5 possible breakout candidates for Eagles in 2018

5 possible breakout candidates for Eagles in 2018

In the 2017 Super Bowl season, Nelson Agholor went from first-round bust to legitimate dangerous weapon. 

There’s no question that he was the breakout performer from the 2017 season, although there were plenty of other candidates. What Agholor did last season, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns, was remarkable. 

With Agholor’s performance last year in mind, let’s take a look ahead at five candidates to have a breakout season in 2018: 

Dallas Goedert
He’s a rookie tight end in a system that’s incredibly demanding on tight ends, he’s behind a Pro Bowler on the depth chart and he’s coming from the FCS. That doesn’t sound like a promising combination for picking a breakout player. But Goedert could end up being an impact player. 

While he went to South Dakota State, he played in a complex college offense. And even though he’s behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart, there’s still going to be plenty of opportunity with Trey Burton and Brent Celek gone. There might be a learning curve, but Goedert has a chance to make an impact immediately, especially in the red zone, where his athleticism ought to take over (see story)

Derek Barnett
Entering his second season, Barnett still appears to have the chance to be special. He turned in a five-sack rookie season and has the ability to add more to that. Barnett might be penciled in behind Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett on the depth chart, but defensive line coach Chris Wilson said earlier this season that he expects Barnett to compete for a starting gig. That’s pretty high praise, thinking he could knock off Pro Bowl-caliber starters. 

What really impressed Wilson about Barnett is that he kept getting better as an all-around player last year, even as he played through a sports hernia. Barnett can be a three-down player in the NFL because he has the ability to pass-rush and stuff the run, which both are very important in Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

Sidney Jones 
Howie Roseman during the draft said he kind of viewed Jones as a part of this year’s draft class after the talented corner basically red-shirted last season coming off an Achilles tear. Jones doesn’t consider himself a rookie, though. He’s been in the Eagles’ building for over a year and has a really good grasp of the defense and the corner position in the defense. 

Even if Jones doesn’t become the Eagles’ slot cornerback, I don’t think they can keep him off the field. Barring injury, I think he’s going to play a lot in 2018 and has a chance to show people why he would have been a first-round pick last spring. 

Mack Hollins
The problem for Hollins might be less about ability and more about opportunity. Because he’s behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Agholor on the depth chart and Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson could possibly steal snaps from him. But the Eagles like Hollins, who had just 16 catches and one touchdown during his rookie season. In last year’s playoffs, Hollins had just one catch for nine yards. 

So why might he have a chance to break out? Well, to start, Hollins does have some big-play ability. That’s part of why the Eagles drafted him and he’s still the team’s fourth receiver. The other reason is that Doug Pederson hired his former college position coach, Gunter Brewer, to coach Eagles receivers. That’s a two-sided argument. First, having Brewer around should help Hollins. Second, it might give some idea of how much the Eagles like the second-year wideout. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill 
This will be Grugier-Hill’s third season with the Eagles after having played just 86 defensive snaps over his first two seasons in the NFL. But for now, he appears to be in the lead to take the weakside linebacker spot vacated by Mychal Kendricks. Remember, the team will also be without Nigel Bradham in the opener, giving Grugier-Hill another possible chance.

And there’s plenty to like about Grugier-Hill. The Hawaiian special teamer is a really impressive athlete and has really good coverage ability for a linebacker, having played safety at Eastern Illinois. The Eagles really like his athleticism and it might be time to see it show on defense, not just special teams. 

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Eagle Eye Podcast: What to expect from Andy Weidl?

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagle Eye Podcast: What to expect from Andy Weidl?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro discuss what Eagles' fans should expect from Andy Weidl taking over for Joe Douglas.

The guys break down their 53-man roster projection.

Also, Dave's international vacation plan.

1:30 - How does Andy Weidl fill Joe Douglas' void?
5:30 - Jeff Lurie's vision.
13:00 - Eagles' stability as a franchise has been a separator.
19:30 - Impact of Joe Douglas taking the Jets job.
29:00 - 53-man roster projection.

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

The franchise quarterback returns, while a Philadelphia legend departs. Will the Eagles be better or worse under center in 2019?

Key addition: Clayton Thorson (draft, fifth round) 
Key departure: Nick Foles (free agent, Jaguars)

Why they could be better: Carson Wentz is finally healthy

Wentz’s struggles in 2018 – as much as a 69.6 completion percentage, 7.7 yards per pass attempt and 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio can be described as struggling – were easy to see coming. He was a third-year quarterback only nine months removed from a torn ACL and spent the majority of the offseason rehabbing rather than working on his timing in the offense and building a rapport with receivers. No doubt he was putting unrealistic pressure on himself, too.

The injury is finally behind Wentz though, as is the broken back bone that shelved him in December. He’s entering his fourth season, so his comfort level in the offense should be nearing its peak, and he has all spring and summer to get on the same page with his numerous weapons. With his health and contract situations resolved, all Wentz needs to worry about now is playing football – which, as you might recall, he’s pretty good at.

Why they could be worse: Unproven backup

The Eagles really like Nate Sudfeld. They promoted him from the practice squad to the 53-man roster during the 2017 season to prevent another team from signing him. They let him serve as the backup quarterback in the Super Bowl. And they tendered him at a second-round level as a restricted free agent this offseason, effectively ensuring his return while paying him over $3 million.

This will be Sudfeld’s third year in the system, so he should know what he’s doing at least. Yet, the fact is he’s attempted just 25 passes in the NFL. There’s simply no telling how good he is. It’s nothing like bringing Nick Foles off the bench. He had won 24 games, threw 66 touchdown passes and went to a Pro Bowl before adding Super Bowl MVP to his resume. Sudfeld has talent and familiarity with the offense, plus a quality supporting cast. He probably wouldn’t be a disaster, but could he save the Eagles’ season if called upon? Impossible to say.

The X-factor: Can Wentz stay healthy for 16-plus games?

People are quick to throw around the injury prone label, often unfairly, but Wentz has been seriously hurt in each of his last four seasons going back to college. He broke a bone in his throwing wrist at North Dakota State, suffered a hairline rib fracture in preseason during his rookie year (though he played all 16 regular season games), then had the ACL and the back. Injury prone or not, that’s an alarming trend.

These are unrelated injuries, so it’s possible Wentz has been unlucky. It’s also very likely the Eagles’ fortunes this season are hinging on this hope. Wentz could help himself by getting rid of the ball quicker on occasion or giving up on a few more plays. Then again, he’s the quarterback. He’s going to get hit sometimes. All anybody can do is wait and see if he keeps getting up.

Are the Eagles’ quarterbacks better or worse?

The overall talent in the room undeniably dips with Foles’ departure. Yet, ideally, Wentz is the only signal caller taking meaningful snaps for the Eagles, and he should take another step forward in 2019 provided he can stay on the field. This is a matter of perspective, but to me, having an MVP-caliber quarterback at 100 percent is far more important than the guys sitting on the bench. 


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