PHILADELPHIA – Phase one is complete and phase two begins now.
The Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2017 season with quarterback Carson Wentz and Head Coach Doug Pederson both in year two and are expected to take large steps forward in development and success.
If and when they take those steps, depends on the offseason before training camp. After a 7-9 2016 season with no talent surrounding Wentz on offense and a good defense overshadowed by terrible cornerback play, the Eagles began addressing those areas ahead of this years draft.
Wide receivers let Wentz down last year, as the Eagles were tenth in the league in total drops with 24 while the Dallas Cowboys had the fewest with only eight. Funny how those two teams are in the same division.
Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were recently signed to beef up the talent around Wentz and he should have plenty to work with, especially in Jeffery. Jeffery in just 12 games last season caught 52 balls for 821 yards with two touchdowns.
However, if Jeffery can stay healthy, he would easily be a bigger threat to match or surpass his career highs in 2013 when he had 89 catches for 1,421 yards and a second best, seven touchdowns.
With these two additions, this allows Jordan Matthews, who is entering his fourth season, to move back into the slot where he is more comfortable. Matthews caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons as a pro while in the slot, as compared to only three last year when playing mostly outside.
When comparing the Eagles receivers to others in the division, they stack up a bit better than last season. With the likes of Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. and Cowboys’ Dez Bryant in the division, the Eagles should be pleased they were able to sign Jeffery to help the offense’s big play potential.
The draft could still produce another wide receiver for the Eagles to develop or play right away, but the focus now shifts to running back and cornerback.
Last seasons starters Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin were released due to poor play and Carroll has also since signed with the Cowboys. Have fun with that one Dallas.
The Eagles are sitting pretty at pick No. 14 in the first round and were linked heavily to Washington corner Sidney Jones. He has since torn his Achilles and likely will drop down draft boards.
Since there is a defensive back heavy draft this year with tremendous talent, the Eagles could afford to wait until round two to take one. This emphasis on offense should be the priority in the first round.
With no stable running game, Wentz would be forced to throw nearly 40 times a game. If running backs Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook happen to fall to the Eagles, Cook being the more likely of the two, there should be no hesitation to draft a franchise back for Wentz to hand the ball to and take pressure off of his shoulders.
Because of a deep defensive draft and already two free agent wide receivers now in Philadelphia, the Eagles can afford to wait until rounds two and three to address those needs.
Best case scenario – The Eagles draft Dalvin Cook, an NFL ready corner in round two, and find a steal in a developmental wide receiver in later rounds and make the playoffs. On the offensive side, Carson Wentz throws around 25 touchdowns with less than 10 interceptions and goes for over 4,000 yards.
Realistically, the Eagles are not Super Bowl contenders yet, but with the additions and smart drafting, they should be able to steal the NFC East and likely win a playoff game at home.
Worst-case scenario – The Eagles fall below .500 once again and fail to win a playoff game for the first time since 2008 and miss the playoffs entirely. Wentz fails to take the next step and falls victim to the sophomore slump. With a season like that, Doug Pederson will most definitely be on the hot seat.