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June 25, 2021

10 reasons the Eagles will be a dumpster fire this season

Eagles NFL
062421JeffreyLurie Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Lurie reminds someone that the Eagles won a Super Bowl four years ago.

This week, all week long, we've been taking a 100 percent vitriolic look at each of the teams in the NFC East, in detail, while ignoring the positives. The first target on Monday was the Cowboys. On Tuesday, we roasted the Giants. On Wednesday, we poked fun at the Washington team. On Thursday, we took some quick shots at the rest of the NFL

Today we'll finish off the series with the Philadelphia Eagles.

1) They wrecked their Super Bowl roster in record time

After the Eagles' Super Bowl season in 2017, the team appeared to be as well-positioned as any in the NFL to compete for a another championship every year for the foreseeable future. All they really had to do was hit on a reasonable number of draft picks, make judicious decisions on which core players to retain long-term, and not completely blow it in free agency. Over the last three offseasons, however, they failed on all three accounts.

The worst of it was the draft. Since Howie Roseman reassumed the GM title (or initially Executive Vice President or whatever) in 2016, not including the 2021 draft, the Eagles have made 36 selections. Only 1, Carson Wentz in 2017, has made a Pro Bowl. He's no longer on the team, as we're all well aware.

But beyond the lack of talent generated from those drafts, there were some spectacular misses along the way:

  1. The whiffs on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in 2017 necessitated the team to burn two more draft picks and a big chunk of cap space to acquire Darius Slay during the 2020 offseason. The Jones selection in particular was immediately met with skepticism, given that he had torn his Achilles and was highly unlikely to be a factor at all his rookie season.
  2. They selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside instead of several other far better options, most notably DK Metcalf, who is already a star player.
  3. They selected Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson, again, who is already a star player. To note, it's not as if there's "benefit of hindsight" at play here. The overwhelming consensus among fans, draft experts, and NFL teams was that Metcalf and Jefferson were better prospects than Arcega-Whiteside and Reagor, respectively.
  4. They traded up for Andre Dillard, an athletic talent who unexpectedly fell in the draft because of mentality concerns that other teams appropriately diagnosed, but the Eagles did not.
  5. And, of course, they used a second-round pick on a quarterback, which didn't make any sense on a whole lot of levels, and probably contributed to the downfall of Wentz's play this past season, which was an outcome that many predicted.

There's no way to sugarcoat the above. The Eagles have been one of the worst drafting teams in the NFL over the last five years.

On the contract restructure/renegotiation front, the Eagles have had miss after miss after miss, from Carson Wentz to Alshon Jeffery to Brandon Brooks to Lane Johnson to Nelson Agholor (exercising his fifth-year option) to Jake Elliott to Nigel Bradham, and the list goes on. Because of the need to rid their books of such a gross accumulation of bad contracts, the Eagles have over $49 million in dead money on their cap in 2021. Yes, that leads the NFL. That'll rise to over $53 million whenever they cut or trade Zach Ertz.

Put more simply, once Ertz is gone, 29.2 percent of the Eagles' available 2021 cap spend will count toward players no longer on the roster. In pie chart form:

062421EaglesSalaryCap2

And then there's free agency. In 2017, the team signed a bunch of older guys, who helped them win the Super Bowl. That strategy was a one-hit wonder. In 2018, 2019, 2020 and even 2021, the Eagles have continued to sign a bunch of old dudes in free agency.

Notable 2018 acquisitions:

  1. WR Golden Tate (acquired for 8 games for a third-round pick)
  2. WR Mike Wallace
  3. LB Corey Nelson
  4. LB Paul Worrilow
  5. DE Michael Bennett
  6. DT Haloti Ngata
  7. CB Daryl Worley

Notable 2019 acquisitions: 

  1. RB Jordan Howard (trade)
  2. WR DeSean Jackson (trade)
  3. TE Richard Rodgers
  4. DE Genard Avery (acquired for a fourth-round pick in 2019, and a healthy Avery played 11% of the team's defensive snaps in 2020)
  5. DE Vinny Curry
  6. DT Malik Jackson
  7. LB L.J. Fort
  8. S Andrew Sendejo

Notable 2020 acquisitions:

  1. WR Marquise Goodwin (trade)
  2. LB Jatavis Brown
  3. DT Javon Hargrave
  4. CB Darius Slay (the team traded third- and fifth-round picks for Slay, and then re-did his deal)
  5. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman

Notable 2021 acquisitions:

  1. Joe Flacco
  2. Eric Wilson
  3. Anthony Harris
  4. Ryan Kerrigan

Just before the start of the 2019 season, we analyzed the Eagles' rapidly aging roster, and warned that the team was running the risk of needing to undergo a major rebuild in a few years if they didn't change their strategic pattern of signing and trading for older players for short-term gains, while continually making a low number of draft picks. If a dope like me could see it, how could the team miss it?

As it turned out, again, very predictably, the roster got old, expensive, bad, and boring, leading to one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2020.

Anyway, I guess I just went a really long way here to say that the people responsible for the downfall of the team over the last three years are still in charge.

2) There's a new head coach

Somebody had to take the fall for the 2020 season, and that somebody was Doug Pederson. After interviewing like a hundred head coaching candidates to replace Pederson, the Eagles eventually landed on former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

A year ago, during the 2020 offseason, the Eagles were returning their head coach (Pederson), their defensive coordinator (Jim Schwartz), and their quarterback (Wentz) for their fifth seasons with the team, while every other team in the NFC East had hired a new coaching staff. Having that continuity while the rest of the division had to figure out a way to install their scheme and instill their principles was no doubt a daunting task for new staffs in a COVID-shortened offseason, and it figured to be a major advantage for the Eagles.

But, of course, the Eagles blew it.

In 2021, the Eagles are the lone team with a new staff, and while this offseason isn't quite as unstable as 2020, there are still significant challenges, and a decent amount of lost time. They'll be at a disadvantage, relative to the rest of the divison.

But also, the Eagles hired an insanely young staff. Their ages:

• Nick Sirianni, head coach (40)

• Jonathan Gannon, defensive coordinator (38)

• Shane Steichen, offensive coordinator (36)

• Jemal Singleton, running backs, asst. head caoch (45)

• Michael Clay, special teams (29)

• Kevin Patullo, passing game coordinator (39)

• Brian Johnson, quarterbacks (34)

• Aaron Moorehead, wide receivers (40)

• Jason Michael, tight ends (42)

• Jeff Stoutland, offensive line (59)

• Tracy Rocker, defensive line (55)

• Nick Rallis, linebackers (27)

• Dennard Wilson, defensive backs (39)

I can't imagine there's a younger staff in the NFL. While those guys may eventually become good coaches, most of them are in their current positions for the first time.

Hell, during his post-hiring press conference, Lurie said that Sirianni's hiring was "a lot of projection."

"Nick was sort of the culmination of a lot of thought that went into it, a lot of projection," he said. "Of course, that's what it is. It's an evaluation of what is now and what coach he can become and what organization we can become with his leadership."

In other words, in a similar way that teams draft projects, the Eagles hired a project to be their head coach. He's a competitor though! See if you can beat him in rock-paper-scissors: 

3) The quarterback sitch 😬

Ah, the quarterback factory is always busy.

With Wentz gone, the new sheriff in town is Jalen Hurts, who in four-plus games in 2020 was 77-of-148 (52 percent 😬) for 1,061 yards (7.1 YA), 6 TDs, 4 INTs, and a QB rating of 77.6. He was also sacked 13 times.

The most alarming stat, as the above emoji is warning you, was his completion percentage. While completion percentage isn't always a definitive measure of a quarterback's accuracy, especially in a bad scheme with sub-par receivers, that completion percentage was still earned, because Hurts missed plenty of makeable throws.

Hurts is smart, he has intangibles, and he can run, but if his accuracy doesn't improve dramatically, it's going to be another loooong season.

We should also note that the Eagles aren't exactly going out of their way to promote Hurts, as he rarely appears in any of the team's marketing materials. For example, their schedule release featured six players, none of whom were Hurts.

062421EaglesScheduleRelease

That doesn't feel like an oversight. I mean Darius Slay gets in there, but not the starting quarterback?

Hurts should at least be fun to watch. If he goes down and Joe Flacco has to start, it's going to be an unwatchable product.

4) The wide receiving corps still aren't good

Here were the Eagles' leading receivers at the wide receiver position during the Doug Pederson era:

 YearPlayer Stats 
 2016 Jordan Matthews73-804-4 
 2017 Alshon Jeffery57-789-9 
 2018 Alshon Jeffery65-843-6 
 2019 Alshon Jeffery43-490-4 
 2020 Travis Fulgham38-539-4 


Most teams would be upset if these were their No. 2 receiver's numbers. I mean, look at 2020 and 2019. 539 yards?!? 490?!? Lol, what a mess.

120319NelsonAgholor

Fulgham had a great five-game stretch, and then disappeared in the back half of the season, while Reagor's rookie season was more memorable for his social media interactions than his play on the field.

Of course, the Eagles selected DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, which means that a 166-pound rookie is by far the most talented receiver on the roster.

5) Their offensive linemen are old and/or injury prone

The Eagles' offensive line was the biggest reason the team won the Super Bowl in 2017. Since then they have aged, and missed a lot of time due to injury. A look at each spot:

LT Jordan Mailata (24) or Andre Dillard (26 in October): There will be a training camp competition for this job. Mailata landed on IR in 2018 and 2019 with back injuries. Dillard had an awful rookie season, and missed his entire second season with a torn biceps.

LG Isaac Seumalo (28 in October): Average starting LG. Missed 7 games in 2020. 

C Jason Kelce (34 in November): Unlikely to be with the Eagles in 2022, either due to retirement, or moving on to another team.

RG Brandon Brooks (32 in August): Brooks acknowledged that he was on the trade block earlier this offseason. He suffered three major injuries in an 18-month span: 

  1. January 13, 2019: In the Eagles' divisional round loss to the Saints, Brooks tore his right Achilles.
  2. December 29, 2019: Brooks suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Eagles' NFC East-clinching Week 17 win over the Giants that required surgery.
  3. June, 2020: Brooks tore his left Achilles.

RT Lane Johnson (31): Johnson suffered an ankle injury in 2018 in London, and hasn't been right since. He missed four games in 2019 and nine in 2020.

Even the top two backups not noted above have had injury issues. The top OT backup is probably Jack Driscoll, who landed on IR with an MCL injury. And then there's Landon Dickerson, the Eagles' 2021 second-round pick, who had the following injury history in college: 

  1. November 2016: Torn ACL, right knee.
  2. October 2017: Right ankle surgery ended his season.
  3. 2018: Nagging/recurring left ankle injury caused him to miss most of the season.
  4. December 2020: Torn ACL, left knee.

062421EaglesOLinjuries

6) As always, the cornerbacks are bad

No. 1 receivers absolutely wrecked the Eagles' defense in 2019, and as a response the team acquired Slay in a trade during the 2020 offseason to try to stop the bleeding. Slay traveled with the opposing offense's best receiver all season long, and was able to slow some guys down, but he also got torched in a pair of games against DK Metcalf (10-177-0) and Davante Adams (10-121-2). 

I respect the swagger, but... respectfully disagree.

Slay is now 30 (he'll turn 31 by the end of the season), and he only had one INT last season, a garbage time pick in a blowout loss to Dallas Week 16.

Who's the CB2, you might ask? I have no idea. Here's the depth chart. Your guess is as good as mine.

7) And the linebackers

The top three linebackers are Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, and T.J. Edwards, all three of whom are actually a HUGE upgrade over Nate Gerry, but that really says more about Gerry's awfulness. 

101120GerryRainbow

Still, how many teams in the NFL are trading their linebackers for the Eagles' linebackers? Without looking, I'll ballpark it at... zero?

8) Their best (and most expensive) defensive player is in decline

We are referring here of course to Fletcher Cox, who made his sixth straight Pro Bowl in 2020, but that was mostly as a result of reputation as well as the lack of DT competition in the NFC. While still a very good player, Cox is not the elite star he once was. 

In 2018, for example, Cox had 10.5 sacks an 34 QB hits. In 2019 and 2020 combined, he had 10 sacks and 19 quarterback hits.

Cox carries huge cap hits each of the next two seasons. He'll count for $23,879,939 in 2021, and $23,779,939 in 2022, the last year of his deal. Additionally, as a result of some previous can-kicking down the road, the Eagles are on the hook for almost $6.5 million on the cap after his contract ends.

9) The season could go very badly out of the gate

A month ago, the Westgate sportsbook released point spreads for all 272 games on the NFL schedule.

I'll save you the trouble and zoom in on the Eagles' spreads:

062421EaglesSpreads

The first six games of the season look tough, on paper, at least for a schedule that is considered the easiest in the NFL based on 2020 records. Their three home games are against the three teams that have played in the Super Bowl the last two seasons, and two of their road games are against good veteran quarterbacks.

Philly is not a pleasant city to play in if you're 1-5, and if the team gets out to a bad start like that, the season could spiral out of control.

10) The Eagles themselves know they're going to be bad

When asked where he and Doug Pederson differed in their vision the franchise's direction going forward, Lurie seemed to almost warn that the team's focus was not on the short-term.

"I'd really rather not publicly talk about the details, but I think it's fair to say that I saw this as a retooling of the team in a way in which I thought we needed to make a lot of mid-term, long-term decisions, and that also had to do with coaches, how would we best set ourselves up for success two, three years down the road," Lurie said. "I'd rather not publicly talk about any specific coaches or anything like that except to say that we probably saw things a little differently.

"What I was trying to get across, it's much more about where we are as a franchise heading into a retooling and a real transition period versus trying to support a coach, trying to attract potentially other coaches, a defensive coordinator, or retain people on the staff in that role, knowing that you might not have the success that you want in that transition right away and therefore, you don't want to put Doug in that position. And therefore, I thought it was best for him and best for us that we part ways. It's just sort of the root of where we're at at the moment."

To sum that up, you don't need me to tell you the Eagles are going to be bad this year. The owner already did.

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