May 21, 2023
While the Philadelphia Eagles could still add a veteran here or there to their roster before the start of the season, it is still probably somewhere around 90-to-95 percent set. Here we'll take a look at each of their positions, and determine where they are strong, and where they still need help, starting with the offense.
53-man roster projection: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
Others: Ian Book
The Eagles have found their face of the franchise in Hurts, a perfect dual threat quarterback to lead an Eagles offense equipped to score at will against opposing defenses either on the ground or through the air. However, he has missed two games in each of the last two seasons and is always going to be at some extra level of risk for injury because of his playing style. The trick for Hurts will be finding a balance between aggressively making plays that require him to take on contact in high leverage situations and making sure he avoids contact otherwise.
Should Hurts miss some time, Mariota is a capable backup with 74 career NFL starts who has seemingly been around forever and yet is still in his 20's. He has a 34-40 career record, and went 5-8 in 2022 on a bad Falcons team. He is a flawed passer, notably in the accuracy department, but he brings enough athleticism to the field to be capable of winning some games for the Eagles should Hurts go down.
And finally, McKee will battle it out in camp with Book for the right to make the 53-man roster and then not dress on gameday.
Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles have the classic, enviable setup of the franchise quarterback, the experienced backup with a similar skill set, and a young guy competition for the No. 3 job. 👍
53-man roster projection: D'Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott
Others: Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks
Swift got out to an extraordinary start for the Lions in 2022, making explosive plays all over the field in the Lions' first two games against the Eagles and Commanders. But, his ankle flared up, he missed some games, and was not the same player upon his return. He played through the injury and eventually started to look explosive once again near the end of the season. Still, for all the ups and downs, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
Penny, meanwhile, was an absolute beast in his first five games with Seattle, averaging 6.1 yards per carry before his season ended with a broken leg. He is a 220-pound power back with good vision who can run away from defenders in the open field. Of course, he was only available on the open market because of his long injury history.
Gainwell struggled to adjust to the NFL at times over his first 1.5 or so years in the league, but the Eagles continued to play him in his third-down role anyway, and their bet on him eventually paid off. He finished the season strongly, and ended up playing more snaps than Miles Sanders both in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers and against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Against the Giants in the divisional round, he had 12 carries for 112 yards and a TD, plus a catch for nine yards on only 16 snaps. The arrow is pointing up.
And then there's Scott, who is good for a demoralizing performance or two against the Giants every season. And actually, looking at this year's schedule, the Eagles' final three games are against the Giants, a home game against arguably the worst team in the NFL against the Cardinals, and then the Giants again. The Eagles should play Scott in those games, while letting Swift and Penny rest up for the playoffs, assuming their seasons have not been ended by that point. (I say this only half-jokingly.)
Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? This time last year, the Eagles had Sanders, who was coming off a zero touchdown season, a yet-to-break-out Gainwell, and Scott. And yet, the Eagles had the No. 1 ranking rushing offense by DVOA in the NFL by a wide margin. Eagles running backs are uniquely positioned for greatness running behind the best offensive line in the NFL, and alongside a running quarterback who helps neutralize a extra defender in the box.
Swift and Penny are both more talented, more explosive players than Sanders. Can the two of them combined be at least as durable? If so, the Eagles could have significantly better play at running back in 2023 than they did in 2022. But to me, this is a deep group that has a chance to do special things if the top two guys can stay healthy, and can still be effective enough even if they don't. 👍
53-man roster projection: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus, Britain Covey
Others: Greg Ward, Devon Allen, Joseph Ngata, Jadon Haselwood, Charleston Rambo, Tyrie Cleveland
Brown and Smith are inarguably a top five NFL wide receiver tandem, and it wouldn't be crazy to consider them the best. They combined for 183 catches for 2,692 yards and 18 TDs in 2022. I know they're great. You know they're great. So we can probably just move past them.
The No. 3 for now is Watkins, who will have to fight off Zaccheaus in training camp. Watkins' biggest appeal is his speed, and the Eagles believe that his mere presence on the field helps stretch the field for the rest of the players in the offense. However, whether running bad routes that led to interceptions or not finishing on plays that were there to be made down the field, Watkins had a bad 2022 season. If he can't make the plays that come his way, defenses won't respect him no matter how fast he is.
Zaccheaus has good speed, but he does not have Watkins-level speed. He was a more reliable receiver for Atlanta in 2022 than Watkins was for Philly. Both players were used similarly, as Zaccheaus was often a down-the-field target in Atlanta's offense.
Covey was a punt returner only in 2022, and even if he proves at some point to be useful in the regular offense, he'll be a slot receiver only and is unlikely to offer much value on the outside. The Eagles have two slot receivers ahead of him in Watkins and Zaccheaus, so he probably won't be seeing the field anytime soon.
As for the "others," candidates to make the team in the "Zach Pascal dirty work role" include Ngata and Haselwood, a couple of undrafted rookie free agents. Allen is also a player to watch in his second season in the NFL because of his Olympic speed.
Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? If Brown or Smith go down, who starts on the outside? The Eagles say that Watkins can play inside or outside, but again, he'll have to prove that he can rebound from from a bad 2022 season. 😐
53-man roster projection: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra
Others: Dan Arnold, Tyree Jackson, Brady Russell, Dalton Keene
Goedert is a top five type of tight end, and the Eagles like Stoll as a blocking tight end who can at least make the plays that come his way in the passing game should defenses leave him alone.
Calcaterra has some receiving chops, but needs to continue to grow as a blocker. He should be in a good position to make the team once again in 2023.
Arnold is a veteran who the Eagles signed after the draft. He could compete for a roster spot as well.
Jackson was a training camp beast in 2021 before a back injury wrecked the start of his season and a torn ACL ended it. He'll probably have his last chance to regain his 2021 camp form while also trying to stay healthy.
Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles don't have a duo like they did in the Brent Celek - Zach Ertz or Ertz - Goedert days, and certainly the dropoff from Goedert to Stoll, Calcaterra, Arnold, or whoever would be steep. However, because the Eagles' offense is loaded otherwise, and because Stoll can at least hold down the fort as a blocker, a potential loss of Goedert is less devastating than it would be on a less talented offense. 😐
53-man roster projection: Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Jack Driscoll, Tyler Steen, Sua Opeta, Brett Toth
Others: Trevor Reid, Roderick Johnson, Julian Good-Jones, Cameron Tom, Tyrese Robinson, Fred Johnson, Chim Okorafor, Josh Sills (commissioner's exempt list)
The Eagles will have a camp battle for the starting RG job between Jurgens and Steen. Jurgens has to be considered the favorite at this point, but he won't just be handed the job. Should Jurgens and Steen both falter, Driscoll is heading into his fourth season, and would at least be a competent starter.
No matter who starts at RG, this is pretty clearly the best offensive line in the NFL with All-Pros at C (Kelce) and RT (Johnson), a Pro Bowler at LG (Dickerson), and an athletic behemoth at LT (Mailata) who should only continue to get better.
Driscoll is a very valuable backup, capable of playing four spots along the line who will likely land an opportunity to start with another team in free agency next offseason. Whoever doesn't win the starting RG job between Jurgens and Steen have backup value at multiple positions (Jurgens at C and OG, Steen at OG and OT). And then there's Opeta and Toth, who are back of the roster types but who have gotten their feet wet in the NFL.
Are the Eagles in good shape here relative to the rest of the league? The Eagles' offensive line depth isn't as stacked as it was a year ago, but in a league where almost every other team has a significant hole or two or three at starting spots, yeah, their depth is better than most. 👍
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