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Offseason Team Previews

2021 Eagles Offseason Preview

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: February 16, 2021, 2:40 pm ET

My goal with the Offseason Preview series is to get caught up with each team’s 53-man roster, offensive and defensive schemes, team needs, and offseason capital within a 10-minute read. The basics will be at the top -- cap space, draft picks, cut candidates, notable departures -- and the film and analytics takes will be at the bottom. I hope to write these in a way that they’re referenceable throughout not just free agency and the NFL Draft, but also the 2021 season as we look into weekly matchups. The offseason is the time for me to get outside of our fantasy football bubble and learn more about what’s going on at the other positions. You can read the rest of my 2021 Offseason Previews here and can follow me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).

 


Eagles 2020 Recap

Eagles2020

 

Optimism surrounding the 2020 Eagles quickly sputtered after multiple injuries up front left Philly with a bottom-10 offensive line. Carson Wentz’s iffy awareness complicated things, leaving the Eagles with the No. 31 adjusted sack rate offense in 2020. The end result was the No. 27 passing EPA offense, the No. 17 rushing EPA offense, and the No. 25 scoring offense. Defensively, the unit was average despite boasting one of the premier defensive lines (4th in adjusted sack rate). The secondary, including CB1 Darius Slay, was vulnerable to the explosive pass. By year’s end, the Eagles were accused of in-game tanking and Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson lost his job. They head into the offseason with the second-lowest cap space and are likely to take on the most dead cap of any traded player in NFL history. 

 


Eagles 2021 Offseason

Notes

 

Eagles Cap Space

-$49.0 million (31st)

Eagles Draft Picks

1.06, 2.37, 3.70, 5th, 5th, 6th, 7th, plus compensatory picks

Eagles Departures

LT Jason Peters, SS Jalen Mills, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, DE Vinny Curry, DT Hassan Ridgeway, Slot WR Greg Ward, LB Alex Singleton, LB Duke Riley, LB Nate Gerry, RB Boston Scott, RB Corey Clement, TE Richard Rodgers

Eagles Cut Candidates

WR Alshon Jeffery (unknown cap savings because he just restructured), DT Malik Jackson (unknown), DeSean Jackson ($4.8M cap savings), TE Zach Ertz ($4.7M), WR Marquise Goodwin ($4.2M), CB Avonte Maddox ($2.2M)

 


Eagles Depth Chart

Position

Base Offense

Notable Backups

Personnel

11

-

% of Passes

59%

-

QB

Jalen Hurts

Carson Wentz

WR

Jalen Reagor

Alshon Jeffery

WR

DeSean Jackson

Travis Fulgham

TE

Dallas Goedert

Caleb Wilson

TE

Zach Ertz

 

RB (Early Down)

Miles Sanders

 

RB (Third Down)

Miles Sanders

Jason Huntley

LT

Andre Dillard

Jordan Mailata

LG

Isaac Seumalo

Nate Herbig

C

Jason Kelce

 

RG

Brandon Brooks

Matt Pryor

RT

Lane Johnson

Jack Driscoll

 

Offensive Coordinator: A two-tight end offense for the last half decade, the Eagles could opt for more 11-personnel under new coach Nick Sirianni, especially if Zach Ertz is cut or traded. As the offensive coordinator in Indy last year, Sirianni used both 11- (69% of pass plays) and 12-personnel (21%) with reasonable success. Overall, the Colts’ offense did nothing to stand out, ranking eighth in passing EPA, 15th in rushing EPA, 11th in neutral pass rate, and 18th in neutral pace. But even a vanilla offense that’s well coached would be an improvement from what the Eagles had last season. Philly struggled designing route concepts that would work for Carson Wentz, and they only gave Jalen Hurts half-field reads when he took over late. Projecting what this offense will look like entirely depends on who is starting. At this point, Hurts is the favorite to start Week 1 and beyond.

Passing Offense: Wentz is on the trade block -- the Colts have offered two second-round picks -- but he was 31st in passing EPA and CPOE last season out of 32 quarterbacks, so it’s unclear if GM Howie Roseman will get the first-round compensation he’s looking for. “Saving Wentz” will be easier said than done because his 2017 success came from the unstable metrics like third-down and red zone passing (link), and he looked skittish and less dynamic in the pocket last season coming off multiple injuries. If and when Hurts starts, the offense will obviously be more run-oriented, but Siriani should get more out of Hurts the passer than what Pederson was willing to give him in 2020 -- a bunch of half-field reads. Regardless of who starts at quarterback in Week 1, the Eagles must get better at receiver. Veterans Alshon Jeffery (31 years old) and DeSean Jackson (35) are clearly over the hill due to injuries, UDFA rookie Travis Fulgham was benched down the stretch, and 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor ranked 16th among 23 rookie qualifiers in yards per route run. Reagor will have every opportunity to break out in year two because there’s little target competition around him -- Philly is $49 million over the cap heading into the offseason -- but I’m not (and wasn’t) convinced he can be an NFL team’s No. 1 receiver until he gets better against man coverage. Reagor’s year two development is the biggest thing to watch outside of Philly’s quarterback controversy.

Rushing Offense: Miles Sanders has the backfield to himself right now with the rest of the depth chart headed for free agency aside from Lions’ 2020 fifth-round scatback Jason Huntley. Sanders will be at his best in games Hurts is under center with edge rushers worried about quarterback keepers, but the offensive line should be better in 2021 regardless of who is under center. Stud RT Lane Johnson only played 36% of the offensive snaps, and RG Brandon Brooks and LT Andre Dillard didn’t play any. If these three can get back in the lineup at near full health, the Eagles offensive line should take a big step forward, even if C Jason Kelce is traded, retired, or cut. They ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate last season, although a lot of that falls on Wentz taking unnecessary sacks.

 

Position

Base Defense

Notable Backups

Coverage

Cover 2???

-

% of Plays

???

-

CB

Darius Slay

Michael Jacquet

CB

Avonte Maddox

 

CB (Slot)

???

 

SS

K’Von Wallace

 

FS

Rodney McLeod

Marcus Epps

LB

T.J. Edwards

Joe Bachie

LB

Shaun Bradley

 

DT (1T)

Jason Hargrave

 

DT (3T)

Fletcher Cox

Malik Jackson

Edge (5T)

Brandon Graham

Josh Sweat

Edge (7T)

Derek Barnett

Genard Avery

 

Defensive Coordinator: Eagles DC Jim Schwartz is taking the 2021 season off from coaching, so the Eagles’ man-coverage defense from last season may not carry over under DC Jonathan Gannon. The young coach’s background is with the Colts and Vikings, two teams that have opted for two-high looks on defense. Last year, the Colts played Cover 2 zone defense on 32% of their plays, the highest rate in the NFL, while blitzing at the second-lowest rate (17%). The current roster was designed to play Cover 1 man, so it’ll be interesting to see how the defense is orchestrated. Either way, Gannon’s secondary was maximized last year in Indy. Xavier Rhodes and slot CB Kenny Moore had career years in 2020. 

Passing Defense: No. 2 corner Nickel Robey-Coleman and slot corner Cre’Von LeBlanc are both off the books, and the Eagles don’t have quality replacements. Right now, it’s Darius Slay and little else at corner. Fixing this will be an offseason priority even if the defense plays more Cover 2 zone under Gannon. At safety, fourth-round sleeper K’Von Wallace is set to replace free agent SS Jalen Mills while Rodney McLeod holds things down at free safety. Philly ranked 16th in passing EPA defense, particularly struggling against tight ends (11th worst). Up front, the Eagles have some quality pass rushers in Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat. It’s not the youngest group, however, so Philly can certainly add an edge rusher or defensive tackle in the upcoming draft. The Eagles were 4th in adjusted sack rate last year despite being 28th in blitz rate (22%). Elite.

Rushing Defense: The Eagles might’ve had the worst linebacker group of 2020, and a few of them are leaving for free agency. It’s a position of major need, one that will need to be addressed with multiple additions. Luckily for Philly, their defensive line is one of the better units in the NFL with just about everyone returning. The Eagles’ 16th-ranked rushing EPA defense was saved by DT Fletcher Cox and company. That number could be slightly worse in 2021 if the Eagles opt for more two-high looks under Gannon. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing because the NFL is all about stopping the explosive pass.

EaglesDEF

 


Eagles Team Needs

1. Linebacker(s) - Alex Singleton (750 snaps), Duke Riley (571), and Nate Gerry (479) are all free agents and arguably shouldn’t be starters in the first place. Current starters T.J. Edwards (a third-year UDFA) and Shaun Bradley (a 2020 sixth-rounder from Temple) don’t profile as long-term starting options, leaving the Eagles with two holes at linebacker. Philly was 16th in rushing EPA defense despite having a top-five defensive line last year. That partially falls on the linebackers.

2. Corner(s) - Starting slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman is a free agent, CB2 Avonte Maddox is a cut candidate ($2.2M in cap savings) and should be a backup, and CB1 Darius Slay only has one more season with guaranteed money and didn’t live up to his contract in 2020. The new coaching staff also could look for a different type of corner if they play less Cover 1 man in favor of Cover 2 zone. The Eagles were 16th in passing EPA defense last season.

3. Receiver(s) - It’s a shame the Eagles can’t find even two long-term starters at receiver. The jury is still out on first-rounder Jalen Reagor, and 2020 proved why relying on 30-plus year olds is a losing bet more times than not. Reagor, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Travis Fulgham aren’t good enough alone on the outside, and slot receiver Greg Ward is a free agent. Philly can use one more guy on the inside and outside.

4. Center - Jason Kelce is out of guaranteed money on his current contract and will be 34 years old the next time he takes the field. It’s possible he’s moved to a contender this offseason, and even if he’s not, the interior offensive line will be a spot to fill in upcoming drafts. A Day 2 or Day 3 pick would suffice.

5. Safety - Strong safety Jalen Mills is a free agent this offseason, leaving 2020 fourth-rounder K’Von Wallace as a starter. He’ll line up alongside veteran FS Rodney McLeod this season, but McLeod is not under contract beyond 2021 and will be 31 years old next season. New DC Jonathan Gannon likely wants to get younger at safety as the Eagles begin their rebuild, especially if they use more two-high looks.

 


2021 Fantasy Football Rankings

Consider these my way-too-early 2021 fantasy football ranking ranges ahead of free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, and here’s where each player ranked in PPR points, expected PPR points, and PPR points over expected last year.

Miles Sanders (RB1/2) - It was an inconsistent year two season for Sanders, who averaged 13.2 PPR points with Carson Wentz and 19.3 PPR points in the three games with Jalen Hurts (full splits column). Sanders wasn’t a bellcow in 2020, but he could see a larger snap share next season with Boston Scott, Corey Clement, and Jordan Howard set for free agency. Even if his snaps continue hovering around 75%, Sanders should have more room to run behind a healthier offensive line. He was the RB19 per game last year despite everything around him being on fire.

Dallas Goedert (TE1) - The third-year pro was the TE5 per game (12.5 PPR) on TE11 fantasy usage. Goedert arguably is a top-10 real life receiving tight end and could take another leap in the target column in 2021 with Zach Ertz questionable to return ($4.7M cap savings). In games without Ertz last season, Goedert’s expected PPR points went from 10.9 to 12.7. That +1.8 expected PPR points difference would lock Goedert into the top-five fantasy tight end conversation. He’ll be 26 years old in 2021.

Jalen Reagor (WR4) - Among 105 WR qualifiers, Reagor was the WR82 in PPR points per game and the WR95 in PPR points over expected (an efficiency stat) last season. He was a no-show in the box score despite facing little target competition, and he looked like an average athlete with below-average size on tape to me. Between having an offseason, playing behind a better offensive line, and playing for a better coaching staff, Reagor should be noticeably better in 2021 and there might even be less target competition with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson being cut candidates. Reagor will be treated as a No. 1 receiver. I’m not convinced he can handle it, but the volume should get him into the flex conversation and my talent evaluation certainly can be wrong.

Jalen Hurts (QB1/2) - The second-round rookie played meaningful snaps in four games. He scored 19.3, 37.8, 18.6, and 16.3 in them for an average of 23.0 fantasy points. Obviously that’s a small sample, but his 11.5 carries per game average gives him a QB1 fantasy ceiling even if he’s an average to below-average passer. His price going into the 2021 season will be tied to how many games he starts. Coach Nick Siriani worked under coach Frank Reich, who led Carson Wentz to a near-MVP season in 2017, but the front office is also listening to phone calls about Wentz. Former Eagles president Joe Banner believes Wentz will be gone before Week 1, so the path to Hurts’ fantasy ceiling may be clearer than what most think. He’s the ultimate boom-bust quarterback in a game that often rewards people taking risks.

Carson Wentz (QB2/3) - It may be a painful process, but Wentz is likely to get moved before the NFL Draft. Whether it’s Indianapolis, Chicago, or elsewhere, Wentz’ 2021 situation is likely to be similar to his less-than-ideal 2020 situation where he was the QB21 per game while throwing to dusty veterans and struggling youngsters. Assuming Wentz is traded, he is likely to get a full season as the starter, solely based on his contract and the capital it will reportedly take to trade for him (a first-rounder or a couple of second rounders). Betting on a turnaround is a big risk, but weirder things have happened. He ranks 29th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks since 2018 (when he returned from his back injury) in both passing EPA per dropback and completion percentage over expected. 

Zach Ertz (TE2/3) - Cutting or trading Ertz before June 1 would save the Eagles $4.7 million against the cap, and his emotions following the 2020 season suggested an offseason move is inevitable. Ertz was 43rd out of 48 tight ends in yards per route run last season, but he may land another starting job in 2021 on name brand alone. It’s Fantasy 101 to bet against 30-year-old tight ends who have already shown decline.

Travis Fulgham (WR6) - Fulgham averaged more PPR points (9.5) and was more efficient (WR69 in PPR points over expected) than Reagor last season, but he fell out of the starting lineup late in the season. Fulgham has a semi-realistic chance of starting in 2021 with cap casualties Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson possibly joining slot WR Greg Ward as free agents. The Eagles don’t have the money to sign any notable receiver free agents either.