Preseason - 2021 Philadelphia Eagles Outlook
Philadelphia Eagles Outlook
The Eagles have three straight postseason appearances under Doug Pederson, including a Super Bowl title in 2017. He lost the team on both sides of the ball last year, leading to Philadelphia making a change at head coach. They brought in Nick Sirianni to run the team. He spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Colts while having 12 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Philadelphia fell to 26th in points scored (334 – 51 fewer than 2019). They ranked 24th offensive yards, compared to 7th, 14th, and 14th over the previous three seasons.
Shane Steichen will run the offense, which was the same position he held for the Chargers in 2019 and 2020. Most of his 10 years of coaching experience came in Los Angeles and San Diego.
The Eagles gave Jonathan Gannon the keys to run the defense. He spent the last three seasons in Indianapolis as their cornerbacks' coach. Gannon is the third lead coach in Philadelphia who is under the age of 40. His path to the NFL started with the Falcons in 2007 (defensive quality control) before transitioning to a scout. From 2012 to 2017, he worked in the Titans and Vikings systems.
Philly allowed 418 points (20th) last year, which was their third year of regression. The Eagles finished 19th in yards allowed.
The only offensive player added in free agency was Joe Flacco, who takes over the backup quarterback job.
Philadelphia signed S Anthony Harris, LB Eric Wilson, and DE Ryan Kerrigan to their defense.
Harris worked his way from a low-level rotational player in 2015 to a full-time starter in 2019 and 2020. He is a sure tackler who plays well in run support. Over the past three seasons, quarterbacks rarely looked his way for completions.
Wilson is a second player coming from Minnesota's defense. He made 16 starts in 2020, but his results were unimpressive. At best, Wilson helps in coverage while missing too many tackles to be an asset against the run.
Kerrigan gave Washington eight impressive seasons rushing the quarterback. His best play against the run came from 2016 to 2018. His playing time slipped over the last two years, leading to his move to Philadelphia.
The Eagles didn't resign CB Nickell Robey-Coleman and S Jalen Mills.
Robey-Coleman tends to allow short yards per catch and minimal damage in scoring while working out of the slot in coverage on most plays. His run defense faded in 2020 with many missed tackles.
Mills made growth as a player after switching to safety in 2020. His issues in coverage came over the long field, where his lack of speed exposed him. Mills handled himself well in press coverage.
The first order of business in the 2021 NFL Draft was to secure a play-making deep threat at wide receiver. The Eagles selected WR DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick. He can run a sub 4.40 forty-yard dash, but Smith lacks size (6'0" and 175 lbs. He makes up for this shortfall with great route running, extreme quickness, and open field ability.
In the second round, Philadelphia added C Landon Dickerson. He works hard at his game on and off the field with the vision to slow down potential blizters. Dickerson lacks range, pushing him into the quick-hitting run-blocking category. His anchor plays well against power while gaining his edge with strength. Dickerson does have a history of battling injuries.
The Eagles focused on rebuilding their defense with six of their final seven choices – DT Milton Williams, CB Zech McPhearson, DT Marlon Tuipulotu, DE Tarron Jackson, S JaCoby Stevens, and DE Patrick Johnson.
Williams doesn't have the ideal size (6'3" and 285 lbs.) to control the interior of the line against the run. He gains his edge with power to create early wins with the vision and feel to up his success. His hands keep linemen at a distance. Williams plays with a high motor while needing to improve his skill set in the pass rush.
McPhearson puts in his time to improve his mental game. He gets in trouble in chase mode while still needing to improve his technique in mirroring pass routes. His ceiling looks lower in coverage due to questions with winning jump balls and defending the long field out of the press. McPhearson helps in run support, but his tackling isn't on par.
Tuipulotu is a second defensive lineman added by the Eagles who wins with his hands and power. He continues to work at his craft, and the improvement shows on the field. His role will be limited in the pass rush while lacking the motor to shine in the game's most significant moments in the fourth quarter.
Jackson fits the strength theme that Philadelphia found important with the additions this year on the defensive line. He brings multiple moves to help create space and wins against the run and the pass rush, but Jackson losses steam in the pass rush when forced outside due to a questionable first step and finishing speed. His best success comes from pass-rushing on the inside created by wins with his arms.
Stevens projects as a rotational-run defender who will have the most value attacking the line of scrimmage. His long speed puts him at a disadvantage if asked to cover or chase over a big part of the field. He has playmaking skills when in range to get his hands on the ball. Stevens needs to improve his vision and tackling.
Johnson has the tools to add value against the run on early downs. His hands and technique set the foundation for his wins with power. He does struggle to break free from blockers when stalemated in his pass rush. Johnson finds daylight to reach the quarterback, but his attack lacks depth in moves to help him finish the job at a higher rate.
In the fifth round, Philadelphia took a swing with RB Kenneth Gainwell.
He fits the scatback profile (5'11" and 200 lbs.) while offering impact speed (sub 4.40 forty-yard dash). His vision and quickness are the critical factors for him to break into the second level of the defense. Gainwell follows his blocks well with gas to hit a seam quickly. Over the long field, he made plenty of big plays in college.
In the NFL, faster cornerbacks will slow him in the open field. He plays bigger than his size in pass protection, but Gainwell does need to prove he can handle blizters at the next level. His pass-catching ability helps his chances to get on the field.
The Eagles moved to 9th in rushing yards (2,027) with 16 rushing touchdowns. They averaged 5.0 yards per carry while gaining over 20 yards per rush in 12 runs. Five of those plays reached the 40-yard mark.
Philadelphia finished with only 22 passing touchdowns with a spike in interceptions (20). They fell to 26th in passing yards (3,728) while gaining only 6.2 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 65 sacks.
LT Andre Dillard
In his second season after getting drafted 22nd overall in 2019, Dillard missed the whole season with a torn biceps. In his limited playing time in his rookie season, he struggled to make an impact in any area.
His athletic style tied to his plus footwork gives him an edge at left tackle. He projects well in pass projection while needing more time to develop his skill set in the run game.
LG Isaac Seumalo
Seumalo missed seven games last year due to a knee injury. When on the field, he regressed in run blocking while too much pressure. The Eagles drafted him in the third round in 2016. His starting job is at risk to incoming rookie Landon Dickerson.
C Jason Kelce
Kelce remains one of the better centers in the league. He has a high floor in run blocking, but his pass-blocking regressed for the second straight season. Part of his slide came from injuries around him on the offensive line. Kelce came to Philly in the sixth round in 2011. He played well in eight different seasons.
RG Brandon Brooks
Brooks played exceptionally well over his first four seasons with Philadelphia, but he missed 2020 with a torn Achilles. He minimizes the damage in sacks while ranking highly in each year in the league in pass projection. His run blocking came in at an elite level after showing regression in 2018.
RT Lane Johnson
The injury bug hit Johnson as well last year. An ankle injury that happened late in 2019 flared up over the summer, leading to surgery in August. He battled a knee issue and shoulder injury midseason before landing on the injured list with his ankle issue that required surgery again in early December.
When on the field, Johnson played at a high level in pass protection. He has a long resume of being a dominating run blocker, but his lack of health led to a poor season in that area in 2020. Johnson is a former first-round pick (2013).
The Eagles have one of the better offensive lines in the league when healthy. However, they need their left tackle to earn his expected value this season while also having a question at left guard. If the left side of the line plays well, Philly will be that much better running the ball while creating a longer passing window.
The Eagles ran the ball about 40 percent of the time last year. Game score forced them to the air too often, but their offensive line could keep their quarterback upright while providing a shorter passing window. The change at quarterback and the return to health of their offensive line should push Philly near the top of the league in rushing production.
QB Jalen Hurts, PHI - Gamble (high risk)
Jalen Hurts gave Philadelphia a spark at quarterback over three games late in his rookie season. From Week 14 to Week 16, he gained 1,085 combined yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. His ability to run (38/238/1) was a significant factor to his success when adding the Eagles' problems on the offensive line.
Hurts passed for over 300 yards (338/3 and 342/1) in his second and third starts while completing 11 passes over 20 yards (three gained 40 yards or more).
Hurts had one of the more interesting quarterback careers in college football. He earned the starting role for Alabama early in 2016, which led to 2,780 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His success on the ground (191/954/13) helped the Crimson Tide go 14-1 with a loss to Clemson in the national championship game.
The following season, Hurts saw most of the quarterback action during the regular season, but Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to steal the show in a win over Georgia in the championship game and eventually the starting job in 2018.
Between 2017 and 2018, Hurts passed for 2,846 yards with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 1,022 yards and 10 touchdowns on 190 carries.
After a transfer to Oklahoma, he went 12-2 with his best success throwing the ball (3,851 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions), leading to a 69.7 percent completion rate. The Sooners worked him hard as well in the run game (233/1298/20).
Fantasy Outlook: In the early draft season, Hurts is the 11th quarterback drafted. His ability to run sets a high floor and adds consistency to his game in the fantasy market. Philly has top pass-catching talent at tight end, and they added a pair of explosive first-round wide receivers over the past two drafts. I'm confident that Hurts will run the ball between eight and 10 times in most games, leading to 800-plus yards on the ground with at least seven scores. With 225 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game, I expect 4,500-plus combined yards with over 30 scores. He has an excellent chance of outperforming Josh Allen due to more weapons in the passing game, and his price point is much more favorable.
Other Options: Joe Flacco
RB Miles Sanders, PHI - Bust (overvalued)
Despite injuries on the offensive line, the Eagles running backs gained 4.90 yards per rush. Game score led to a drop of 100 carries with regression in chances and success in the passing game (60/438/1).
Injuries cost Sanders four games over different parts of the field. When at his best, he gained over 100 combined yards in three matchups (131, 112, and 136), highlighted by his one impact game (29.60 fantasy points) and two successful showings (21.10 and 23.90 fantasy points). The Eagles gave him over 20 touches in only his first two starts (23 and 22).
In his rookie season in 2019, he flashed a high floor in pass-catching (50/509/3). However, Philadelphia struggled to get him the ball via the air last year, leading to 28 catches for 197 yards on 52 targets with a low catch rate (53.8). Over his 343 carries, Sanders averaged 4.9 yards with nine rushes over 20 yards, and five of those plays reach 40 yards.
He started the year with a hamstring issue, followed by a midseason knee issue that flared up again in Week 17.
Fantasy Outlook: The structure of the Eagles' offense will change in 2021 due to a running quarterback and a new coaching staff. Sanders offers big-play ability, with a rebound in catches expected. Jalen Hurts lowers his ceiling scoring and overall touches.
UPDATE: Sanders was abysmal in the passing game last season. Add in the struggles in accuracy that Jalen Hurts displayed and Sanders will have a tough time exceeding 250 touches. Further, Sanders has been splitting touches almost 50/50 with Boston Scott throughout camp. While Sanders can still break some long runs and remains the favorite to lead the Eagles backfield in rushing yards, his celing is starting to lower at an alarming rate, making him a risky RB2.
RB Kenneth Gainwell, PHI - Deep-league Only
After a minimal opportunity (143 combined yards with one touchdown and six catches) in his red-shirt freshman season, Gainwell excelled in 2019 once given the keys to Memphis's running back job. He finished with 2,059 combined yards with 16 touchdowns and 51 catches. Gainwell followed in the footsteps of Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, who also shined for the Tigers.
Fantasy Outlook: He projects to be a third-down back with breakaway speed and value in the passing game. Gainwell should slide into a backup role with Philly while also adding insurance for Miles Sanders.
Other Options: Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, Jason Huntley
RB Boston Scott, PHI - Fantasy Handcuff
In his four chances to start last year, Scott gained 304 combined yards with no touchdowns and nine catches. Over his 12 games, he gained 282 combined yards with two touchdowns and 25 catches.
Scott gained 1,228 combined yards with nine touchdowns and 20 catches in his best season at Louisiana Tech.Fantasy Outlook: His yards per rush (4.4) and yards per catch (8.5) should earn him more chances in 2021 off the bench, but Kenneth Gainwell will fight him for the back role
WR DeVonta Smith, PHI - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over the last few seasons, Philadelphia featured their tight ends in the passing game, leading to below-par chances and production for their wide receivers. In 2020, the Eagles completed 166 of 294 targets (56.4 percent) to their wideout for 2,082 yards and 14 touchdowns. From 2018 to 2020, wide receivers gained short yards per catch (12.1, 12.1, and 12.5).
In each season at Alabama, Smith improved each of his stats. His window for playing time and chances were limited early in his college career due to the Crimson Tide having exceptional depth and talent at wide receiver (Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle). After showing growth in 2019 (68/1,256/14), Smith won the Heisman Trophy last season after catching 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He capped off the year with three explosive showings (15/184/2, 7/130/3, and 12/215/3), with the latter coming in the national championship game.
Last year Alabama used him on many plays where he started behind the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his speed and quickness. His movements and frame had a DeSean Jackson feel, but Smith will get many more chances over the short-areas of the field. I expect him to own an edge out of the slot, and he will get off the line better than expected against press coverage for his size and strength.
Fantasy Outlook: In mid-June, Smith projects as the first Eagles' wide receiver drafted with an ADP of 91. His speed gives Philadelphia a much-needed weapon while also already having experience playing with Jalen Hurts. Smith is on a path for 65 catches for 900 yards and five to seven scores in his rookie season.
WR Jalen Reagor, PHI - Bye Week Fill-in
In his rookie season over 11 games, Reagor caught 31 of his 54 targets for 396 yards and one touchdown. He gained fewer than 60 yards in every game while gaining over 20 yards on four catches.
His college career started with 33 catches for 576 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman in 2017. The following year, he led the team in receiver production (72/1061/9) despite playing with three different lower-tier options at quarterback. Texas Christian struggled to throw the ball in 2019 (53.4 percent completion rate), which led to Reagor turning in a below-par season (43/611/5).
TCU used him on fades at the goal line, but his burst off the line didn't look special at the goal line. He will win his fair share of jump balls in the end zone. Reagor shines the most with the ball in his hands when seeing daylight. His acceleration through the second level of the defense is impressive when given space to make plays. He'll challenge defenses in the deep passing game.Fantasy Outlook: No one will fight for Reagor on draft day based on his ADP (149). His ceiling remains an unknown while owning the talent to make a big push forward. In college, he had weakness in his catch rate (51.7), which paints him more as a deep play threat early in his career. Although fantasy managers might be tempted by his first-round draft value in 2020, Reagor needs more time to develop. Next step: 50 catches for 750 yards with five touchdowns.