It’s been a long time since the Eagles have had a young Pro Bowler.
But help may be on the way.
The 2020 Pro Bowl teams were announced Monday evening, and the Eagles’ three oldest starters – 33-year-old Jason Kelce, 32-year-old Brandon Graham and 30-year-old Fletcher Cox – are their only Pro Bowlers.
The Eagles haven’t had a Pro Bowler 26 or under since Carson Wentz in 2017 and before that Cox in in 2015 and 2016 and before that you have to go to LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Nick Foles and Cody Parkey.
For the sake of comparison, just this year alone, 42 of the 88 Pro Bowlers named Monday are 26 or younger.
So the lack of young talent is obvious around here, and it’s one of the reasons for the Eagles’ recent decline.
Although the Eagles might not have any young stars on the roster, they do have some candidates. Some kids who've shown enough potential to at least be in the future Pro Bowl conversation.
Here are five young Eagles who are potential first-time Pro Bowlers in 2021.
The only thing holding back Sanders this year was his lack of carries. Sanders’ 5.44 rushing average leads all NFC running backs, but he missed four games with injuries and averaged only 13.5 attempts and 15.7 touches when he did play.
For the sake of comparison, the three NFC running backs that did make this year’s Pro Bowl team – Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Aaron Jones – all averaged fewer yards per carry (5.0 for Cook, 4.7 for Kamara, 5.38 for Jones) – but more touches per game (26.1 for Cook, 17.5 for Kamara, 18.4 for Jones).
If Sanders, 23, played all 14 games this year, he’d already be over 1,000 yards and would be a Pro Bowler today. His time will come.
Even as a rotational third defensive end, Sweat ranks eighth among NFC edge rushers this year with 6.0 sacks, and he’s been surprisingly effective against the run, considering his frame is more suited to being a 3rd-down specialist.
Sweat, who turns 24 in May, has only played 44 percent of the snaps this year and should take on a larger role in 2021, whether Derek Barnett is here or not. As relentless a pass rusher as he is, I could see him being a double-digit sack guy and a potential Pro Bowler.
Considering that two of this year's three NFC Pro Bowl edge rushers are in their 30s – Brandon Graham and Cameron Jordan – there could be a changing of the guard here, and Sweat just may be good enough to join B.G. one day soon on the Eagles’ Pro Bowl Wall.
It seems like he’s been forever, but Mailata, still only 23 and only nine starts into his NFL career, and the progress he’s shown in those starts is remarkable.
Mailata doesn’t even have a starting spot locked up for 2021, but if it’s a fair competition, he’ll win the left tackle spot from Andre Dillard next summer and have a full season at left tackle.
This is a kid who never played in a meaningful organized football game before September. He’s come so far so fast, and his ceiling is limitless.
All three NFC offensive tackles on this year’s Pro Bowl team are 29 or older – David Bakhtiari, Trent Wiliams and Terron Armstead – and if Mailata keeps improving the way he has, the Pro Bowl is not an unreasonable goal.
Is two starts a little premature to be throwing the 22-year-old Hurts into the potential Pro Bowl mix? Nah.
We’re due for a changing of the guard when you look at the top NFC quarterbacks. Tom Brady is 43, Drew Brees 41, Aaron Rodgers 37, Matt Ryan, 35, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford 32.
Who is going to lead the next wave of NFC quarterbacks? Kyler Murray for starters, but after that? If the 22-year-old Hurts does win the Eagles’ starting job next summer and the Eagles get him another weapon or two and he continues on the track he seems to be on, it’s not out of the question that he could be one of the NFC’s top young QBs in 2021.
Goedert is a little older than the other guys in this group – he turns 26 next month – but if the Eagles do move on from Zach Ertz, Goedert will find himself as TE1 next year for the first time.
He’s already a top-10 tight end in the NFL. Despite missing four games this year, he’s got the 4th-most yards among all NFC tight ends over the last two years.
With George Kittle and Ertz both hurt this year, the NFC’s Pro Bowl tight ends were Evan Engram and T.J. Hockenson. Goedert’s better than both of them.
As a full-time starter, it’s easy to see him as a 70-catch, 800-yard type of guy and in the Pro Bowl mix.