A 2019 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

A 2019 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

Philadelphia Eagles 2918 Guide

When I read articles on teams, I usually check the source prior to making my judgment. Homers write homer articles and it can often be difficult to discern actual optimism from blind love. I am not an Eagles fan. I am also not an Eagles hater, so if you are a fan of the Eagles, swallow your pride and digest the information I’m about to lay before you. I think you’ll like what I have to say about your team and their 2019 outlook.

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Looking back to 2018

Looking back on 2018, it was a solid season to follow the Super Bowl victory from 2017. The Super Bowl hangover was very short for the Eagles, as they lost six of their first ten games, including two early-season losses to the likes of the Titans and Buccaneers.

Considering the Eagles rode the “Dogs” underdog tag all the way to the title in 2017, it would naturally be difficult to use that same motivation in 2018 when they were the defending Super Bowl champs. Alas, the back issues for Carson Wentz seemed to be Eagles’ undoing, until a late-season, improbable 3-0 run, including a 30-23 upset of the eventual NFC champion Rams in Week 15 on the road.

Following a road upset victory over the Bears, the Eagles nearly pulled off another improbable upset, as dogs on the road again in the Conference semifinals against the Saints. The Eagles were able to ride a phenomenal defense into a solid postseason run, despite all the injuries and inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball.

Improvements made during the offseason

As the 2019 season looms closer to opening weekend, the Eagles and their 2019 outlook are getting a wave of support from the analytics community. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), an analytics-focused website that specializes in ranking teams and players through deep research, the Eagles and their fans should be very hopeful in 2019. Per PFF, the Eagles’ offensive line is ranked #1 heading into 2019. Their receiving corps — including tight-ends — are also ranked #1 headed into 2019. Eagles starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, was an MVP candidate two seasons ago and the odds-on favorite to win, prior to his injury against the Rams late in the season. The Eagles defense, which was abysmal early in the 2018 season, seemed to gel when it mattered down the stretch. The Eagles ranked 30th in pass defense, and 7th in rush defense (YPG). Their points against (21.8) was 12th in the NFL last season as well.

Much of these concerns were addressed in free agency as the Eagles picked up Malik Jackson (DL), Timmy Jernigan (DT), Andrew Sendejo (S), Ronald Darby (CB), and former All-Pro receiver, Desean Jackson. Malik Jackson, who was only available due to salary cap concerns from the Jaguars, is a potent pass-rusher with 11.5 sacks over the past two seasons and should platoon well along the D-Line on passing downs, at the very least.

Timmy Jernigan was with the Eagles a year ago but the Eagles declined his option and were able to retain him via a new deal. Darby, like Jernigan, didn’t go anywhere during free agency. Darby was off to a very mediocre season — 70 rating via PFF — before a torn ACL in Week 10 ended his season. Both Jernigan and Darby were signed to one-year deals.

Andrew Sendejo is a 31-year-old veteran safety who was picked up after a decent, seven-year stint with the Vikings. Sendejo was graded by PFF with a rating of 69.7, following a brief 2018 season that was cut short after five games because of a groin injury.

Desean Jackson returns after five years away from the Eagles. He still has the coveted speed, but he’s had issues staying healthy. If the Eagles can get a healthy season from Jackson, his ceiling could be over a thousand yards and seven touchdowns in this potentially potent attack.

Small holes plugged during the Draft

As for the NFL Draft, the Eagles addressed some ancillary questions about their roster, but didn’t really focus on the glaring weaknesses.

In the first round, the Eagles took Andre Dillard (OT) from Washington State, who we could only imagine is the heir to Jason Peters (who is 37 now). He’s an insurance pick for 2019 but the pick to ensure many years of success and protection for Carson Wentz.

Miles Sanders was a solid choice in round two, as the Eagles chose Sanders with the hopes of finding clarity at the running back position. For as much as running backs don’t matter, according to the deeper statistics and research, having a competent, versatile back can give an offense many advantages that go beyond rudimentary statistics. For example, if Jordan Howard is in the backfield, there’s a very good chance the defense might bring a safety into the box or adjust coverages and blitz packages.

At the very least, the range of play outcomes for the offense is limited when the running back isn’t a good pass catcher. When you have a guy like Saquan Barkley, Alvin Kamara, or Miles Sanders in the backfield, the range of plays you can run is greater and disguises the offense’s hand much better. Sanders could give this offense even more versatility than in their 2017 campaign when behind Carson Wentz, the Eagles scored more than 25 points in 11 of the 13 games Wentz started.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a 50/50 jump-ball type receiver with okay size (6’3, 220), albeit not great for that style in the NFL. His ability to block out defenders and high-point the ball is second to none. He might be one of the best in this area I’ve seen coming out of college in the past five years. I don’t expect JJAW to have much of an impact this season with the presence of Jeffrey on one side and Desean Jackson on the other, but he could very likely receive a lot of targets in the Red Zone in 2019. Nelson Agholor should eat up the slot, by conventional wisdom, but the Eagles aren’t conventional by any means. He’s going to need to polish his route-running quickly if he wants to get an opportunity in this offense right away.

Real talk: there’s a good chance he’ll see some action even outside the Red Zone, based on the injury history of this receiving corps. It’s also possible they work in Arcega-Whiteside in the slot, given the potential mismatches that could exploit with such a sizeable receiving corps. After all, the Eagles are a very innovative offense, so I’m sure there’s a good reason they elected to go with JJAW over a defender with their third pick.

The Eagles fourth pick, Shareef Miller, might not be ready immediately as a starter given his underwhelming strength, but he could see action as a platooned defensive end for spurts in 2019.

Clayton Thorsen had some impressive moments at Northwestern and should get plenty of pre-season work at quarterback, following the untimely injury of backup QB Nate Sudfeld. With Cody Kessler holding firm — as of now — in the primary backup role, Thorsen should get reps and the protection necessary to demonstrate he can be more consistent as a passer in the NFL. Don’t expect much from him in 2019.

2019 Philadelphia Eagles outlook summary

Overall, the Eagles are set up for offensive success in 2019. With the emergence of now second-year tight end, Dallas Goedert, the array of formations the Eagles can run in 2019 should set up their run game and play-action quite well. When teams can throw out a receiving corps of this size and ability, it’s going to keep the defense off-balance, as long as the playcalling can exploit the mismatches this versatile offense will be facing. For example, the Eagles can and likely will run a lot of two tight-end sets. This should give them good perimeter blocking advantages and allow them to audible big targets outside. The elite offensive line should also provide Wentz with plenty of time to go through his progressions and allow him to exploit deeper routes downfield.

Defensively, I’m still not sold on this team getting by on chemistry and scheme alone. The league evolves quickly from an offensive standpoint and Jim Schwartz is going to have his hands full this season with divisional opponents who appear to be stronger offensively this year. This is as opposed to the last few seasons, when Eli was in and out of cardiac arrest and the Redskins were signing offensive linemen off craigslist.

The ceiling for the Eagles is high. If Wentz and the O-line can stay healthy, this team has 12 to 13 win potential. Without Wentz, this team is probably 8-8, assuming Sudfeld could take the reins down the stretch. Speculation aside, the Eagles are deep offensively and could be one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL this season. With the Vegas line at 10.5 wins this season, I’m taking the Eagles to get to 11 and take the division.

Collin is a former Army Intelligence and Logistics officer who will watch any sport and gamble with anyone willing. He currently resides in Texas and has to deal with Cowboys fans all the time.