Eagles

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. 

BETTER

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

This is our first in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL.

Today: Fletcher Cox
Saturday, July 20: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 44 ½ sacks in 109 career games, ninth-most among active NFL defensive tackles.

Postseason numbers: Cox had one sack during the 2017 Super Bowl run but had six quarterback hits in the three playoff games.

Honors: Cox has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last four years and this past season was a first-team all-pro for the first time.

Favorite stat: Cox is only the ninth Eagle in franchise history to make four Pro Bowls before his 29th birthday and the first defensive lineman to do it since Reggie White.

Records and rankings

• Cox is sixth in franchise history in sacks. This past season he passed Andy Harmon (39 ½) for the most sacks in Eagles history by an interior lineman.

• Cox’s 10 ½ sacks last year are third-most in Eagles history by a defensive lineman, behind only Harmon in both 1993 (11 ½) and 1995 (11.0).

• This past season he became only the second player the Eagles have drafted since 1992 with double-digit sacks in a season. The other is Trent Cole.

Cox is one of only four defensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons. The others are defensive tackles Geno Atkins of the Bengals, Jurrell Casey of the Titans and Aaron Donald of the Rams.

• Only seven Eagles in history have longer streaks of Pro Bowls than Cox: White (7), Pete Pihos (6) and Chuck Bednarik, Donovan McNabb, Tommy McDonald, Mike Quick and Troy Vincent (5 each). White is the only defensive lineman in Eagles history who was picked to more Pro Bowls.

Analysis 

Cox is at the same point now that Jason Peters was in his prime. He’s so dominating that he’s going to make the Pro Bowl every year that he’s healthy.

Cox is in his prime right now and let’s conservatively give him three more Pro Bowls. That would give him seven in his career, and taking a look at the 15 tackles in NFL history who made seven Pro Bowls, 13 of the 14 who are eligible have already been enshrined in Canton.

He’s already won a Super Bowl, made four Pro Bowls, been an all-pro and piled up 44 ½ sacks, and he’s only 28 and still getting better. And the Hall of Fame voters probably won’t consider it, but Cox is a beast against the run, as good a run stopper as we’ve seen in an Eagles uniform.

The biggest thing working against Cox is Aaron Donald, who is the best tackle in the game. Donald already has 59 ½ sacks in just five years, including 20 ½ last year. If the voters look back 10 years from now they may conclude that Donald was the elite defensive tackle of this generation and hold that against Cox.
 
But Cox is on his way to becoming an all-timer in his own right, and if he keeps stringing together Pro Bowl seasons and adds a couple more all-pro first-team honors it’s going to be impossible to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Is the 2019 Eagles roster the best we’ve seen under Doug Pederson?

Is the 2019 Eagles roster the best we’ve seen under Doug Pederson?

Over the last two years, the Eagles have been one of the top teams in the NFL, winning Super Bowl LII and then getting into the second round of the playoffs last year. They have 26 wins in the last two seasons, behind just the Patriots with 29. 

And the Eagles fully expect to compete for a championship this season. Based on the roster Howie Roseman put together, this team should be in the mix to win Super Bowl LIV in Miami. 

So before the team broke for summer, Doug Pederson was asked a pretty simple question: Is this the best roster the Eagles have had since he became head coach? 

From a talent-wise (standpoint), you know, yeah, I mean, I would say that it's pretty good. I would say that, you know, from a skill position on offense (standpoint), it's probably the best we've had going into my fourth season. 

“From a depth standpoint, as I mentioned earlier, I think it's equivalent to what we had going into the 2017 season. 

“But listen, all that can change in a heartbeat, as we know. This is a violent sport, violent game … and I'm not going to sit here and make predictions and put our team in a box that way, but we still have to go coach and play games, obviously. But on paper, it appears that way.

Pederson is right. On paper, you can certainly argue that this is the best roster he’s had. 

But he’s also right that injuries can change everything. That was the special thing about the 2017 season: despite injuries to many key players, the Eagles continued to roll. If Pederson is correct, that the depth on this roster equals the depth on the 2017 roster, that’s pretty damn important. 

Pederson also undersold how good his skill position players are this season by using the word “probably” before saying they’re the best he’s had. They are the most talented group he’s had. Period. And this collection of receivers should be the best in Eagles’ history. 

Let’s take a closer look at the top skill position players heading into all four seasons under Pederson: 

2016: Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton 

2017: Wentz, Nick Foles, LeGarrette Blount, Sproles, Smallwood, Corey Clement, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, Ertz, Celek, Burton 

2018: Wentz, Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Jay Ajayi, Sproles, Clement, Smallwood, Jeffery, Agholor, Wallace, Gibson, DeAndre Carter, Ertz, Goedert, Rodgers 

2019: Wentz, Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Clement, Jeffery, Agholor, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Ertz, Goedert, Rodgers 

I’d take the 2019 group without hesitation. 

It’s also important to note that those skill position players can only do their jobs if the offensive line in front of them is good and — more importantly for this team — healthy. The Eagles have some questions about health on their OL, but if that unit is solid, with these skill guys, this offense could be dynamic. 

Of course, talent alone doesn’t win. The Eagles know that. But talent is a pretty good place to start. And this roster is full of it.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles