Full disclosure here. Even though I was raised as a disappointed Bears fan by my dad, if it was not for his influence out of all the team's in my area I would have probably became an Eagles fan. Mostly, out of spite to the terrible Giants and Jets fans from the area so I may be a bit more biased in the direction of praise for this club. Honestly, though why not be impressed by this team and how they have conducted themselves in recent years. They smartly ousted Chip Kelly after trying to be smarter than the whole league and hired Doug Pederson who is an Andy Reid disciple to bring back some continuity within the organization. They then went on to trade away Sam Bradford for a first round pick after trading up to get Carson Wentz and smartly also determined he was ready to start right away. I will be the first to say I was a bit of a doubter on Wentz coming out of small school North Dakota St, but on closer inspection I should have been more on his bandwagon. For starters he stayed in school for five years and gained invaluable knowledge soaking up the pro style offense up there and how to take care of the ball to be successful. Then after displaying good size and arm strength along with the confidence needed to be a top quarterback. I see a lot of success in this young quarterbacks future and in a few years I think people will look back and see him as the best out of this new wave of young quarterbacks.
Their offense around Wentz needed a lot of help after a season where they started great out of the gate and eventually stumbled down the finish line. Part of that was his stud tackle Lane Johnson being suspended, but a lot of that was due to his poor skill position teammates. Their line is talked highly about in the media for some reason and guys like Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks are the biggest culprits for being overpraised. Their tackles are two of the best in the league if they stay healthy, but the interior of the line needs a lot of work for Wentz to continue to develop. I did love what they did with his receiving corp bringing in oft-injured Alshon Jeffrey on a one year deal where I can see him being a good crutch for Wentz to lean on as he develops. Plus, on a one year deal I bet Jeffrey will do his best to stay healthy and produce for that bigger contract next season. I expect their rookies either Shelton Gibson or Mack Hollins to see the field sooner than later as well since Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor are both on the hot seat after their terrible seasons last year. Torrey Smith is a nice flyer pick up too where he can benefit not being the only viable receiving option like he was in San Francisco. Their running game however, is where I am very worried about with this team. They are expected to lean upon oft-injured Ryan Mathews and goal line back LaGarrett Blount ....yuk. To me Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnel Pumphrey are all the same products where they are change of pace backs. I expect the run game to be their demise in many games they try to close out in the 4th quarter.
The defense is another unit to me that is a work in progress after losing some talented defenders over the years and changing the scheme twice in just a handful of years. I love their defensive line where from left to right they have viable pass rushers with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long at the end spots. Then you have Fletcher Cox, and Timmy Jernigan on the inside create a pretty formidable front. Their linebacking group has some talent with Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, but they can definitely use more talent there. However, in the modern era of football the linebacking position especially ones off the line are some of the least impactful players on the total game. I am a bit 50/50 on their secondary as well where I like their safety unit with Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. I also like their 7th round find in Jalen Mills at corner, but he should strictly be a slot corner at his size. However, the Eagles have no one else good enough to push him inside with the likes of Patrick Robinson and Ron Brooks being potential starters.
I can see this team end up with a 9-7 record, but that is me expecting them to split games with the team's in their conference. However, I realize their defense is probably not good enough to keep up with the other offenses in their division. Their offense should be good enough to compete with the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins, which is why I expect them to be competitive. They have easy match ups against the Cardinals, Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Bears, and Rams who I think they should come away with wins. In the end, I expect this team to have the upward trajectory like the Titans and Raiders have had in recent years.
1 (14) - Derek Barnett DE - I loved Barnett coming into the draft and was happy to see him not slide as far as some pundits were expecting. I also think he landed in a perfect spot for him where they already have a few other pass rushers to take attention away from Barnett. Sooner rather than later I expect him to be a steady producer from run stopping to sacking the quarterback. He has a great combination of size, speed, and a wealth of savvy pass rush moves to make him one of the more complete players coming out the draft. I will admit his upside is not as high as other first rounders being a pretty finished product other than that he should have a solid career.
2 (11) - Sidney Jones CB - I know Jones will probably not play this season coming off of a silly Achilles' tear doing a practice drill at his Pro Day that he has already did at the Combine. Oh well, it's Philly's gain by getting a first round player here in the second round who can help them down the road. He has the potential to be a chippy shut down corner when healthy and if he plays well out of the gate next year then not having him for a year will not have been a bad pill to swallow.
3 (35) - Rasul Douglas CB - Another savvy draft move by the Eagles here. They drafted Jones, but knowing he will not be ready for a year and this being a loaded corner draft they draft another potential starter. At his size and with some raw technique coming out of West Virginia where many of their players are good athletes, but not good football players yet. Douglas can be a top corner, but I would rather him be the number two across from Jones next year. He will be forced to play this year to help supplement Jalen Mills and his smaller stature. I expect him to have an up and down season his rookie year.
4 (12) - Mack Hollins WR - People and scouts love those big tall red zone targets coming out of college and Hollins has that sort of upside. At 6'4" and 224 lbs he maybe too slow to be a go to receiver in my opinion. To me he has a lot of Devin Funchess and others like him written all over him, which I am not a huge fan of. Hollins may see the field if Jordan Matthews or Nelson Agholor continue to have their drop issues. In the end, I can see him being either a hit or miss type of player who can be out of the league quick.
4 (26) - Donnel Pumphrey RB - I know this kid was a great story as an undersized back lighting it up in college on a team that runs the ball a lot at San Diego St. However, in the NFL I do not see very much success for him especially on a team with Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood who are both similar style backs to the rookie. Maybe he can carve out a role like Danny Woodhead being a pass catcher more than a runner, but I would have rather seen the Eagles go after a real running back who can tote the rock.
5 (22) - Shelton Gibson WR - I actually love this pick a whole lot more than the Hollins selection the round prior. Gibson is an electric pass catcher who can be put outside, inside, or behind the line in trick plays. He may need time since I mentioned prior that West Virginia produces very good athletes, but it takes some time for them to learn proper technique due to their simple playbook. I do worry about his slight size and I doubt he will ever be a true number one receiver, but he can be a good compliment option.
5 (41) - Nate Gerry S - They needed some safety depth behind Jenkins and McLeod who both have some injury issues. Plus, Jenkins is a rapidly aging talent who may need a replacement sooner than later. Gerry is a nice instinctive player who can have a nice career as a back up option and more so being a special team start.
6 (31) - Elijah Qualls DT - After losing the likes of Bennie Logan and others over the years new life on the interior of the line was kind of needed. I liked their move to trade for Timmy Jernigan, but he has been up and down throughout his career. Qualls will best be served as a run stuffer, but I think his lack of arm length and height will hamper him from being as good as he could be.
2018 Off Season:
The Eagles are in a good situation where I think the Giants will begin to decline due to Eli Manning coming to the end of his career and OBJ possibly gouging their salary cap. Meanwhile, the Redskins may continue to be dysfunctional and lose Kirk Cousins. Leaving only the Cowboys on the upswing in the division, but I also worry about their defense and lack of quality talent on that side of the ball. I think it's between whoever gets a better defense first between the Cowboys and Eagles for who has the most immediate success. I also think the Eagles need to give Carson Wentz a better line to keep him upright and a running back to make the offense more balanced. If they continue to draft well like the Titans and Raiders have they could be another good young team to watch out for in the next decade.
My 2018 Mock Selections:
1 (19) - Derrius Guice RB LSU