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June 21, 2024

Five players the Eagles need to step up in 2024

From QB1 to young, prized talent along the offensive and defensive lines, these Eagles need to take a leap.

Eagles NFL
Jalen Hurts Eagles Minicamp 2024 Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Jalen Hurts

After a brutal finish to the 2023 season and the losses of several key players to retirement (Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox) or via trade (Haason Reddick), the Philadelphia Eagles have a number of players who need to step up in 2024.

1) iDL Jordan Davis

While Davis has shown some flashes of the kind of dominant player he can be, his first two NFL seasons have been slowed by injury, inconsistency, and poor conditioning.

Davis said during OTAs that he is in better shape than he was last year, crediting his diet, “cutting out the juice and s***.” He said that he currently weighs around 350 pounds, and added that he weighed more last year but didn’t specify how much. If he was substantially heavier than 350 pounds last year, it's safe to say that he was out of shape. On the one hand, it's good that he's in better shape. On the other hand, why wasn't he in better shape last year?

The Eagles spent a first-, a fourth- and two fifth-round selections (15th, 124th, 162nd and 166th overall) to get Davis in the 2022 NFL Draft, and so far they don't have a lot to show for it. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, and Davis himself have all said this offseason that Davis' conditioning must improve. Is he going to live up to his enormous potential, or just be an 'OK' player who can't stay on the field for long stretches in-game and over the course of NFL seasons? The 2024 season is a big one for Davis in finding that out.

2) iDL Jalen Carter

Carter had a stellar first three months of his rookie season in 2023, and he was at one time a heavy favorite to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. However, his production fell off down the stretch, and he was passed by the Texans' Will Anderson for that award. He finished with 33 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

Including the playoffs, Carter played 600 snaps, which was less than half of the team's 1,232 total defensive snaps. Similarly, Fletcher Cox played fewer than half the defense's snaps his rookie season, but in Year 2 his snap counts rose dramatically and stayed high the rest of his career. Fletcher Cox snaps, by year:

• 2012: 509
• 2013: 946
• 2014: 926
• 2015: 983
• 2016: 773
• 2017: 733
• 2018: 926
• 2019: 869
• 2020: 746
• 2021: 807
• 2022: 810
• 2023: 722

In addition to being a great player for more than a decade, Cox was kind of an ironman. The Eagles are going to need Carter to be prepared to log Cox-like snaps.

3) iDL Milton Williams

Oh hey, it's another interior defensive lineman.

After a strong close to the 2022 season, Williams felt like a potential breakout candidate in 2023, but his production was disappointing. 

 Milton WilliamsTacklesTFL Sacks QB hits 
2021 30 
2022 36 
2023 42 0.5 

Williams had some games when he played very well against the run. For example:

That's valuable, however, it's hard not to look at the stat sheet and be underwhelmed by his 0.5 sacks and 7 QB hits. 

Williams recently turned 25 years old and he has at least proven so far that he can be a good role player along the defensive line, but the Eagles need more from him as a pass rusher in his fourth season.

4) C Cam Jurgens

Jurgens has the impossible task of replacing one of the best centers of all-time in Jason Kelce. However, he did have the advantage of apprenticing under Kelce during his rookie season in 2022, and then playing next to him at RG in 2023. Jeff Stoutland said during Eagles minicamp that it was "a tremendous help" for Jurgens, "hearing what Kelce was saying and how he was saying it, being right there next to him" during games.

Jurgens is entering his third season, so there should be a reasonable expectation that he's not going to be overwhelmed by the mental responsibility that comes with the center position.

5) QB Jalen Hurts

And finally, yep, the QB1 needs to step up in 2024. 

In 2023, Hurts took a step backwards from his MVP runner-up season in 2022. As you're all aware, the Eagles started out 10-1, with six of those wins coming against teams that would eventually make the playoffs. Hurts was squarely in the conversation for league MVP at the time, even though novice fans could pretty easily see that he and the team as a whole were not playing nearly as well as the 2022 team that often dominated opponents. From December on, the Eagles abruptly went from a Super Bowl favorite with at least a two-game lead over every other team in the league to one of the worst teams in the NFL.

You can blame the defense, or the offensive scheme, or the absurd in-season change at defensive coordinator, or the play calling, or any number of other things, and you'd be right to do so, but Hurts is fair game as well. His individual performances from December on were not acceptable for a player on a $255 million contract, and he was the leader of a team that suffered as staggering of a collapse as we've ever seen in the modern NFL.

In the aftermath, Hurts' leadership skills — always thought to be the biggest checkmark in his favor — came into question.

The 2024 Eagles will be under intense scrutiny, and a lot of that will fall on Hurts. He has bounced back from adversity in the past, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to a disappointing season.

Honorable mention: EDGE Nolan Smith: There are three edge rushers ahead of Smith in the pecking order in Josh Sweat, Bryce Huff, and Brandon Graham, so it's not as if the Eagles' defense will fall apart if Smith doesn't have a productive second season. However, he was a first-round pick and is a part of the team's future, and he must find a way to make Fangio want to put him on the field.

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