The 2020 season for the Philadelphia Eagles was a train wreck. The team fell to the bottom of the NFC East, lost their franchise quarterback, several veterans, and their head coach. For fans, the Eagles’ 4-11-1 record was a disappointment, and an “embarrassment” for certain players.
On Tuesday, right tackle Lane Johnson spoke to NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
Johnson stated, “Really looking at our team right now; we had a great OTAs. [We’re] moving forward, learning the playbook. I feel like coach Sirianni’s just taking great command of the team, holding everybody accountable. I know camp starts here in a few weeks, [July] 27th, and everybody’s looking forward to that. But a lot of veteran leadership, a lot of young, hungry guys ready to prove themselves, and that’s where we’re at. Last year was an embarrassment for everybody involved, and looking forward, we’re ready to change that.”
After a Super Bowl victory and three consecutive playoff appearances, how do the Philadelphia Eagles get back on top moving into the 2021 season?
EAGLES 2021 SEASON: 5 THINGS THAT NEED TO GO WELL
1. Jalen Hurts needs a smooth transition as starting quarterback
Philadelphia fans haven’t seen much of Jalen Hurts yet. In four career starts during 2020, Hurts finished with a 1-3 record, earning a 52-completion percentage. But, according to PFF’s most recent fantasy football quarterback rankings, Hurts ranks 8th above Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrows.
Unlike last season, this year, Hurts will have the opportunity to start with healthy receivers. Among them, Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. His teammates report that Hurts is often the last player to leave practice, and he embodies the confidence to lead the Eagles. Fans can only hope.
If Hurts doesn’t perform as well as he could, former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco would be next in line. The Eagles aren’t shy when it comes to benching quarterbacks lately. The team also has two first-round picks in next year’s draft to pick another quarterback.
The pressure is on.
2. The CB2 position
No one seems to know what is happening with the cornerback position. With one month to go until preseason begins, the Eagles have Darius Slay. But who starts opposite of him?
Fans were convinced the team would draft a cornerback early on in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, Philadelphia waited until the fourth round. With the 123rd pick, they selected Zech McPhearson from Texas Tech.
After two slow seasons at Penn State, McPhearson transferred to Texas Tech, appearing in every game the following two years. In his senior year, he finished with 53 tackles and was named First Team All-Big 12. Though there seems to be promise in the 22-year-old, giving him his position may be too soon.
Currently, Avonte Maddox, K’Von Wallace, Josiah Scott, and Michael Jacquet remain. There’s no doubt that training camp will serve as a competition for these players vying for a spot. And if that fails, a free agent is likely.
3. The left tackle position
Last season, Philadelphia ran through a record-breaking number of offensive lineups. Former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz may have had his own issues, but one thing is certain — he didn’t have great coverage.
If the Birds plan on making a comeback this season, second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts must be protected. Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks will return from their injuries, covering the right side, and Jason Kelce announced his return for 2021, taking care of the center. The team has left guard covered by Isaac Seumalo, however, left tackle remains questionable.
In 2019, the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard. As a rookie, he allowed 25 pressures on 183 pass-blocking snaps and 6.5 sacks. The following season, he suffered a biceps injury and was ruled out. Jordan Mailata took over, making ten starts in 2020. He allowed 32 pressures on 502 pass-blocking snaps — a 71.1 pass pro snaps per sack score. Mailata played so well that he and Dillard will now go head-to-head to compete for the starting job.
Though both players aren’t perfect, the man who wins left tackle has a lot to live up to, given the big-name vets opposite of them.
4. Some players need to step up
The Eagles selected Reagor as a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Shadowing veteran DeSean Jackson, Reagor himself, as well as Philly fans were confident in his ability going into the season. However, it ended up being a disappointment. In 11 games, he totaled 396 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Kicker Jake Elliott has been with the Eagles since 2017. In that time, he’s had a field goal percentage of 83.9% and above until 2020. Last season, Elliott completed 14 out of 19 field goals (73.7%). With a 40.5 kick grade, he was ranked 32 out of 34 qualifying placekickers. Elliott’s performance was so bad that PFF rated his five-year, $20.15 million contract the worst contract on the Eagles.
If the Eagles want to succeed going into the 2021 season, they will need the help of both Reagor and Elliott. Hopefully, the offseason has provided them with enough practice to improve upon last year.
5. The team needs to remain healthy
This seems simple, but for the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s quite the opposite. Since 2018, injuries have been an ongoing problem. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Eagles had 52 total injured players last season.
The injuries not only become a nuisance, but they result in inconsistencies on the field. Plays have to be rearranged, players are unfamiliar with their surroundings, and the remaining teammates overcompensate and, in return, are injured as well.
Luckily, everyone (except for three questionable players) is healthy and ready for training camp. If the team can remain fit as a whole, Philadelphia will have a fighting chance.
The Eagles are scheduled to begin training camp on Sunday, August 8.