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May 18, 2020

10 players the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury

Eagles NFL
051820CarsonWentz James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz, still kinda important.

In 2017, we ranked the 10 players the Eagles could least afford to lose to injury, and they won the Super Bowl despite missing No. 1, No. 3, and No. 7 on that list.

In 2018, we ranked them again, and the Eagles were among the final eight teams remaining despite losing No. 1, No. 9, No. 10, and occasionally No. 8 on the list.

In 2019, by the time the clock hit all zeroes in the playoff game against the Seahawks, they were without No. 1, No. 9, and No. 10.

Below are the 10 players the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury in 2020. 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) WR DeSean Jackson

Anyone who follows the Eagles closely already mentally has Jackson appearing on the injury report in some form by Week 3, but the reality is that the Eagles need Jackson to be a reliable starter for them this season. 

Had they signed a competent receiver in free agency, it might not be as crucial for Jackson to stay healthy and consistently produce for the Eagles, but here we are. If Jackson goes down, what is the Eagles' starting lineup? Jalen Reagor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward?

2019 rank: 9

2018 rank: N/A

2017 rank: N/A

2016 rank: N/A

9) WR Jalen Reagor

The Eagles desperately need Reagor to be a draft hit, and to show that he has solidified at least one starting receiver spot for the foreseeable future. He can't do that if he goes down, obviously.

2019 rank: N/A

2018 rank: N/A

2017 rank: N/A

2016 rank: N/A

8) RG Brandon Brooks

Brooks is one of the best guards in football, and his loss was felt in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. 

2019 rank: 10

2018 rank: Unranked

2017 rank: Unranked

2016 rank: Unranked

7) TE Zach Ertz

Yes, Dallas Goedert is already a good starting tight end, but Ertz is Wentz's go-to guy, and by far the Eagles' most consistent, reliable target in the passing game.

2019 rank: 8

2018 rank: 6

2017 rank: 8

2016 rank: Unranked

6) RB Miles Sanders

For the first time since Doug Pederson took over as the head coach, the Eagles have a play-making, three-down running back in Sanders.

As a rookie, Sanders rushed 179 times for 818 yards (4.6 YPC) and 3 TDs, while also chipping in 50 receptions for 509 yards and 3 TDs. He was especially effective during the Eagles' stretch run, stacking quality performances against Washington, the Cowboys, and the Giants to help the Eagles win the NFC East.

In the four games before Sanders got hurt against the Giants Week 17, he averaged 23 touches per game. While I wouldn't project that kind of Christian McCaffrey-esque usage for Sanders over an entire season, it does show that Pederson began to really lean on him when he needed a skill position player to step up. 

Boston Scott could be a nice backup, but Sanders has a chance to be great. The feeling here is that Sanders is going to shoulder a substantially bigger role in his second year in the league, and there isn't a down/distance in which he's a liability. 

2019 rank: Not ranked

2018 rank: N/A

2017 rank: N/A

2016 rank: N/A

5) CB Darius Slay

Slay is the Eagles only experienced, starting-caliber outside corner, unless we're counting Jalen Mills, who the team moved to safety. Should Slay go down, the Eagles would be forced to either roll with Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas on the outside (we've seen what that looks like), or move Mills back to corner. 

In other words, they'd be right back where they were a year ago, when opposing receivers torched the Eagles' secondary routinely for big plays.

2019 rank: N/A

2018 rank: N/A

2017 rank: N/A

2016 rank: N/A

4) DT Fletcher Cox

Cox is still very clearly the best player on the Eagles' defense, but the team at least now has a pair of starting DTs in Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson, should he go down.

2019 rank: 2

2018 rank: 2

2017 rank: 2

2016 rank: 2

3) C Jason Kelce

Kelce has been named first-team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons. If the Eagles tried to slot one of their bench players in to replace him, they'd be choosing from a menu consisting of Nate Herbig, Jack Driscoll, or Luke Juriga. They could also slide Isaac Seumalo over to center from his LG spot, which would cause a shakeup of OL continuity, and weaken two spots on the OL instead of one.

2019 rank: 5

2018 rank: Unranked

2017 rank: Unranked

2016 rank: Unranked

2) RT Lane Johnson

With the LT position still unsettled, losing Johnson, who is in our view the best RT in the NFL, could be potentially devastating, leaving the Eagles vulnerable at both tackle spots.

With safety net Halapoulivaati Vaitai gone, the Eagles would be forced to play an unproven player at RT.

2019 rank: 3

2018 rank: 3

2017 rank: 4

2016 rank: 5

1) QB Carson Wentz

Wentz had seemingly put some of his injury concerns to bed during the 2019 season, until Jadeveon Clowney speared him in the head in the playoffs, causing a concussion and ending the Eagles' playoff run before it ever got started. 


So the injury talk is back.

Still, Wentz is one of the 5-10 best quarterbacks in the NFL, at a minimum, and clearly remains the most important player on the team, even with the odd selection of Jalen Hurts in the second round.

2019 rank: 1

2018 rank: 1

2017 rank: 1

2016 rank: 1

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