Big changes ahead for the Eagles

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Big changes ahead for the Eagles

The Eagles will see big change before stepping on the field in 2020.

The Eagles will see big change before stepping on the field in 2020.

The Eagles will see big change before stepping on the field in 2020.

The Eagles will see big change before stepping on the field in 2020.

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  With the Eagles falling to the Seahawks in the wildcard round of the playoffs, the Eagles offseason has come. We are now 2 years removed from winning the Superbowl, and to get back to the big game, big changes have to occur. 

  Luckily for the Eagles, they already have the core pieces locked up. Carson Wentz showed he can carry a team and raise his play when needed. Aside from an uncontrollable hit while going to the ground causing a concussion, he played injury free. He will have a full offseason of being healthy, which he hasn’t had in 3 years. 

  Doug Pederson, yet again, showed that he can coach a team through adversity and injury and reach the playoffs. Although the offense started slow, he was able to get it going by the end of the season. As he showed the last 2 years, he can overcome injuries at any position and succeed. No questions here.

  However, change to the coaching staff is coming. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh and Wide Receiver Carson Walch were both fired, and the Lions hired Secondary coach Cory Undlin to be their Defensive coordinator. All positions will be replaced.

  The O-line is in tact for the future. After the game, Jason Peters stated that he would like to keep playing, but said he’s open to playing for another team if that is what it comes to. From LG over to RT, the Eagles are in good shape. 

  Having a great QB, coach, and O-line is a great foundation for a team to build. Now Howie Roseman has to add talent. 

  

 

Overhaul the WR position

  Anybody who has watched the Eagles even a little bit this season was able to see how problematic the WR position was. In a playoff game they played Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, Rob Davis, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Shelton Gibson. Bleh. At times it was painful to watch the WR play, even when Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The poor WR play cost the Eagles at least 2 games. 

  In today’s pass heavy style, having Wrs that can make plays is important. The Eagles need to get faster and more athletic at this position. 

  Nelson Agholor is set to become a free agent this offseason, and will not return. Alshon Jeffery has a guaranteed contract next year that would cost the Eagles close to $26 million to release. If I were in charge, I would look to trade him even if it requires attaching an asset to entice another team. I would even consider releasing him. Desean Jackson is under contract and should return next season. Although, the Eagles can’t count on him to play every game and need to have players ready to step up when he goes down. Greg Ward has earned a spot on the roster as a WR4 next year, who rotates into the slot and is returning punts.

  Draft experts have called this year’s crop of WRs the best in recent memory. The Eagles, picking at 21, should be in a position to draft a high end, playmaking WR. Hitting on a playmaker would vastly improve the offense, and boost Carson Wentz’s level of play. I wouldn’t rule out drafting multiple WRs in the top 4 rounds. 

 

The Secondary

  The secondary has been a gripe for most fans for years now. The team has been able to find a lockdown corner. They have tried everything. They signed Byron Maxwell, traded for Ronald Darby, and drafted Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, but none have worked out.

  This offseason is a chance to completely redo the back four. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are set to hit free agency in March. At safety Rodney Mcleod is a free agent and Malcom Jenkins made it clear that he won’t be back next year if the team doesn’t redo his contract. 

  Jenkins should absolutely be back. Since signing with the Eagles in 2014, he hasn’t missed a game and has played over 98% of the snaps on defense over that time. When the Eagles were decimated by injury the last 2 years, Jenkins played every snap and even played some special teams snaps. Not to mention he is a tremendous leader and very important to the Eagles. 

  It will be interesting to see what the Eagles do with Mcleod who rebounded nicely after tearing his ACL last year. He is turning 30 in June, and the Eagles should look to get younger. However, they don’t have any viable replacements. 

  At cornerback, big changes should come. Darby has been unable to stay on the field since being acquired before the 2017 season from the Bills. Darby has only played in 30 out of a possible 54 games the last 3 years. 

  Mills has shown he could be a viable second corner, however, he often gets beat over the top and lacks speed. However, he is a good tackler and brings physicality to the defense. He is a Jim Schwartz favorite, which could help him stay around. He is a solid player, but he may command more money than he is worth.

  Behind the starters, the Eagles are left with Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Cre’von LeBlanc, and Avonte Maddox. Douglas and Jones have filled in for injury, but with not much success. Douglas lacks speed and is constantly chasing faster wideouts down from behind. Jones has been stuck behind almost every corner the team brought in and has struggled to perform, however he did make a couple key plays down the stretch against the Giants and Cowboys. 

  LeBlanc and Maddox have shown they are adequate slot corners and will likely battle for the starting job in training camp. Maddox is versatile and could potentially play safety and on the outside. Media and fans have been clamoring for the Eagles to turn Douglas into a safety. The team has repeatedly shown they like him more at corner. Maybe that changes this offseason. 

  I would expect the Eagles to sign a corner and draft a corner and hope they find success. Maybe the coaching change will change the fortunes of the Eagle’s secondary.

 

Pass rush

  I debated whether or not linebacker or pass rusher was more important, but I settled on pass rusher. Ultimately, the Eagles don’t really value the linebacker position much. They play a ton of 1 or 2 linebacker sets. Although it would be nice to have a reliable linebacker, the Eagles don’t seem to value it. 

  Pass rusher is a bigger issue. Going into the year it was a concern for most fans and media members and it turned out to be an issue. One of the keys to Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme is to generate pressure with just the front four. They weren’t very successful this year while only rushing four. Schwartz blitzed more, and was often beat in the secondary as a result.

  While the Eagles, finished 13th in the league with 43 sacks, they have spent significant resources in this position and should be seeing better results. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are paid big money and Derek Barnett was drafted 14th overall in the 2017 draft. 

  Part of what made the Super Bowl winning D-line so effective was their depth at the position. They were able to rotate and keep fresh bodies as the game went on. The Eagles should look to add more pass rush ability and depth this offseason. It is always a good bet the Eagles draft a D Lineman at some point, although they have spent 1 first round pick, and 2 fourth round picks the last 3 years on D linemen. Upgrading the line would be helpful to the defense. 

 

Athleticism

  The Eagles in 2019 were a slow, unathletic team. After Desean Jackson went down week 2, they had no deep threat. Alshon Jeffery is a slow, jump ball receiver. Nelson Agholor simply isn’t that good, but he was the closest thing the Eagles had to a playmaker. The two tight ends are very good, but their tight ends. Overall, they aren’t big play playmakers. Miles Sanders was the Eagles only legitimate big playmaker. He has speed and make you miss ability. They need more players like him on offense. 

  The only way the Eagles were able to score was with long, plodding drives. Dink and dunk. That style is not a sustainable way to be successful long term. It puts too much pressure on every play to be perfect. Being able to have big plays that pick up large chunks of yards at a time would be a godsend for this team. It would help gets the team back to the high flying offense they were in 2017. 

  On defense they team is equally unathletic. At linebacker, Nathan Gerry, TJ Edwards, and Nigel Bradham (who I expect the team to move on from) do not present any kind of game changing ability that you want from linebackers. They aren’t particularly fast, which prevents them from running sideline to sideline. They also aren’t anything great in coverage.  

  I’m not saying they have to spend big at the position, but having a linebacker with some athleticism would change the dynamic of the defense. 

  We are already talked about the issues at corner. Part of the reason they struggle is due to lack of athleticism. Jalen Mills is not as fast as the average wide receiver and Rasul Douglas is in the same boat. While Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones are fast they have their own issues. Getting more athletic in the back end would limit the shots down field that hurt the defense so often. 

  It’s 2020. Most teams are adding ultra athletic speedsters and freaks of nature, while the Eagles are lagging behind the times. The Eagles should be targeting athletic players this offseason. 

 

Cleanout the Locker Room

  In the last year, 2 separate reports quoting anonymous sources inside the locker room have been released talking down the leadership of Carson Wentz and the overall attitude of the team. Orlando Scandrick, after being cut, went on TV to rip the team and saying the leadership was poor and they are stuck in 2017. That needs to end this offseason. 

  Scandrick is obviously gone, but the Eagles need to get to the bottom of the anonymous sources and take action. The locker room needs to be committed and united. Some have called Alshon Jeffery the leak, but it hasn’t been confirmed. If he is, then he needs to go. The players in the locker room are either committed or gone. 

  Carson Wentz is the quarterback Nick Foles is gone. Get over it and get behind Wentz. The team needs to be infused with hungry players who want to play. The reports that came out send the opposite message about certain players. 

 

  The Eagles have some very important decisions to make this offseason. If they want to be Super Bowl contenders, then upgrades are needed. Howie Roseman will have to make some tough decisions regarding key players from the Super Bowl team and to the organization. 

  They are projected to have around $45 million in cap room, and can open more room. They also have 10 draft picks, including 7 in the top 4 rounds. They will have a chance to get younger, more athletic, and better.