Eagles

Eagles mailbag: Are the Birds serious contenders in the NFC?

Eagles

We answered your first batch of questions — including some on Jessie Bates, Kenny Gainwell and more — so we’ll get to the next group today.

Today’s questions includes overall outlook, Miles Sanders’ future and expectations for Jalen Hurts in 2022:

We might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves but it’s not crazy. Their roster is pretty good. Obviously, a lot of their success will be dependent on Jalen Hurts’ success. But on paper, this is a really good team. I wouldn’t call them the favorite in the NFC, but they’re in the mix now.

The Rams, Buccaneers and Packers are still the top three teams in the NFC. But the Eagles are right behind them in a group that includes the Cardinals, Cowboys and 49ers. With their easy schedule, a deeper playoff run isn’t out of the question for the Birds.

I’m not exactly sure how to gauge this because numbers might not do it justice. The best answer to this would be that the Eagles are able to finally have a balanced and dynamic offense. Last year, Nick Sirianni was forced to go to a run-heavy offense because the Eagles weren’t good enough in their passing attack. They ended up being ranked 25th in the NFL. That’s not gonna cut it this year. So aside from Hurts’ individual numbers, he needs to be able to make timing throws more consistently. I’ve said it a lot about Hurts but the one area where he needs to improve is throwing with anticipation. It’s something the accuracy stats don’t really hit. Because a completed pass that a receiver has to wait for isn’t the same as one he catches in stride and on time.

 

It’s probably not reasonable to expect Hurts to turn into a Pro Bowl quarterback or even a great passer in 2022. But it is reasonable to expect him to grow significantly and, with the players around him, show the ability to run a dynamic, balanced offense.

Hurts would have to be really awful and even then I don’t think it’s likely. Because if they’re 4-4, they’re still very much in the mix. It would have to be a situation where he’s legitimately the only reason the Eagles are losing games.

 

Yeah, there’s a chance. Sanders is entering the final year of his rookie contract this season. He’ll have just turned 26 this time next year, and Sanders has been a productive running back in his career. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, which was a new career high.

The problem with Sanders is the injuries in 2020 and 2021. He has missed a total of nine games over the last two years with various injuries and that’s concerning for any player, especially a running back.

Still, if Sanders gets off to a good start in 2022, the Eagles will try to reach an extension with him like they did with the members of the 2018 class. The Eagles view him like Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox and Josh Sweat, who all got extensions during the 2021 season. But then Sanders will have to decide whether he jumps at the chance for stability or if he wants to test free agency for the first time.

I like the way you think. Not only do the Eagles have an influx of linebackers, but there’s a real depth issue at safety. If Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps are starters, then their top backups are K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere and Jared Mayden. So this would make some sense. At 6-1, 222 pounds (at least that’s where he’s listed) Stevens is the Eagles’ lightest linebacker but he’d be their heaviest safety by a long shot. He’s a real tweener on this roster. Take a look at where he sits between the Eagles’ lightest linebacker and heaviest safety.

Davion Taylor: 230

JaCoby Stevens: 222

K’Von Wallace: 205

The fear with playing Stevens at safety would be that he would be a box-only safety and the Eagles really like their safeties to do multiple things. Would he have enough range to play the position in the NFL? He’d have to prove it.

To be fair, if any team loses its No. 1 receiver, it hurts. The Eagles would obviously really miss Brown if he were to get injured and miss any amount of time. But if you’re asking about their depth, that’s where Zach Pascal comes in. We said at the time when the Eagles signed him that he’s much better as a fourth option than the third receiver. Any scenario with an injury is the real reason why.

 

Keep an eye on undrafted running back Kennedy Brooks. The Eagles signed the UDFA out of Oklahoma after the draft ended and gave him $240,000 in guaranteed money. Brooks (5-11, 213) had a really impressive college career, averaging 7.0 yards per carry for the Sooners. He carried the ball 472 times in his three years in college and went over 1,000 yards three times.

He’s not much of a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and lacks burst but if the Eagles want a bigger back to make the roster, he’s their best bet already on the team.

And if the Eagles are still looking for a Jordan Howard-type at some point … may I suggest Jordan Howard. The 27-year-old remains unsigned and is still just a phone call away.

Sure. Happy to give advice. It might sound obvious but the best way to learn is by doing. I cut my teeth covering high school sports and it’s an experience that really helped me. There are plenty of really talented folks covering the NFL who never covered high schools, but I think it was really important for my development.

I feel very fortunate that I was in a position to accept unpaid internships. I had a couple in college and they helped me a ton, not just learning how to report and write but building connections in the business. I was an intern for CSNPhilly way back in 2009 and worked my butt off enough to make an impression. I recognize not everyone can work without pay, but there are some internships that do pay. Those are obviously really competitive but they’re worth seeking out. Hope that helps.

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