2018 Philadelphia Eagles Season Preview
By Chris Cothron
HB LeGarrette Blount, HB Kenjon Barner, WR Marcus Johnson, TE Brent Celek, TE Trey Burton, OT William Beatty, DT Beau Allen, OLB Najee Goode, MLB Dannell Ellerbe, MLB Mychal Kendricks, CB Patrick Robinson, K Caleb Sturgis, P Donnie Jones
QB Christian Hackenberg, QB Joe Callahan, HB Matt Jones, WR Mike Wallace, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Kamar Aiken, TE Richard Rodgers, OG Chance Warmack, DE Michael Bennett, DT Haloti Ngata
Round 2 Pick 49
Dallas Goedert TE South Dakota State
Grade - B+
I’m not the biggest fan of Goedert but there was talks of him possibly going in round one so he provides a decent value pick at this spot. The Cowboys were also rumored to be ready to take Goedert so jumping in front of their rival and taking their guy is another huge plus. Philly lost both Trey Burton, and Brent Celek this offseason so Goedert will battle veteran free agent pickup Richard Rodgers for the second TE role. He has a very promising kill set as a receiver so he and Zach Ertz should be a great intermediate duo of weapons for Carson Wentz.
Round 4 Pick 125
Avonte Maddox CB Pitt
Grade - B
Philly lost Patrick Robinson this offseason which was a huge blow to the secondary. Sidney Jones figures to be a solid replacement but depth was needed behind him so Maddox makes a ton of sense here.
Round 4 Pick 130
Josh Sweat DE Florida State
Grade - A+
Sweat is an incredible talent but comes with injury concerns. He has a first round skill set and The Eagles are the perfect fit since he can learn from the veterans on their stacked Defensive Line while adjusting to the pros. As long as he keeps his health in check, Sweat could end up being an excellent value pick.
Round 6 Pick 206
Matt Pryor OT TCU
Grade - B
Pryor is talented but never quite put it all together at TCU. He’ll get some great coaching in Philly so perhaps he’ll finally live up to his potential as a pro.
Round 7 Pick 233
Jordan Mailata OT Australia
Grade - A
A professional Rugby star, Mailata has never played organized American Football. That being said, he’s a very intriguing project player with his crazy combination of size and athleticism. I love this decision to take a 7th Round flyer on him.
Overall Draft Grade - B+
Rewind to Week 14 of the 2017 NFL Season when The Eagles and Rams, both red hot teams led by their young franchise signal caller played the first of what should be many showdowns between Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. Wentz ultimately outlasted the guy taken over him but on his game clinching TD scramble tore his ACL, effectively ending his season and seemingly The Eagles championship hopes. Things looked even more bleak after backup Nick Foles struggled in both games against Dallas and Oakland. However, Foles played better in The Eagles’ divisional round win over the Falcons and took advantage of his defense’s dominance over Minnesota in the NFC title game. It was The Super Bowl where Foles really shined however, as he took home MVP honors with his performance. He completed 28 of his 43 attempts for 373 Yards 3 TDs and 1 pick which was his only mistake of the game. He also caught a TD pass! If Wentz isn’t 100 percent by the season opener vs Atlanta I’m sure The Eagles will be fine starting Foles for a few weeks. Wentz would have most likely won MVP over Tom Brady in 2017 if not for the injury so expect him to pick up where he left off and put together another terrific campaign.
The biggest reason Foles was able to tear The Patriots defense apart in the big game was the great protection he received. He stood completely comfortable and confident in the pocket all night, and wasn’t sacked a single time despite no holding penalties called against his team. What’s scary is Philly’s blocking looks to be even better in 2018 with future Hall Of Fame Left Tackle Jason Peters set to return after being lost early on with an injury last year. Starting across from him is Lane Johnson, the best Right Tackle in the NFL. He has been dominant these past two seasons and there’s a reason the offense hasn’t played as well when he wasn’t on the field. Guard Brandon Brooks went to The Pro Bowl in 2017 thanks to a excellent season where he inserted his name among the league’s top players at the position. Stefan Wisniewski will once again be his running mate and he’s done a good job reviving his career with The Eagles. Sandwiches between them is Jason Kelce who continues to serve as a great leader and blocker.
Philly made a surprise move at last year’s trade deadline adding former Dolphins Running Back Jay Ajayi. The powerful young back was a key contributor and wanted to take on a bigger work load in his contract year but that won’t be the case. Corey Clement has emerged as a useful and shifty pass catching back and Darren Sproles is the other veteran along with Peters that will return after missing all of last season. Sproles is 35 and had already begun showing signs of decline so if he proves to be washed up expect 2017 4th rounder Donnel Pumphrey to get those touches as Pederson and his staff are reportedly very high on him.
Not only will Philly be welcoming back Peters and Sproles but they’ve also upgraded at Wideout with Mike Wallace replacing the drop heavy Torrey Smith. Wallace isn’t as skilled as he once was but is still a nice downfield target and home run threat. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor return as the primary receivers. Jeffrey is a big, strong possession receiver who failed to crack 800 receiving yards last year but caught 9 TDs. Agholor on the other hand looked to be another Chip Kelly bust but followed up a promising training camp with a breakout year, hauling in 62 grabs for 768 yards and 8 TDs. Tight End Zach Ertz also has a career year, and was clearly Wentz’s favorite target. He led the team in receiving, grabbing 74 receptions for 824 yards and 8 scores. Brent Celek retired this offseason but Second Round rookie Dallas Goedert could provide an immediate upgrade in the passing game.
Philadelphia already had arguably the league’s deepest Defensive Line and pulled off an armed robbery trading a mere 5th round pick and a no name receiver for Pro Bowl Defensive End Michael Bennett. Bennett has had some recent troubles off the field but remains one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. Brandon Graham put an exclamation point on his terrific 2018 campaign with the Super Bowl clinching sack on Tom Brady. Veteran Chris Long was very solid in rotation a year ago and 2017 first rounder Derek Barnett looks like a future star. Josh Sweat was also added through the draft to eventually become part of the pass rush. In the interior another addition key was made in versatile pro bowler Haloti Ngata. Ngata no longer can get after the QB effectively but is still very stout against the run. He will provide some very nice depth behind Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan. Cox faced constant double teams in 2017 but still managed to notch 5.5 sacks while once again being a major force against the run. Jernigan disappointed in his first season as an Eagle but was still signed to and extension so the coaching staff is obviously still high on him.
It’s amazing Philadelphia won it all last year with all the year long injuries they had to key players. On defense the big loss was Middle Linebacker Jordan Hicks who is one of the NFL’s top players in coverage at his position. His return will be very much welcomed and the team also re-signed Nigel Bradham whose coming off a great 2017 season. The weak link in the stop unit is the other outside backer spot where Paul Worrilow was signed to play but will miss all of 2018 with injury. Either Joe Walker or Nathan Gerry will take over instead though neither one is very good.
Ronald Darby suffered a sophomore slump in 2016 following his Rookie Of The Year campaign. The Eagles traded for him late last offseason and the move proved to be a very key addition. He plays very physical and has some solid ball skills. Jalen Mills made a name for himself as a favorite of Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz and worked hard to become a starter last season. What he lacks in size and athleticism he more than makes up for with his huge heart and endless motor. Patrick Robinson was an awesome nickel and will be missed but Sidney Jones is a terrific young talent with plenty of room to grow as long as he stays healthy. Malcolm Jenkins is an elite hard hitting Safety and his running mate Rodney McLeod is one of the league’s most underrated DBs.
The Special Teams:
Jake Elliott had some down moments during his rookie season but played well enough to take Caleb Sturgis’ job and help his team win a Super Bowl. He nailed 26 of his 31 tries including 5 of 6 from 50+. Punter Donnie Jones retired after finally winning that elusive ring. Cameron Johnston impressed the team enough for them to hold on to him as Jones’ successor which isn’t too surprising considering he led the Big 10 in NET average as a senior in 2016. Darren Sproles return will make a big difference in the return game where he’s excelled throughout his career. Corey Clement didn’t get too many opportunities as a returner in 2017 but that should change this season.
Not since the 2014 Seahawks as a team looked as likely to repeat as The Eagles. All they did this offseason as get better and nobody in the NFC East looks capable of taking their crown. Philadelphia needs to be prepared for the target that will be on their head and understand they’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. The NFC is stacked so The Eagles can’t afford to let their foot off the gas. As long as Pederson keeps his team focused, a repeat seems like a huge possibility.
13-3 1st Place NFC East