega-Whiteside was basically invisible most of the year. After injuries ravaged the group, late in the season practice squad guys: Greg Ward Jr, Rob Davis, and Deontay Burnett came in provided a spark when needed. Of that group, Ward Jr looked to be the most talented and in many fans eyes, deserves a roster spot on next year’s team. With Agholor’s contract ending this off-season and Jefferey’s dip in production, don’t be surprised to see this position group looking very different next year. I’d expect an early pick and possibly a late round pick or free agent addition.

Tight End

The tight end position was undoubtedly the most consistent and productive position on the team. Zach Ertz played his usual role as the team’s number one pass catching target. Second year tight end Dallas Goedert stepped up big time becoming the team’s number two option behind Ertz. Goedert specifically shined in a crucial week 15 matchup vs the Dallas Cowboys. When Ertz went out with injury, Goedert became the teams number one passing target, catching nine passes for 91 yards and a TD. The outlook on this group is enormous if they can stay healthy. Also a serviceable 3rd tight end would be a nice addition to the group, 3rd year tight end, Josh Perkins stepped up towards the end of the season when Ertz missed the last game of the year with a fractured rib.

Offensive Line

The offensive line play was inconsistent at times this season. Left tackle Jason Peters’ age showed, when he missed 3 games, but he held up for the most part after he returned. Issac Seumalo looked abysmal at times this year however his play leveled out and he played well as the season went on. Center Jason Kelce was his usual instictive and smart self. Right Guard Brandon Brooks was awarded a four year contract extension in November and was, in my opinion, the best at his position this past season, however a shoulder injury ended his season in week 17. Right Tackle Lane Johnson had a pretty good year and he was also awarded a four year contract extension in November, however his season was also cut short due to an ankle injury in week 14. Rookie first round pick, Andre Dillard had an up and down rookie year, filling in for Peters in 3 games, in which he played well and one game where he filled in for Lane Johnson at right tackle in which he was benched at halftime due to poor play. Guard Matt Pryor filled in nicely for Brandon Brooks and showed some nice potential. Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai filled in nicely for Lane Johnson but his contract is up this offseason. I’ve read reports that he wants to start so it isn’t likely that he’s back next year. If this is true look for the Eagles to draft a developmental tackle in the draft and perhaps have Jordan Mialata active on gamedays moving forward.

Defensive Line

The defensive line was once again a major strength of the team. Dominance from Fletcher Cox, after a slow start, led the way. EDGE rushers Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett also contributed well with good seasons, Graham specifically, led the team with 8.5 sacks. Vinny Curry also showed up well with 5 sacks in a reserve/rotational role. Young guys Josh Sweat, Anthony Rush and Hasaan Ridgeway also flashed at times this year, Sweat in particular, developing and showing the most potential. The resigning of Tim Jernigan also proved to be big, although he missed almost half the season with injury, when he returned he was great in his run stuffing role and providing timely pressure. Free Agent acquisition, Malik Jackson was limited to just one game. The keys for the position group will be to get healthy and add youth. This should not be an issue given Howie Roseman’s affinity for developing the trenches.

Linebacker

The Eagles linebacker group was mediocre at best in 2019. One of the few bright spots was the play of undrafted rookie TJ Edwards, who played well when given opportunities, stuffing the run and being in the right position were things Edwards excelled at. Besides him, LBs Nathan Gerry, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Duke Riley, and Alex Singleton were at best average to below average in terms of their play. With Bradham’s contract containing a team option and KGH’s contract being up this offseason, the key at this position will be to get younger and acquire playmaking ability at this position. It’d be nice to see the front office actually invest in and find talent at linebacker after neglecting it for years.

Cornerback

To put it respectfully, the play at the cornerback position was simply not good. From, Terry Mclaurin, to Darius Slayton, to DK Metcalf, to DeVante Parker, this secondary was wrecked. Not to mention the wide receivers who did the wrecking were picked after Eagles second rounder and resident casper, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Nevertheless, the cornerback position was in flux for most of the season. From the struggles on the outside of Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Jalen Mills to the regression of Avonte Maddox, the organization has to do a better job finding talent at this position moving forward. The few bright spots this position saw include the play of Cre’von Leblanc in the slot when returned from injury and Sidney Jones’ resurgence toward the last 2-3 games of the season when he broke up 2 huge passes and intercepted one in week 17 vs the Giants. Before the season began this position was thought to be a strength of the team by many, considering its depth and youth, however once the season began, that was quickly dispelled. Mills and Darby’s contracts are up this offseason and it is almost guaranteed the Eagles will once again have a different set of corners starting on the outside for what feels like the 10th consecutive season. In my opinion, there hasn’t been consistency at the position since the days of Asante Samuel. They simply have to find better production and play and the best way to achieve this is through the draft and not the splashy free agent signing that has failed the organization too many times in the past.

Safety

The safety position in 2019 was good but like the corners they gave up their fair share of plays. Malcolm Jenkins once again played EVERY snap on defense and even contributed on special teams, however his age did begin to show somewhat in various moments of the season. Rodney McLeod played well outside of a couple miscommunications on the back end. With both of their contracts set to expire this offseason it is paramount that the front office commits to finding starting level talent at the position, whether it be in free agency or the draft, talent is needed at the position. Look for Roseman to resign one of the two and fill the other safety spot either through the draft or free agency.

Special Teams

Kicker Jake Elliot was excellent in 2019 outside of a couple missed kicks, he had a good season and even earned a contract extension. Punter Cameron Johnston had a pretty good year, kicking 28 of his 71 punts inside the 20 yard line and doing a good job of flipping the field position.

Coaching Staff

Not enough can be said of the job Head Coach Doug Pederson did this year. Rallying the team from 5-7 to finish 9-7 and win the division with all the injuries and adversity this team faced was an amazing accomplishment. Not only adjusting his gameplanning and play calling to the players who came onto the roster mid-season but getting the team to play and win for him shows how much this team loves playing for Pederson and he should be applauded for it. Offensive Coordinator and passing game coordinator Mike Groh was subject to a lot of criticism this past season and rightfully so however, the offense improved somewhat with the introduction of practice squad players, due to what people have said was a simplifying of the offense. However, I feel that Coach Pederson would do best with a veteran coordinator by his side. Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz coordinated the NFL’s 23rd ranked total defense which basically shined against the run and flopped against the pass. It was reported that Schwartz will interview for the Cleveland Browns head coaching position and I’d venture to say his departure wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen or the best. Schwartz defenses have been stellar against the run his time in Philadelphia but mostly mediocre against the pass. In all, the coaching staff did a good job dealing with the cards they were dealt this injury and adversity riddled season.

Final point

This 2019 Philadelphia Eagles team faced a lot of adversity. From injuries, to anonymous locker room leaks (not gonna speculate on who it was) , to mediocre play the fact that this team won the NFC East is a huge accomplishment. The front office has a lot of work to do, in getting playmakers and speed on both sides of the ball. It’ll be a fun offseason.

Thanks For Reading!

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Author: Pierre Baptiste Jr.

I am the creator of The Philly Blitz and I am committed to delivering innovative and interesting coverage on both the Eagles and Sixers. Contact Information: Twitter - @pierreb3_ Email: pierrotjr3@gmail.com

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