What Now? An early offseason look at the Eagles’ Offense.
After a disappointing 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles are left with a ton of questions heading into the offseason. On the bright side, the team has found some answers throughout the season as well.
One of those answers has been at the Quarterback position.
CARSON CARSON CARSON…
Carson Wentz once again showed why he is a franchise quarterback. Throughout the season, he has answered critics’ questions about his leadership, accuracy, ability in the clutch. Despite last Sunday’s concussion from a questionable hit, he’s responded to the question about his durability.
Carrying an offense ravaged by injuries on his back for the final month of the season answered many questions from the anti-Wentz trolls that seemed to be so vocal whenever convenient. Was he perfect? Absolutely not. But he proved he definitely is the guy going forward.
AND EVERYONE ELSE?
How about every other position on the team? That’s a different story.
The team, in its entirety, needs an upgrade in speed and athleticism. Both sides of the ball are painfully slow at key positions. Also, a youth movement is long overdue.
Looking at the offensive line, there are some question marks and reasons for hope. The biggest question is the future of All-Pro Center, Jason Kelce. Kelce wrestled with the notion of retirement last offseason. After the Seahawks game, Kelce stayed behind at his locker. Every other player had showered, dressed, did interviews, and left. But the was Kelce still sitting at his locker still in his uniform like he didn’t want to take it off. Since then, Kelce has gone dark, refusing to speak to reporters. Certainly, it seems like the actions of a man contemplating serious decisions.
A reason for hope would be the play of rookie LT, Andre Dillard. The rookie stepped in for an injured Jason Peters and held his own, showing the athletic ability and polish that the Eagles fell in love with. With the future Hall of Famer Jason Peters likely to move on, Dillard is expected to carry on the high-level play at LT for the foreseeable future. LG, Isaac Seumalo turned in a solid season as the unquestioned starter. The former 2016 third-round pick finally seemed to put it all together, mixing his strength and athleticism with newfound technical expertise.
On the other side of the offensive line RG Brandon Brooks and RT Lane Johnson, two of the best in the league at their respective positions had their seasons cut short due to injury. However, they are on schedule to be back to one hundred percent by the time training camp comes around. The Eagles also have a few developmental players who, at the very least, should provide good depth. Overall the offensive line is not a significant concern going forward.
At Running Back, the big question is whether or not to bring back Jordan Howard, who the team traded for a year ago. Howard was effective as a north/south runner with power, but missed the latter part of the season with a stinger and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. It’s fair to question whether Howard is a fit for what the Eagles like to do on offense. The Eagles like to throw the ball to their backs, and Howard simply isn’t a threat in the passing game. Also, being an unrestricted free agent, does Howard even want to come back knowing he’ll likely split carries with Miles Sanders?
Speaking of Sanders, the rookie out of Penn State was a revelation. He proved himself to be a dangerous weapon as a runner as well as a receiver. The coaching staff was enamored with Sanders since spring mini-camps, and we can see why. Often times Sanders was the only threat on offense and still produced. The kid still has to get stronger and more durable, but the future is bright for him. Another pleasant surprise at RB is Boston Scott. The 5’6″, 200lb Back came off the practice squad and quickly proved he belongs on the big stage. Functioning as a runner and receiver, Scott used his great quickness to make himself a mismatch for opposing defenses. Overall the RB position has talent but may need a little more of a power runner, depending on whether Jordan Howard returns or not. Not a major need but undoubtedly worth monitoring.
And then there is the Wide Receiver position…
To put it simply, the ENTIRE position needs an overhaul. Lack of talent, lack of speed, you name it, they lack it. On top of the lack of talent, there were apparent chemistry issues between receivers Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholar, and Carson Wentz. From the outside looking in, it seemed like Carson lost faith in his receivers because of the myriad of drops.
Additionally, his receivers were frustrated with Carson because he focused on his favorite target, Zach Ertz, instead of them. Again that’s just me spitballing, but there was a clear disconnect. So much so that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that neither player will be back in this offense.
The guys from the practice squad seized an opportunity, put their best foot forward, and deserve applause for their efforts. But still, the Eagles cannot come into next season with this same roster.
Greg Ward is the exception. The former Houston QB has opened some eyes and proven to be a viable option as a slot receiver. I’m excited to see him next season. Second-round pick, JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a disappointing rookie season and still needs to prove that he’s an NFL caliber player. Judging from his play at Stanford, it was pretty clear the type of player JJ was. He was a jump ball, contested catch guy.
His strength was boxing out defensive backs and using his size to make the catch. Speed was never his game; precision route-running would never be his strong suit. The Eagles knew that when they drafted him (at least they should have). But the most staggering thing about JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s lack of production was his inability to master the playbook, the main reason he couldn’t get on the field was the coaches simply didn’t trust him.
Hopefully, he puts the work in during the offseason because receivers the Eagles passed on in favor of JJ are making them look bad right now. Veteran, DeSean Jackson is expected to be back next season but by no means should be counted on mainly because of age and injury history. This position needs new blood and should be a top priority for the Eagles headed into the offseason.
Finally, Tight End…
This position appears to be the most stable. You have the starter Zach Ertz who is one of the best in the league. His route running and toughness is second to none. Playing 61 snaps in a playoff game with two broken ribs and a lacerated kidney is a testament to the type of player he is. Backing up, Ertz is ultra-talented Dallas Goedert. Goedert excels in the areas of the game that Ertz lacks in, blocking and running after the catch.
General Manager, Howie Roseman has made it clear that he plans to feature this lethal duo for years to come. Rounding out the position is Joshua Perkins, who showed his versatility by stepping in at Wide Receiver and making himself a reliable target. The ability to play WR as well as TE as a backup is a tremendously valuable commodity for the Eagles and the main reason Perkins has hung around.
To sum things up, the Wide Receiver position needs a ton of work. The other positions could use some minor tweaking going forward. We’ll see what Howie does in the offseason.
Next up, I’ll tackle the Defense. Stay tuned…