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June 22, 2017

10 players the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury

Eagles NFL

No NFL team is going to go through a full season unscathed in the injury department. However, if the Eagles can get through the 2017 season with their most important players staying intact, they could be in decent position to get back to the playoffs in an overrated NFC East.

Below are the 10 players the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury. Obviously, some of the below choices are the Eagles' best players, but we tried to also consider their importance to the scheme, depth behind them, long-term vs short term effects, and other factors.

10) Rodney McLeod

The dropoff from McLeod or Malcolm Jenkins to, um, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ would be steep.

Last year: 9

9) Brandon Graham

Graham is certainly better than the tenth-best player on the team, but with an abumdance of depth along the Eagles' defensive line, an injury to Graham wouldn't be devastating. Still, Graham is clearly the Eagles' best edge rusher, so his inclusion on this list is obvious.

Last year: Unranked

8) Zach Ertz

Ertz has his faults, but he's also Carson Wentz's security blanket. No weapon in the passing game runs better routes or has better hands than Ertz, barring maybe Alshon Jeffery, who is still working on building rapport with the Eagles' young quarterback.

Last year: Unranked

7) Jason Peters

Peters' detractors point to his abnormally high number of false starts, but you know what he does? He keeps opposing edge rushers from killing the franchise quarterback. That's kinda valuable. The old guy can still play, and the Eagles still very much need him. 

Last year: 10

6) Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles paid Jeffery a lot of money to be Carson Wentz's go-to receiver. Jeffery's production in 2017 will be vital to the short-term success of the team, and from a long-term perspective, the Eagles need to see what they have so they can determine whether or not they want to try to sign him to a multi-year contract extension.

Last year: Unranked (duh)

5) Malcolm Jenkins

There isn't anything Jenkins doesn't do well from the safety spot. He can play centerfield, he can cover slot receivers, you can move him close to the line of scrimmage and he'll make physical tackles, and he always seems to put himself in position to make huge plays. He's also thought of as a team leader in the locker room, and as noted above, the Eagles do not have proven depth at safety.

Last year: 4

4) Lane Johnson

Remember when Lane got suspended for 10 games last year and the offense looked nowhere near as good without him?

Last year: 5 

3) Jordan Hicks

Hicks has been a playmaker through his first year and a half in the NFL. In just 24 games (he missed eight games his rookie season), here are his numbers:

Jordan Hicks Tackles Sacks INT PBUs 
 24 games 13514 

Hicks is a Pro Bowl talent, and the young quarterback of the defense.

Last year: 3

2) Fletcher Cox

Cox was a great player in 2016, but he was paid like an elite one. With a stable of quality pass rushers in Brandon Graham, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry surrounding him, Cox should face fewer double-teams than he did a year ago. He needs to capitalize on that by being the disruptive penetrating force he was paid to be.

Last year: 2

1) Carson Wentz

Duh. After a promising rookie season, Wentz enters 2017 as the guy. Second-year success would be nice, and even expected by most observers. The Eagles have built their franchise around Wentz, and even disallowed his quarterback coach to interview for a better position with another team. A significant setback by way of injury would be a waste of a year on the field, and could stunt Wentz's continued growth.

Last year: 1

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