Even the best teams are surrounded by questions and concerns, and as loaded as the Eagles look heading into Sunday’s opener against the Redskins, there are certainly some areas of uneasiness.
Here’s a few of mine on the eve of the Eagles’ 87th season opener:
Young, inexperienced corners
All these guys have terrific ability, but they also have very little experience. Ronald Darby has been around, but he’s started just 16 games over the last two years and missed virtually the entire summer. And Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox have a combined 25 career NFL starts. I could see Jones and Douglas manning the cornerback spot for this team for many years, but they’re still very young and inexperienced and there’s going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on them to play consistent football over a full season, not just in spots.
Lack of continuity on defense
Darby, Derek Barnett, Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod and Fletcher Cox are all coming off serious injuries and missed all or most of the preseason, and Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Zach Brown, L.J. Fort, Andrew Sendejo and Vinny Curry were all somewhere else last year. The defense the Eagles will put out there on Sunday really hasn’t had a chance to play a single snap together in a preseason game and very few at practice. They’re going to have to jell on the fly, which isn’t always easy to do.
O-line age and injuries
Potentially the best offensive line in football. But Lane Johnson missed the last few weeks of preseason with a sore knee, Brandon Brooks missed the entire preseason and is coming off an Achilles injury, Jason Kelce is 31 and has been dealing with all sorts of injuries, Jason Peters is 37 and had trouble staying on the field last year. If this group stays healthy, they’re the best in the business. But it is an older group and a group that’s been banged up, and that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
Brandon Graham made one of the biggest plays in franchise history but had only 4.0 sacks last year. Derek Barnett remains filled with promise but unproven. Vinny Curry has never been a big sack guy (11 ½ the last four years). Daeshon Hall was very good this summer but has half a career sack. Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller are projects. Can the Eagles generate a consistent pass rush from their defensive ends?
The backup QB situation
Needless to say, the Super Bowl MVP is no longer here, and the current backup, Josh McCown, has won 23 of 76 career starts. You may have heard that Carson Wentz hasn’t finished the last two seasons because of injuries. Nate Sudfeld will be back at some point, but either way if Wentz gets hurt again the Eagles aren’t going anywhere.
Questions at linebacker
Nigel Bradham is coming off a serious injury, barely practiced this summer and has a habit of doing really dumb things. Nate Gerry didn’t have a great preseason. Zach Brown is with his fourth team in five years. L.J. Fort is another newcomer. Kamu Grugier-Hill is out indefinitely. The Eagles don’t play a ton of LB snaps, but there are certainly questions with the group as a whole.
Everyone is picking the Eagles
Everywhere you look, another NFL analyst is picking the Eagles to reach the Super Bowl and in many cases win the Super Bowl. It’s understandable. They’re certainly talented enough to make a run at it, but, man, wouldn’t you rather everybody picked them to go 5-11 and finish last in the NFC East? It seems like the teams that fly under the radar — and the Patriots are always the exception — are usually the teams that wind up in the Super Bowl. The Eagles are going to get every team’s best effort, which is what you want, but it also means they have to be at their best every Sunday to keep up with the astronomical expectations.
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