On the latest episode of All About the Birds podcast, Johnny Ulecka, Special Guest Jason Mrytetus (97.5 and Flyers), and I discussed where the current 52 (sorry Johnny) man roster stands. What became abundantly clear is that Howie Roseman has a lot of work to do still, or has set this team up to be extremely mediocre. (Unfortunately this will not be a positive article like my last one was.)
There are spots of the team that are strengths and pretty much set in stone. QBs are obviously set (barring a trade of Nate Sudfeld) with a top 5 Quarterback in the league leading the way, We have 2 pro bowl Tight Ends (yes Dallas Goedert will make a pro bowl this year), Special Teams are the same as last season, and the Defensive Tackle spot has a great rotation of 4 guys that could all start on any team in the NFL.
But outside of that there are question marks riddling this team in every position. I will not dissect each and every position in detail, but will discuss 3 positions that lack any real depth or certainty.
First spot of major concern is the Wide Receiver corp. The Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick in the draft. They bring back Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrery (although he will start season on pup list). They also have Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Marquis Goodwin, and John Hightower as the most likely candidates at the moment to make the roster. When looking at those names, what do you see? I see a starting lineup of DeSean, JJaw, and Reagor (in the slot). That is not what we would call a scary unit. We also see 2 guys that have major injury concerns being counted on in DJax and Goodwin. What happens if one of them gets hurt? Is Hightower going to be ready to step in right away? Is Greg Ward a flash in the pan or a real threat to be better than last season? What fear is anyone other than DeSean and Reagor really putting in opposing defensive backs? Who out of this group is going to be able to go up and grab those 50/50 balls or be that guy to make the difficult grab for a first down? Basically there are too many question marks here and Howie will need to really focus on the waiver wire to find someone who can come in and compete for a roster spot to strengthen this unit. We also have the unknown with when and if Jeffery comes back. If there is a chance for him to be healthy at some point this season, there is no way they can let him go because there really is no-one on this team that can do what he does.
The offensive tackle position is the next big concern for me. You have Lane Johnson, arguably the best RT in football, and Andre Dillard at LT as of the moment. The Eagles moved up in the draft to get Dillard last year, but his inconsistent play as a rookie has some feeling that a reunion with Jason Peters this season is needed. But even if they bring Peters back (which I feel they should not do if they truly want Dillard to develop properly), who else is in the Lineman room that can step up in the case of an injury? At the moment they have Prince Tega Wanogho and Jordan Mailata as their backup tackles! One is coming off a knee scope just prior to the Senior Bowl (and is a late round pick rookie) and the other is a rugby player trying still to learn the game of football! In my opinion the Mailata experiment needs ended and Howie needs to find a real backup that can play both sides of the ball. Do we really want Carson’s blindside being watched by a rugby player? Howie needs to not waste a roster spot on a project and needs real help there. The Eagles have carried 10/11 offensive linemen coming out of camp 3 of the last 4 years. Right now between the entire line there are only about 9 guys with a real shot to make the team. They need to look long and hard at the options out there. If not make a deal with Peters to come in but know 100% upfront that Dillard is the guy and he is here to bounce around and fill in when and where necessary.
The final position I want to dissect is the defensive backs as a whole. Cornerback’s and Safety’s have been an issues for a few seasons now. Mainly due to lack of depth and poor play. Howie let defensive leader and fan favorite Malcom Jenkins walk in free agency. They replaced him with Will Parks and moving Jalen Mills to the safety role. They drafted K’Von Wallace in the 4th round. While Wallace may be a Jenkins/Dawkins type player ultimately, he is not there yet. The cornerbacks, while they majorly upgraded with the trade for Darius Slay, they still are going to be going into the season having to rely heavily on Sidney Jones to be a major contributor. Other names on the list Craig James, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Nickel Roby-Coleman, Rasul Douglas, Trevor WIlliams do not really give us any real options if Jones cannot finally perform to the level that had him listed as a steal of the draft a few years ago. I left Avonte Maddox off the list because I feel he will have to play a hybrid role this season (at least at first). He will be a starter on the outside, but because of depth issues and question marks, you may see him move all over. He can play the slot and safety. If Mills and Parks cannot hold the fort down until Wallace is ready, Maddox may have to move back there.
This article was not meant to discourage any Eagles fan not to get excited for the upcoming season. With the way of the world currently is, we need football and sports to get our minds off the other stresses we have going on. But as you can see half the article is written as questions. That shows what kind of team Howie has put together at this point. I did not want to write question after question, but honestly do not know how else to describe what we have as a team going forward. Howie can fix all of this with a few veteran signings. There are players like Vinny Curry, Jason Peters, Eli Apple, Logan Ryan, and others out there that can be brought in to upgrade this team even in a rotational role. But until he does that we are looking at a season of questions.
Let me know your thoughts… all comments are welcome.