Andrew Kulp

Is the Eagles' roster better or worse in 2020?

Is the Eagles' roster better or worse in 2020?

Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We put his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.

Here's the final breakdown at each position:

Better: Quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, special teams

Worse: Running back, offensive line, defensive end, safety

So, did the Eagles as a whole get better or worse this offseason?

The short answer is, "Yes, but ..."

Yes, but perhaps only marginally better. Yes, but there are still moves the Eagles can make to improve further, such as re-signing Jason Peters or adding a Jadeveon Clowney. Yes, but plenty of teams in their conference, such as the Cardinals or Buccaneers, and even in their own division, like the Cowboys, took far greater leaps forward.

Perhaps the ultimate "Yes, but" in all is this: yes, the Eagles got better — but there aren't many teams you would look at in any given offseason and say they got substantially worse.

If the Eagles let a player go or opt to replace somebody, there's usually a reason, whether it's age, performance, whatever. Not every decision works out as planned, but the thinking is a free agent signing, a draft pick, a player returning from injury or emerging talent already on the roster can do just as good of a job, if not better. Only the teams that are tanking, like the Jaguars, or are going through a retooling period after years at the top, such as the Patriots, look like they've taken a step back in May.

So, sure, the Eagles project to have more talent. It's a little silly to claim they don't.

Love it or hate it, the Eagles backed up Carson Wentz with a second-round pick, Jalen Hurts. They got their quarterback weapons in the form of Jalen Reagor and a returning DeSean Jackson. Javon Hargrave bolsters a defensive line that was already stocked with Pro Bowlers. Trading for Darius Slay gives the defense its first elite-level cornerback in almost a decade.

The only players the Eagles lost they can't replace at this point are Peters and Malcolm Jenkins. Peters could still be back for one more year, which would probably be for the best. Jenkins is long gone. There's so much more talent everywhere else, though, so letting Jenkins walk doesn't bring down the entire house. And in both cases, the depth at those positions was bolstered by a number of offseason moves.

Shedding Nigel Bradham, Ronald Darby and Nelson Agholor is essentially addition by subtraction. Watching Jordan Howard, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Vinny Curry (the latter also a candidate to re-sign) go hurts a little more, but they're rotational/reserve players. The Eagles could even bring on another running back or D-end at some point.

This is a roster Eagles fans should feel optimstic about — its two biggest needs, receiver and corner, addressed in big ways; its offensive and defensive lines strong with opportunities to get stronger; its receiving and linebacker corps loaded with freak athletes; its running back, Miles Sanders, poised for a breakout year; and its quarterback, Wentz, healthy and backed up.

Is it a dream team? Not right now. Only the biggest fans are probably feeling like the Eagles are an obvious top-tier Super Bowl contender.

Then again, next to nobody felt that way in 2017, either.

Coming on the heels of consecutive nine-win seasons, the Eagles appear to have made only modest gains this offseason. However, there was a lot of fat to be trimmed on an aging roster with a bloated salary cap. It could be argued Roseman didn't have a one-year project on his hands here.

It can also be argued Roseman didn't need to dismantle the entire roster here. The Eagles needed to get younger, faster, healthier — and they did all of that, losing few core players in the process. Roseman didn't need to create some kind of dream team to make the Eagles a contender. The team they had went to the playoffs three years in a row and won a Super Bowl. He just needed to build on the foundation that was already in place.

In other words, yes, but ...

Yes, the Eagles are a better football team now than they were in January.

Maybe they don't look worlds better — but maybe they don't need to be.

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Are the 2020 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

Are the 2020 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We're putting his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.

The series continues with the linebacker position, where Nate Gerry is leading a youth movement.

Better

By releasing Nigel Bradham and choosing not to sign one of the veteran free agents, not only did the Eagles aggressively signal a desire to get younger at linebacker. They also wanted to get faster. They didn't address the position the way they normally do, either, signing a couple undrafted rookies and plucking special teamers and prospects off waivers and opposing teams' practice squads.

They actually invested some draft picks here.

Coming off a solid season and arguably still developing, Nate Gerry is joined by third-round selection Davion Taylor and sixth-rounder Shaun Bradley. The Eagles also dealt for former third-round choice Duke Riley in the middle of last season. Now here's the thing: all four of Gerry, Taylor, Bradley and Riley clocked sub-4.6 times in the 40-yard dash. Even the free agent the club did sign, unheralded Jatavis Brown from the Chargers, once clocked a 4.44 at the combine.

In other words, these guys are fast, whereas Bradham was slowing down from injuries and with a 31st birthday approaching.

Worse

Sometimes there's no accounting for experience, something Bradham brought to the table in the form of eight seasons in the league. Kamu Grugier-Hill was allowed to walk as well, taking four more seasons with him.

The Eagles aren't lacking experience entirely, as Gerry, Riley and Brown all have at least three years under their belts. Just nowhere near Bradham's level. Kinda scary because we don't really know whether any of them will ever be as good as Bradham at the top of his game, either.

The same

Gerry is the only real constant here, and he's coming off a fine season, perhaps even still developing.

A fifth-round pick in 2017, Gerry finished last year with 85 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 2 interceptions while playing all 17 games with a core muscle injury. The volume of missed tackles do stand out, though you could attempt to explain that away with the news after the fact he was hurt. Even if you prefer to sleep on Gerry instead, he's entering his fourth season in the defense and possesses sub-4.6 speed, so there's still upside.

Worst-case scenario, Gerry is a competent player who makes some plays and can lead the unit until somebody better comes along.

The unknown

With so many young players, there are a lot of wild cards, but the one who doesn't appear to fit the mold the Eagles are making is T.J. Edwards.

As of now, Edwards projects as a potential starter alongside Gerry. As an undrafted rookie, he looked like a tackling machine, managing to rack up 30 while only playing 11 percent of the defensive snaps, and all of that production coming after Week 5. The thing is, Edwards is on the slow side, reportedly timing in the high 4.7s, so you have to wonder if the Eagles view him as a part-time player used primarily in base defenses.

Speed isn't everything, and Edwards seems to have a natural instinct for the position. But if opponents are going to be able to throw the ball over him and around him, you can understand why the Eagles are kicking the tires on more promising athletes.

Better or worse?

Bradham was a tough, smart player. What he did in 2017 and '18, taking over for Jordan Hicks, undoubtedly gave a lot of people new appreciation for what he brought to the table. He's just getting old and beat up, and clearly the rest of the league feels the way the Eagles do, because he's still a free agent.

Somebody will give Bradham a shot in camp at least, so we probably haven't seen the last of him. At this point though, Gerry and a bunch of unproven or second-chance linebackers is probably an upgrade. Bradham gutted it out last season despite the fact he wasn't 100 percent, but it showed — and who knows if he'll ever be 100 percent again. 

Better

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Are the 2020 Eagles better or worse on the offensive line?

Are the 2020 Eagles better or worse on the offensive line?

Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman says the Eagles are a better football team after free agency and the draft. We're putting his claim to the test, breaking down the depth chart position by position to examine whether the roster really improved or actually took a step back this offseason.

The series continues with the offensive line, where the Eagles have decided to move on from Jason Peters, at least for the time being.

Better

Nothing against Jordan Mailata, Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta, who could become very good players for all we know. They just don't have the greatest pedigree. Mailata never even played football until two years ago, and the other two were undrafted free agents.

The Eagles did a smart thing — especially given Jason Peters' departure — and at least provided competition among the reserves. That meant selecting two Auburn linemen in the draft — Jack Driscoll in the fourth round and Prince Tega Wanogho in the sixth.

Driscoll is an experienced, versatile linemen who played tackle and has experience at guard too, though he's not the biggest or most athletic. Wanogho is a little more raw, but is built like a prototypical left tackle who tumbled in the draft due in part to a knee injury believed to be minor. With only Matt Pryor's spot on the bench seemingly safe, both rookies could potentially crack the roster.

Worse

No matter how high you are on Andre Dillard — and enthusiasm has definitely waned — or how down you were on Peters, there's no denying the Eagles took a step back at least in the short term.

Peters played well last season when he wasn't coming off the field with an injury. No, of course he isn't at the level he was during nine Pro Bowl seasons. Look around the NFL, though. How many teams have a better left tackle right now? Generously, that number is probably 10 and no more. So whether you're of the mind Peters constantly coming in and out of the lineup is a problem or Dillard just needs to learn and take his lumps to hopefully one day be worth of taking a first ballot Hall of Famer's place, it's an obvious downgrade.

The same

On the bright side, the Eagles anticipate returning the other four members of the O-line, three of whom are Pro Bowl-caliber players right now. Jason Kelce remains one of the best centers in the league, Lane Johnson is one of the top right tackles, and Brandon Brooks is one the best offensive linemen in the league, period. Isaac Seumalo is a pretty underrated player, too.

As good as this group is, continuity is also important for offensive lines, which means this is one instance where staying the same is almost like improving.

The unknown

We haven't seen enough of Dillard to know whether he'll live up the hype of being a top-10 talent who fell to the Eagles late in the first round in 2019. There's also been talk of Peters possibly returning, something people should warm up to since the club doesn't seem so thrilled about his successor.

Another question mark flying under the radar here is whether or not the Mailata experiment is going anywhere. It's been two years, and while the former Aussie rugby star did well in some preseason games, we have yet to see him pressed into a meaningful situation. Can Mailata play? Is he even a lock to make the roster at this point?

Better or worse?

Now that free agency has come and gone and Peters is still a free agent — not to mention all the talk of Dillard being on the trade block — I've come around on the Eagles bringing the 38-year-old back at the right price. The bottom line is, on Week 1 of 2020, he's the far superior option at left tackle.

It's good the Eagles drafted players like Driscoll and Wanogho, either of whom wind up the heir apparent should Dillard falter. With Peters, the rookies make the line a deeper unit. Without Peters, they're the tiny fire extinguishers behind the broken glass for when the building is already engulfed in flames. 

Worse 

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