NFL teams face uncomfortable questions and concerns as they head to training camp later this month. Questions and concerns can impede their best-laid plans.
The NFL staff at The Athletic compiled a list of each team’s concerns going into camp. Let’s take a look at what The Athletic says about the Eagles and the NFC East.
First, the Eagles
From The Athletic:
“Does [defensive coordinator] Jonathan Gannon have more to offer than we saw in 2021? The Eagles upgraded at every level of the defense this offseason.
“Haason Reddick bolsters a 31st-ranked pass rush, Jordan Davis adds beef inside, Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean improve a mediocre group of linebackers, and James Bradberry gives Darius Slay a better running mate on the outside.
“But last year’s defense was not without talent and still played a passive style that left it ranked 25th in defensive DVOA [Defense-adjusted Value Over Average]. Things are set up for Gannon as they are for Jalen Hurts. You have everything you need. Now let’s see what you can do.”
We agree with The Athletic assessment. The Eagles need an imposing pass rush, something they didn’t have last year. They desperately need more turnovers. That’s what great defenses do — they pound the passer and turn the ball over. And they contain the run. That’s where Davis and improved linebackers come in.
If I were picking an offensive concern, I’d have two. Obviously, the continued development of Jalen Hurts would be at the top of the list. Will he take the next step — maybe a big step — to become an elite quarterback?
Will he regress? Seems unlikely given the Eagles’ elite offensive line and the addition of wide receiver A.J. Brown.
- Will he go through another up-and-down season?
- Will he play great one week and play poorly the following week?
- Is that his ceiling—up—and—down play?
- Is that all he ever will be?
I don’t think so. I think Hurts has a big upside. He has shown enough skill against NFL competition to make me believe that. Plus, given his work ethic, attention to detail and fire to succeed, I think Hurts can be the Eagles’ answer for years to come.
My second concern is about the running game, the best in the NFL last year. You want the running game to dominate, to run the clock and take pressure off the quarterback. Unless you’re the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, you don’t want to air out the ball 50 times a game. Successfully running the ball prevents that.
I’d like to see the Eagles pick up Jordan Howard or another physical, inside runner. Howard is only 27 years old. He averaged 4.7 yards on 86 carries last year. He knows the system and has proven value.
When you have a third down and a long 1, you don’t want the quarterback having to pick up that yard and potentially taking an unneeded shot to get it.
From The Athletic:
“Have they done enough to fix their offensive line issues? La’el Collins is gone, so the starting right tackle job officially belongs to Terence Steele. Depth at offensive tackle isn’t great with Josh Ball, a fourth-round pick last year, and Matt Waletzko, a fifth-round pick this year, as the primary backups.
“That’s particularly concerning considering left tackle Tyron Smith hasn’t played a full season since 2015. And then there’s left guard and center. First-round pick Tyler Smith should be at least solid at left guard, but he hasn’t played the position since high school. Center Tyler Biadasz needs to improve in his third season or Dallas will need to go in another direction.”
We agree. For the Cowboys to win the NFC East again — and make an impressive playoff run — the offensive line needs to be a reliable strength. It needs to protect Dak Prescott, give him time to throw, and open holes for the running backs.
NEW YORK GIANTS
From The Athletic:
“It wasn’t possible for GM Joe Schoen to fill all of the Giants’ holes in his first offseason. But Schoen created holes in the secondary by releasing cornerback James Bradberry and safety Logan Ryan.
“The secondary is now a major concern. The Giants will be relying on 2021 third-round pick Aaron Robinson, who was drafted to play in the slot, to replace Bradberry. Julian Love, who has been a utilityman in his first three seasons, will be expected to take over for Ryan.
“New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s man-coverage-heavy system puts a lot of pressure on the secondary. That could make for a long season if the unproven replacements don’t step up.”
The Giants are a hot mess — on both sides of the ball. In a league that likes to throw the ball, you need a strong secondary.
Their first three draft picks should help the pass rush and passing game — edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, offensive tackle Evan Neal and receiver Wan’Dale Robinson.
If they get lucky with a lower-round pick, maybe they’ll win 5-6 games. Maybe.
From The Athletic:
“Chase Young, the 2020 defensive rookie of the year, is coming off a down sophomore campaign that ended with a torn ACL in November.
“Recovery timelines typically range from nine to 12 months, so the early end would track Young for a Week 1 return. But the pass rusher and head coach Ron Rivera remained vague about such things, and that the surgery required a graft of the patella tendon from his healthy knee is an added twist. Young might not be ready for Week 1. Therefore, a potential IR stint exists, with uncertain depth behind him on a defense looking to rebound after a frustrating season.”
Young can be a generational player, one who turns his unit into a dominating force. If he struggles coming off his injury, the Commanders’ defense struggles. I think the Commanders are going to be sneaky good if they get solid quarterback play from Carson Wentz.