Three realistic expectations for the Eagles in 2017
4 June 2017 Opinion
If you are looking for a way to describe the Eagles off-season, “out with the old and in with the new” might be the most accurate saying out there. Howie Roseman once again found a way to keep the headlines focused on Philadelphia throughout the off-season with a myriad of moves.
With the amount of change that Roseman and Co. have conducted comes both uncertainty and questions. However, there are some things that you can realistically expect to see come September. Here are three expectations that I have heading into training camp and the season to follow.
First, the Eagles will feature a much more complimentary style of football than they did in 2016. If you go back to last year’s receivers, there wasn’t a ton of diversity within the group. Jordan Matthews capably handled the slot but no one could take the top off the defense or command attention on the intermediate routes.
If you look at this year’s crop of receivers, it tells a much different tale. Alshon Jeffery can win a physical battle on the outside and beat teams deep, while Torrey Smith is still capable of getting behind the defense for those big chunk plays. Throw in Matthews, Nelson Agholor and rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson and the Eagles receivers seem to be very well balanced.
I also think the running game will be more balanced. Ryan Mathews will most likely be cut once healthy, but his replacement is a proven veteran in Legarette Blount. Blount will be the “bell-cow ‘back” while Darren Sproles and Donnell Pumphrey are the “slash and dash” guys.
Throw in Wendell Smallwood who can run both inside and outside and Doug Pederson has a very well-rounded group of position players surrounding Carson Wentz.
Secondly, the defense should only get better in 2017. Now I understand that injuries can wreak havoc on teams, but if the Eagles defense is healthy they could be a top eight defense. Roseman invested a ton of money on the pass rush which should help hide a young group of cornerbacks.
Adding veterans Tim Jernigan and Chris Long to the line was big in terms of depth, but then Roseman followed that up by taking Derek Barnett in the first round and Elijah Qualls in the sixth. The pass rush should always have fresh legs with this much depth.
Behind the line are two of the more underrated players in the NFL in Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. As long as they perform the way they are capable of performing, there is no reason for this defense not to get better.
Lastly, expect the Eagles to contend for a playoff spot this year. While I would love to tell you that this is definitely the year that playoff football returns to Philly, I just can’t do it. Do I think it’s possible? I think it’s very possible and I think that the Birds will be in the thick of things entering December.
However, an extremely tough schedule in December is a bit worrisome. If I had to guess, I’d say that heading into December, the Eagles will be right around .500 and will need to win three of five games to get in.
That is what I see as we wait for camp to start. Things could always change due to different circumstances, but these three things are what stand out to me in early June. See something different? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @Habecker_NFL and @4thandJawn.