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2017 NFL Season Preview- Philadelphia Eagles
Despite finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the third straight season, Philadelphia was shockingly upbeat going into the offseason.
For a team that finished with a losing record, the Eagles can take solace in the fact that six of their nine losses were by seven points or less, beat four playoff teams, and had a 6-2 record at home.
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz started all 16 games and played all but a handful of snaps which helped his development moving forward. Running back Ryan Matthews already had major durability issues, then suffered a serious neck injury late in the season. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton are both excellent receivers who can lineup anywhere and create mismatches. Brent Celek isn't much of a receiver these days but he is still one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Other than Jordan Matthews, the wide receiver corps was a disaster. Nelson Agholor was benched during the season and newly acquired Dorial Green Beckham never mastered route running. The starting five offensive linemen only played five games together as right tackle Lane Johnson missed 10 games because of a PED suspension.
The defensive line was up and down due to the change from defensive coordinators. Defensive end Brandon Graham had his best season so far but Connor Barwin struggled in Jim Schwartz's wide nine 4-3 scheme. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks followed his great rookie season with an excellent 2016 and registered five interceptions. After signing a big contract extension two years ago, outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been mediocre ever since. While the team had a solid safety tandem in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, the cornerbacks were far from passible. Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll got beat too often for players with their experience.
The team produced four Pro Bowlers in running back Darren Sproles, left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Sproles remains one of the most versatile threats on offense and in the return game. Peters made his ninth Pro Bowl but is approaching the end of his career. Kelce made his second Pro Bowl after starting every game this season. Cox has developed into a two time All-Pro and valuable against the run and pass.
The rookie class played a lot of games and look to develop further in 2017. Quarterback Carson Wentz set an NFL rookie record for completions. Running back Wendell Smallwood has the potential to start next year with Ryan Matthews neck injury.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 24th
NFL Rank- 11th
NFL Rank- 13th
NFL Rank- 15th
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 13th
Going 7-9 in his first season, head coach Doug Pederson has to take a big step forward in year two and taking the training wheels off the offense.
Notable Additions- QB Nick Foles, QB Matt McGloin, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Alshon Jeffrey, WR Torrey Smith, G Chance Warmack, DE Chris Long, DT Timmy Jernigan, CB Patrick Robinson
Notable Departures- QB Chase Daniel, RB Kenjon Barner, WR Dorial Green Beckham, DE Connor Barwin, DT Bennie Logan, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Nolan Carroll
Carson Wentz Rookie Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, the Eagles didn't have their original 12th overall, first round pick since they traded it to Cleveland last year so they could draft Carson Wentz. They were able to receive the 14th overall pick from Minnesota after they sent them Sam Bradford. With a mid first round pick, Philadelphia still had a opportunity to bet a top notch wide receiver, defensive end, or cornerback.
Jordan Matthews is a better slot receiver and Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffrey haven't had elite success as the number one receiver. With Nelson Agholor looking like a bust, it may be time to sew up the wide receiver depth.
Brandon Graham is the only impactful outside pass rusher. The defense needs someone who can slide protections toward him and free up Graham and Fletcher Cox.
The cornerbacks have underperformed the last four seasons. The gave up the most 30+ pass plays in the league last year.
When it came time to pick, Philadelphia selected Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with the 14th selection. Barnett was seen as the top run stopping defensive end in the draft but his pass rushing move and hands are still a work in progress.
The Eagles also notably drafted Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round and San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth. Jones had the best closing and recovery speed of any cornerback in the class but fell in the draft after he injured his Achilles at his pro day. Pumphrey left college as the FBS' all time leading rusher but at 170 pounds and a short frame, there isn't a lot of room to grow.
Philadelphia also signed some notable undrafted free agents in Houston wide receiver Greg Ward Jr., Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans, Wisconsin running back Corey Clement, and Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston. Ward was the perfect quarterback for Houston's spread style offense but at 5'10" he switched back to wide receiver in order to make an NFL roster. Evans has a thick frame to withstand pro rushers but is known to run when his first target isn't there. Clement continued the tradition of productive Wisconsin running backs but isn't reliable in pass protection. Johnston was one of the best Australian style punters in college football and only went undrafted for the fact he is a punter.
Derek Barnett Highlights
What to Expect
Given their moves in the offseason, anything less than the playoffs in 2017 should be a disappointment.
Carson Wentz should be more comfortable with another year in Pederson's system. With the depth they have at running back, it will take a lot of pressure off the passing game. Adding Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffrey helps a lot and opens up more plays for Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. The offensive line should be fine barring any injuries or suspensions. Looking at you Lane Johnson.
Timmy Jernigan should be a capable replacement for Bennie Logan and Derrick Barnett looks to be a good partner for Brandon Graham. The linebackers overall are solid but Mychal Kendricks may be shopped if he doesn't turn it around. The safeties should still be a strong force but there is no time table for when Sidney Jones will see the field after his Achilles injury and Patrick Robinson has accomplished little in his seven seasons.
The reality is the Eagles play in arguably the most competitive division in pro football. I can see three NFC East teams making the playoffs, which means it will likely be between Philadelphia and Washington for the final wildcard spot.
Best record they can hope for: 10-6