The Eagles are coming off of a disappointing four-win season and the firing of the franchise’s most beloved head coach. Those two factors are enough to pressurize any situation, but a quarterback quandary and an impatient fanbase add to Nick Sirianni‘s obstacle course. Howie Roseman’s inability to upgrade the roster and penchant for handing out burdensome contracts makes the Eagles room for improvement very narrow. The Eagles aren’t getting an offseason makeover, but there needs to be significant improvements from the roster. Here are five internal tasks the new head coach will need to navigate.
- Maximize the wide receivers- Dating back to the 2019 season the Eagles have lacked production from their wide receivers. They haven’t devoted resources in free agency to aide the position, and the recent draft picks are question marks. Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson stole reps from young unproven players, only to consistently wind up on the injury report. No matter who QB1 will be, they need more production on the outside. Travis Fulgham led the team in receiving with 539 yards, but saw his snaps diminish when Jeffery and Jackson returned to action. Fulgham provides a big-bodied target, and is clearly a building block in the new passing game. He has starting potential and should not have any overpriced veterans stealing his snaps. Quez Watkins showed some potential as a chunk-yardage speed-threat and John Hightower showed some flashes of being a vertical threat. Both players were late round value buys based on their speed. Assessing their place in the offense is only going to come via big plays. Is there anything left to squeeze out of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ? Jalen Reagor is the one player in this group that needs a pick-me-up from a new offensive outlook. Reagor left meat on the bone in his rookie year. For every glimpse of YAC potential, there’s a sloppy route or a lack of concentration. The Eagles knew they were getting a raw ,young player but there needs to be improvement with Reagor. Bubble screens, end arounds, any way to get him the ball in space, needs to be utilized heavily to unlock Reagor. Cleaning up his route running to create separation on short/intermediate routes will be a focal point in his development. Sirianni should hopefully shed some light on the question of; are the Eagles drafting terribly or can they not develop talent ?
- Win the locker room- The one inarguable strength of Doug Pederson was his ability to motivate and captivate his team. The Eagles don’t go to three straight postseasons without impactful leadership. Doug is gone. Duce Staley, the players’ choice for head coach, is gone. Jason Kelce may retire, and a quarterback dilemma will create rifts. The Eagles’ championship culture is on ice with spring around the corner. Sirianni needs to keep what the Eagles have established under the greatest coach in franchise history. The franchise is at an infliction point. The next 2-3 seasons could be signs for the next decade. Holding players to a standard on and off the field is paramount to getting the Birds back on track.
- Special Teams need to be special again- The Eagles special teams were terrible in 2020. Jake Elliott was dreadful. He missed five field goals and two PATs. Greg Ward, albeit surehanded, offers nothing as a return man. Jalen Reagor took a punt back to the house and then only returned two punts afterwards. Boston Scott always seemed to always run into his lead blocker while returning kicks. Coverage on kicks and punts was shoddy. The electric special teams of the Darren Sproles and Chris Maragos squads feel distant and extinct. The third phase of football has done the Eagles no favors. Cameron Johnston had a productive season, but his 4th most punting yards were unfortunately by way of the 3rd most punt attempts in the league. This falls under Michael Clay’s supervision more so than Sirianni’s, but regardless the ST group needs improvements.
- Unlock the defensive backs- The hallmark of Jim Schwartz’s defense was Cover-1 and Cover-3 while allowing the front-four to fly upfield. Constantly playing corners on an island leaves no choice but to cover with a “bend don’t break” mindset. The Eagles have lacked production from their d-backs because they can’t take chances undercutting routes. In 2020, Darius Slay had the lone interception by a cornerback. In 2019, the Eagles’ corners had four picks. There is a severe lack of turnovers from the backline of the defense. New Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon is coming from an Indianapolis defense that had the second best turnover margin in the NFL (+10). The new look Eagles defense needs to put the safeties and corners in positions where they aren’t always back-pedaling and allow them to gamble in pass coverage with help over top.
- Figure out the QB situation- The thing that gets lost in the Wentz vs. Hurts debate, is that two ideas can be true at the same time. Carson Wentz deserves the chance to reclaim his job and Hurts is promising, but not quite ready to be handed the keys to the car. Choosing one over the other could have major ramifications on and off the field. Sirianni must be honest and judicious about choosing QB1, because QB2 is probably asking for a trade. The longer that the starting position goes unsettled the greater risk of fracturing the locker room. If Wentz gets handed the job because Lurie and Roseman say so, Sirianni and Wentz both look like puppets. Hurts getting the nod will make the Pederson firing look even more peculiar. It’s a football decision with some politics sprinkled in. The Eagles’ QB decision is one of the NFL’s most important offseason topics. The quarterback depth chart could make or break the Eagles’ next several seasons along with the career of Nick Sirianni.