Eagles

Fix two things and Eagles are a Super Bowl contender

Fix two things and Eagles are a Super Bowl contender

When you look at the Eagles’ roster, it’s definitely one of those good news-bad news type of situations.

The bad news? The Eagles need to completely rebuild wide receiver and cornerback from the ground up.

The wide receiver position is in shambles, with a couple long-ago Pro Bowlers with uncertain futures, a 2nd-rounder who showed little as a rookie, a bus load of practice squad alums and a one-time Super Bowl hero facing free agency after a disastrous season.

The cornerback position is worse, filled with heralded draft picks who’ve underachieved, later-round picks who’ve been inconsistent and veteran free agents who can’t stay healthy.

The good news? Other than those two debacles, they’re in pretty good shape.

This isn’t the worst situation in the world. This isn’t a complete rebuild. There’s a lot to like about the Eagles’ roster.

On offense? There’s an elite quarterback, two electrifying and versatile young running backs, an offensive line stocked with Pro Bowlers and two big-time tight ends.

On defense? There’s a solid if somewhat underachieving defensive line that’s potentially one of the league’s best units. There’s an unspectacular but competent group of linebackers. There are two veteran safeties that both have question marks next to their names but aren’t huge concerns.

Special teams? They’re fine.

You don’t need an all-pro at every position to win a Super Bowl, as we learned in 2017. You just need to be solid across the board, great in a few critical areas, stay relatively healthy and have a coach that knows how to make the whole thing work.

And the reality is the Eagles are good enough everywhere other than cornerback and wide receiver to compete for a Super Bowl.

Granted, the two areas where they need total rebuilds are two of the most important areas in the modern, pass-obsessed NFL.

And that’s not to say there aren’t other needs. The Eagles can get better across the board.

But if Howie Roseman and his staff can figure out wide receiver and cornerback through free agency and the draft, there’s no reason this team can’t be as good as anybody in 2020.

It’s a lot to ask. There’s a reason those two areas are lacking.

Years of poor drafting, poor free agency signings and poor player evaluations have left the roster sorely lacking at corner and receiver.

The Eagles overcame it to win a Super Bowl largely because guys like Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Nelson Agholor had the best seasons of their lives, and free agents like Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Patrick Robinson played over their heads.

If the Eagles are going to fix these two areas it’s going to have to be through a combination of free agency and the draft.

There are some intriguing corners who could be available in free agency – Chris Harris, Byron Jones, James Bradberry, Trae Waynes. And someone like Robby Anderson would make a lot of sense at WR.

Fair to say the CB issue runs even deeper than WR because at least you can hope DeSean Jackson comes back healthy, although at 33 who knows? And at least Alshon Jeffery is under contract, although there’s a lot of questions there as well. And Greg Ward is at worst a functional slot. So at least there’s a starting point.

Cornerback is a total rebuild. Can you count on getting anything out of Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas? Do you even want to keep Mills or Darby? Can you get consistent play out of Avonte Maddox or Cre’von LeBlanc? It’s possible – maybe even likely - that neither 2020 starting corner is on the roster right now.  

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a lot of work to be done.

The good news is Roseman has the luxury of being able to focus a good chunk of his energy on two specific areas.

The bad news is that they’re historically his two worst areas.

Which is how the Eagles got into this position in the first place.

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Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

They're tired of being known as the worst group of wide receivers in the league.

And they may finally have a coach who can help them get rid of that tag.

"We have an expectation to be one of the top groups in the league," new Eagles receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said Thursday. "That's what we expect. This group is coming out with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder I think because of last year, and that's a good thing."

Eagles receivers last year combined for just 137 passes for 1,488 yards and nine touchdowns, the worst WR numbers in the league.

It was the fewest yards by an Eagles receiving corps since 2000, when Charles Johnson, Torrance Small and Friends had 1,481.

For the first time since 1966 no Eagles wide receiver even had 500 yards.

Out with Carson Walch, in with Moorehead, the Eagles' fifth receivers coach in five years under Doug Pederson.

It doesn't take much time with Moorehead – even on a Zoom call – to sense his confidence, passion, dedication and communication skills.

And he's already instilled a hunger in this wide receiving group to go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

"At the end of the day, a little added extra motivation (doesn't hurt)," he said. "In this day and age (with) social media, you can try to ignore it, but people hear what (critics) say, and I think guys understand that we do have something to prove, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy a good challenge and I enjoy coaching a group that has something to prove."

DeSean Jackson is 33 and managed one healthy game last year. Alshon Jeffery struggled then got hurt and has been largely disappointing since he signed here. Second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a miserable rookie year. And rookie Jalen Reagor keeps hearing how the Eagles should have taken Justin Jefferson instead.

You can understand why this group feels disrespected.

"I think that's good," Moorehead said. "I've coached groups that people believed were the best [...] and I've coached groups that people disrespected and felt like they weren't very good, so it's not anything new to me. I think we have a really good group. I know we have a really good group. It's just up to us to stay healthy and prove it week in and week out."

The Eagles haven't had a wide receiver with back-to-back 100-yard games since Jordan Matthews in 2015.

They haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

On paper they should be better. How can they not be?

Their goal isn't just to be better. It’s to be among the best.

"So far they've taken the approach that [they're] ready to go out there and prove every day why we should be one of the top groups in the NFL," Moorehead said.

You have to love Moorehead's approach and his personality.

If his receivers can match his confidence and swagger, the Eagles just might finally have a receiving corps to get excited about.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro take a look at Zach Ertz’s contract situation after George Kittle and Travis Kelce got huge extensions. 

The guys pick some things they would have watched in the preseason opener, talk about Doug Pederson’s structure for practice and give their first impressions on a couple of new Eagles coaches. 

Plus, remembering the great Howard Mudd, who died at 78 this week. 

  • (1:02) — What Travis Kelce and George Kittle's contract mean for Zach Ertz.
  • (16:45) — Things we would have watched tonight in preseason opener.
  • (23:08) — Doug Pederson details Eagles’ 2020 training camp structure
  • (28:45) — Aaron Moorehead and Matt Burke speak on their roles. 
  • (36:54) — Remembering Howard Mudd
     

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
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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