Will the Eagles be able to overcome the loss of future Hall of Famer Jason Peters? Photo credit: Wayne Terry, TPL.

We are just over a month from the start of the NFL season and teams are already into their training camps. This season will be unprecedented with no preseason action to opine about. Today I’m going to project the Eagles opening day roster and compare it to last year’s opening day roster to see which position groups the Eagles improved at this off-season.

Quarterback

2019 – Carson Wentz, Josh McCown, Nate Sudfeld

2020 Projection – Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts (3) [3]

I don’t believe Jalen Hurts will be the QB2 entering the year. He has a lot of catching up to do without the benefit of rookie mini-camps or preseason action. If that is true, then the QB3 from last year is now the Eagles QB2, which isn’t an ideal development. The 2020 group has the edge in long term potential but looking at this season in a vacuum the unit has taken a step back.

Verdict: Worse

Runningback

2019 – Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement

2020 projection – Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield (4) [7]

Mile Sanders emerged as a top 10-12 RB in the league down the stretch last season and Boston Scott stepped up big when given the opportunity in Sanders’ absence. Corey Clement is a fan favorite but has really struggled to stay healthy after his rookie campaign in 2017.  Elijah Holyfield rounds out the backfield to give the Eagles a bruising, short-yardage back. There is a lot of hype around Sanders (deservedly so), but the Eagles lack the overall 1-2 punch that they had last season with Howard in the fold.  

Verdict: Worse

Wide Receiver

2019 – Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins

2020 projection – DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins (6) [13]

Alshon Jeffery starts the year on the PUP list and is unlikely to take another snap in an Eagles uniform. Jackson is back off of injury and should be fully healthy after a very small workload last season. Reagor adds legitimate talent on the outside while Hightower and Watkins bring a lot of speed. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will look to take a step forward in 2020 after a disastrous 2019 campaign. Greg Ward makes the roster as the only reliable receiving option from the end of last season. For what it is worth, I would keep Deontay Burnett over Greg Ward. He is younger and has the same skillset as Ward, but I would be shocked if the Eagles made that decision.  

This unit has potential, but there is a lot of projection required to say it will be good in 2020. That said, it can’t possibly be worse than last season.

Verdict: Better

Tight End

2019 – Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert

2020 projection – Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins (3) [16]

The Eagles have the best 1-2 punch at TE in the league and use it frequently. They called more plays with 2 TEs on the field in 2019 than anyone else in the league. Look for more of the same this year while they try to get the new WRs up to speed. 

Verdict: Push

Offensive Line

2019 – Jason Peters (LT), Isaac Seumalo (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Brandon Brooks (RG), Lane Johnson (RT), Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor, Halapoulivaati Vaitai

2020 projection – Andre Dillard (LT), Isaac Seumalo (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Jason Peters (RG), Lane Johnson (RT), Matt Pryor, Jack Driscoll, Jordan Mailata, Prince Tega Wanogho, Nate Herbig (10) [26]

The injury to Brandon Brooks was devastating to the Eagles. Can Jason Peters make the switch to RG at 38 years old? History doesn’t put the odds in his favor. Then again, the odds weren’t in his favor to make the switch from TE to OT either. If anybody can do it it is Peters. The Eagles clearly aren’t comfortable with Andre Dillard at LT and I could see a scenario where Peters moves back to his original position if Dillard struggles. Matt Pryor is the likely backup RG and RT but Jack Driscoll and Prince Tega Wanogho will both do their best to throw their hat into the ring.

Verdict: Worse

Defensive End

2019 – Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall, Shareef Miller, 

2020 projection – Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery (5) [31]

The Eagles defensive end rotation is largely unchanged after inking Vinny Curry to a 1-year deal. His signing is a big deal for the Eagles as you could argue that he had a better season than Derrick Barnett last year. Josh Sweat is the likely DE4 but likely won’t see a lot of playing time with Malik Jackson’s ability to slide outside. Hopefully Genard Avery finds some way to contribute this season. I can’t see a path for Shareef Miller to make the roster.

Verdict: Better

Defensive Tackle

2019 – Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway

2020 projection – Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway (4) [35]

The Javon Hargrave signing was surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Nobody values winning in the trenches like the Eagles do. The Eagles have an out in Malik Jackson’s contract after this season, one they will likely jump at. But for now, they have the best, most expensive DT trio in the league. Look for Jackson to rush off the edge some and don’t expect to see Brandon Graham lining up at defensive tackle much in 2020.

Verdict: Much better

Linebacker

2019 – Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown, T.J. Edwards, L.J. Fort, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill

2020 projection – Nate Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Davion Taylor, Alex Singleton (5) [40]

The Eagles LB group is horrendous. Their negligence at the LB position is astounding, especially as a team that highly values 2 TE sets and a heavy play-action offense. The best LB on the team in 2019 was L.J. Fort, who couldn’t even get on the field in Philly. After being cut, Fort played his way into a contract extension with the Ravens. The Eagles will avoid this repetition of history this season as their free-agent signee Jatavis Brown abruptly retired this week.

With Brown gone, Nate Gerry looks to be the signal-caller for the linebackers this season which isn’t ideal given his lack of instincts on the field.  T.J. Edwards is a brilliant run stopper but it remains to be seen if he can cover. Hopefully, Davion Taylor can pick up the game quickly and be able to contribute in his rookie season, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Verdict: Much worse

Cornerback

2019 – Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills (IR), Sidney Jones

2020 projection – Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas (6) [46]

Ronald Darby is finally gone and that alone makes this CB group significantly better. But the Eagles didn’t stop there, they added Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman. Coleman is a top 5 slot corner in the league and Slay has the potential to be a top 5 outside corner. Avonte Maddox likely slots in as the other outside corner.

Verdict: Dramatically improved

Safety 

2019 – Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Rudy Ford, Johnathan Cyprien

2020 projection – Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace (4) [50]

Cut Rudy Ford

In the most shocking move of the off-season besides drafting Jalen Hurts, the Eagles released Malcolm Jenkins and announced the plans to transition Jalen Mills to safety. They also signed Will Parks and drafted K’Von Wallace. I was very high on the Wallace pick and think he can develop into a future star, but the absence of Jenkins will loom large in this secondary until they prove there is a replacement on the roster.

I’m not high on Jalen Mills moving to safety, but there is merit to the idea he can succeed there. His confidence will be felt in the secondary, he is a great tackler, and he will be less mismatched athletically covering TEs instead of WRs. Hopefully he makes the transition smoothly. 

Verdict: Worse

Specialists

2019 – Rick Lovato (LS), Cameron Johnston (P), Jake Elliott (K)

2020 projection – Rick Lovato (LS), Cameron Johnston (P), Jake Elliott (K) (3) [53]

Nothing new here. The Eagles have a very good special teams unit.

Verdict: Unchanged

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

Brandon Brooks, Alshon Jeffrey, Daeshon Hall

Brandon Brooks hopes to make it back this season but it doesn’t seem likely. Alshon Jeffrey should be ready around late October if his injury follows a normal timeline. Fingers crossed that the new receivers play well enough that he never comes off the PUP list. 

COVID Opt-Out

Marquise Goodwin 

Goodwin wasn’t assured to make the roster but the lack of preseason made it much more likely. He represented some insurance against a DeSean Jackson injury and against underwhelming performances by the rookies. I would have felt better about the receivers if he was playing this year but I certainly understand his decision. Football-wise, he may benefit from sitting out an entire year and coming back fully healthy.  For now, his opt-out will represent more opportunities for rookies Watkins and Hightower.