Eagles

How Eagles have masterfully rebuilt after winning their Super Bowl

How Eagles have masterfully rebuilt after winning their Super Bowl

I’ve always thought one of the trickiest things in team sports is figuring out how to stay at a championship level after you win a championship.

You can’t sit still. You can’t keep the same team. You can’t just sit around and expect to win another title.

Because of free agency and the salary cap and aging players with declining skill and incoming draft picks you’re going to have significant turnover.

If you stand still, you fall behind. So the challenge is retaining what made that team special while turning over a minimum 30 percent of the roster.

And it’s really hard to do that.

That said, here are the Eagles 17 months after winning a Super Bowl and there are 28 guys who were on the Super Bowl roster — either on the 53 or Injured Reserve — who are no longer here.

That’s a huge chunk of a championship team. More than half of the guys who played in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis are no longer Eagles.

Yet the Eagles are still an elite team, a legit championship contender.

Howie Roseman, the departed Joe Douglas and the scouting department have done a remarkable job replacing the guys the Eagles have lost or moved on from without losing what made that 2017 team so special.

Who’s arrived since 2017? Who’s left?

Let’s take a look at how this process of replacing key parts of the 2017 Super Bowl team has gone:

Running back

Lost: LeGarrette Blount, Jay AJayi, Kenjon Barner, Darren Sproles

Gained: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard

Barner is the only running back from the 2017 team that’s even on an NFL roster right now. The Eagles got brilliant play out of Blount and Ajayi but knew when to move on. With Sanders, they finally have a young potential franchise back for the first time since they drafted Shady a decade ago.

Wide receiver

Lost: Torrey Smith, Marcus Johnson

Gained: DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside

One position without a lot of movement. Alshon and Nelly are still here from 2017 but now the Eagles have a third legit receiver to go with them and potentially the best wide receiver lineup in team history. Smith caught only 17 passes for the Panthers a year ago. Mike Wallace was here last year but played in just two games with no catches. 

Quarterback

Lost: Nick Foles

Gained: Clayton Thorson, Cody Kessler

Obviously until Carson Wentz wins a Super Bowl there are going to be fans second-guessing the Eagles’ decision to cut ties with Foles and sign Wentz to a long-term deal. But the reality is the Eagles lost a Super Bowl MVP at quarterback but still have one of the most talented QBs in the league, a legit MVP contender.

Tight end

Lost: Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Gained: Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers

They moved on from an all-time Eagles great in Celek and a promising young tight end and Philly Special hero in Burton, but they managed to replace them with Goedert, who has the ability to be a top-10 tight end playing alongside Zach Ertz. They cut ties with two popular, productive, capable players but got even better. This is how you remain elite.

Offensive line

Lost: Chance Warmack, Will Beatty

Gained: Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor

The Eagles have managed to keep the entire starting o-line from 2017 intact while adding their left tackle of the future in Dillard and an intriguing young prospect in Mailata.

Defensive end

Lost: Chris Long, Steven Means

Gained: Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller

Derek Barnett was already here in 2017, but he’s the key to moving on post Chris Long (and Michael Bennett, who wasn’t here in 2017). If he stays healthy, the Eagles will be fine at defensive end.

Defensive tackle

Lost: Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls

Gained: Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester

A lot of turnover at defensive tackle, with Tim Jernigan coming and going and Cox the only tackle who’s been here straight through since 2017. But definitely a stronger, deeper group than the Super Bowl season.

Linebacker

Lost: Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker

Gained: Zach Brown, Paul Worrilow, L.J. Fort

Hicks and Kendricks are gone, and both were talented but each had issues. The Eagles brought in a patchwork of guys the last two offseasons, but with Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Brown, they should have a capable group.

Defensive back

Lost: Corey Graham, Patrick Robinson, Jaylen Watkins

Gained: Andrew Sendejo, Blake Countess, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc

Robinson in particular was such a huge part of that 2017 postseason run and Graham played really well in 2017 as well, but the Eagles have put together an auspicious stable of young corners. This is potentially a terrific secondary.

Specialists

Lost: Donnie Jones, Caleb Sturges, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman

Added: Jake Elliott replaced Sturges early in 2017, and both he and Cameron Johnston have proven to be a sound kicking combo. Maragos and Braman were both valuable special teamers, but the Eagles have plenty of young linebackers and defensive backs who’ve been able to replace them.

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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
     

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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.

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