PHOENIX — There are going to be a lot of mouths to feed in the Eagles’ offense in 2019.
It’ll be up to Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz to feed them.
After all, the Eagles’ offense seems to be at its best when it stays balanced.
As far as problems go, having a bunch of offensive weapons who catch the ball is a pretty good one to have. But since signing DeSean Jackson, the Eagles do have to find ways to get the ball to five very talented pass-catchers this season, while making sure egos don’t get in the way.
The egos won’t be a problem when things are going well, but if the Eagles’ offense sputters like it did in 2018, it’s a pretty natural reaction for a player who isn’t getting passes thrown his way to think he can help. These are extremely confident professional athletes we’re talking about.
At his annual hour-long media session at the owners meetings in Arizona, I asked Pederson if it puts pressure on him as the play-caller to get everyone involved:
Well, listen, you’ve got one football and a lot of times, defenses dictate where the ball goes. I can sit here and tell you we have a play designed for Alshon (Jeffery) but it ends up going to Nelson Agholor. Or it’s designed for Zach (Ertz) and it ends up going to Dallas (Goedert). It’s hard to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to get X amount of touches, here, here, here, here.’ It just doesn’t work that way. We’re going to scheme and we’re going to plan the way we always have and we teach the quarterbacks the progressions. And Carson gets through his reads and the ball ends up where it ends up.
Without including running backs — because it seems like there is still an addition coming at that position eventually — here’s a look at the Eagles’ top five receiving threats for the upcoming season, along with their stats from last season. The list includes the top four receivers from 2018, plus Jackson. All five will factor heavily into the 2019 offense.
Alshon Jeffery: 65 catches, 843 yards, 6 TDs (13 games)
*DeSean Jackson: 41 catches, 774 yards, 4 TDs (12 games)
Nelson Agholor: 64 catches, 736 yards, 4 TDs
Zach Ertz: 116 catches, 1,163 yards, 8 TDs
Dallas Goedert: 33 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs
*with Tampa Bay
If those five players were to duplicate their 2018 stats in 2019, they would combine for 3,850 receiving yards — more than 12 NFL teams had total last season.
There’s more to this issue than just who gets balls thrown their way. Depending on personnel groupings, these guys aren’t going to be on the field together. In 11 personnel, Jeffery, Jackson, Agholor and Ertz will be on the field. In 12 personnel, it’s likely that Jeffery, Jackson, Ertz and Goedert will be on the field together.
So a lot of times this season, the difference between 11 personnel and 12 personnel will be having Agholor or Goedert on the field. The Eagles are paying Agholor $9.4 million this year and they aren’t paying him to sit on the bench. But Goedert is coming off an impressive rookie season, he’s expected to make a jump in Year 2 and the Eagles found a lot of success in their two-tight end grouping last year.
In fact, on Tuesday, Pederson hinted toward adding more wrinkles to their 12 personnel package, which would make sense given the success they had with it in 2018.
Pederson will call the plays, but it certainly seems like it’s going to fall on Wentz to get all of his weapons involved. Remember, there was some grumbling last year that he locked in on Ertz too often.
“I don’t think you have to think of it that way,” Pederson said. “It’s still a progression offense. You just have to get through your progression, get through your reads. If you try to force the ball here, here, here all the time, you don’t allow the whole offense to work for you. So we just continue to teach progressions. The ball’s going to go where the ball’s going to go. That’s why we continue to progress forward and prepare our guys the same way each week.”
On paper, this passing attack seems to have all the pieces needed to be dynamic, but it can only be truly dynamic if everyone gets involved. So as much as Pederson says it’ll happen naturally, he and Wentz would benefit from trying to keep as much balance as possible.
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