Why the Eagles won’t finish last in the division again

Jacob Keppen

Let’s not mince words. The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles were a bad team. It was hard to watch the team attempt to play football, finding new ways to disappoint fans week after week. There is hope though for 2021. A lot of fans and experts are writing the Eagles off after a horrid season last year, but there is a very good shot that this team is not nearly as bad as expected, and here are three key reasons why.

Improved Offensive Line

It is highly unlikely that the Eagles offensive line will be nearly as bad in 2021 as it was in 2020. Seen as one of the strengths of the team, the O-Line struggled mightily to stay healthy all season. The injury bug hit Philadelphia early before the season even started. Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles in July and would miss the entire season. In the preseason, Andre Dillard tore his tricep and would also miss the entire season. Dillard was slated to take over at left tackle and prove that he could be a true building block for the team moving forward. The injuries just didn’t stop coming, with Philadelphia fielding over 13 different line combinations over the course of the season.

It is highly unlikely that Philadelphia will experience nearly the same amount of bad injury luck that they did in 2020. If this is the case and everyone stays healthy, the Eagles still look to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Brandon Brooks is returning and will hopefully return to form as a top guard in the league. He will be a great help to Lane Johnson who struggled at times last season. Jordan Mailata looked like potentially the guy everyone hoped Dillard would be, their camp battle one of the most intriguing of the offseason. Jason Kelce is back and just in case he goes down, the Eagles added 2nd round Alabama interior lineman Lance Dickerson to the fold through the draft. On paper, the Eagles offensive line looks to be one of the team’s strengths once again.

Improved Weapons on Offense

To say the Eagles haven’t provided their quarterbacks over the past few years with great firepower on offense would be an understatement. The wide receiver position has been a rough one to watch over the past two years. While other teams have found young stars such as D.K. Metcalf and Justin Jefferson, the Eagles just haven’t seen the same productions from their youngsters, the most proficient being free agent signing Travis Fulgham last year.

This year it looks to be different. In the quest to see if Jalen Hurts is the real deal, the Eagles traded up and selected this year’s “can’t miss” receiver in Devonta Smith. Smith is one of the most dominant receivers to ever play at the collegiate level, becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard. He has game-changing WR1 ability that will make the offense run so much smoother. Now as a secondary option, look for last year’s 1st round pick Jalen Reagor to make a bigger impact in the offense. Reagor will be counted on to make more splash plays, rather than be an all-around receiver, and that will play more towards his skillset. Don’t forget about Travis Fulgham, who led the team in receiving yards despite starting only 8 games, and Dallas Goedert who looks to have a breakout season as the clear #1 tight end in Philly.

A Better Defense Than You Think

Philadelphia’s defense has the potential to be a lot better than most people think in 2021. Even looking back at the 2020 season, Philadelphia had one of the best pass rush units in all of football, finishing third in sacks last year with 49. Pretty much everyone on the line is being brought back, and third-round pick Milton Williams looks to make an impact as a depth piece. Look out for either Derek Barnett or Josh Sweat to take another step this year.

Philadelphia’s linebacker group looks a lot better than it did at the start of last season. Gone are the days of quarterbacks identifying Nate Gerry in coverage and making sure the ball goes to his man. Alex Singleton was a breakout player last year for the Eagles and it will be interesting to see how he will do in new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s system. Former Viking Eric Wilson looks to be the best linebacker the Eagles have had since Nigel Bradham too. While there are definitely questions regarding the Eagles secondary, the 2nd cornerback position is especially suspect, there’s a shot the Eagles have an underrated front 7 for Gannon to play with.

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