Will Jalen Hurts shine this season?
By: Jacob Keppen
There are a ton of questions about the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021, specifically on offense. What we will see from Philly’s new-look offense in 2021 is largely unproven. There is talent and highly selected players, but at most positions, there is little in the way of known commodities. From the center snapping the ball to the man throwing the ball, here is a breakdown of the position units for the Philadelphia Eagles on offense.
Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
The big question at quarterback is of course Jalen Hurts. The Eagles can only go as far as Jalen Hurts can take them in 2020. Last year’s second-round selection, Hurts showed good flashes in his four games as a starter, including a three-yard touchdown performance against Arizona in Week 15. One of the least accurate quarterbacks last season was still Hurts. Can Hurts fully round out his game and become a franchise quarterback? Or will the Eagles be searching for quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft? If Hurts doesn’t shine and the Eagles, unfortunately, have a high draft choice next year, it wouldn’t be hard to know which position they’re selecting in round one.
As for the backups heading into the season, Joe Flacco is what he is at the age of 36 and shouldn’t be counted on to come in and win games for the Eagles. He’s a pure mentor for Hurts and a reliable QB to take care of the football in emergency situations. Then there is Minshew Mania. Minshew shows intrigue though as a potential long term high end backup quarterback for the Eagles. Minshew is one of the best backup QBs in the league and still young at 25. We saw Winston go into New Orleans as a young backup and eventually become the starter. If Hurts doesn’t pan out soon, Minshew may see the field in the near future.
Running Back: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell
The Eagles went light at the running back position, surprising virtually everyone. This was a team that almost had too many running backs in the preseason, expected to struggle to only keep four in the regular season. Jordan Howard and Jason Huntley were both cut, making their way to the practice squad (don’t be surprised when Jordan Howard ends up on the main roster once again)
Which Miles Sanders will the Eagles be getting this season? Sanders didn’t quite look the same in 2020 as he did in his freshman year, struggling in the receiving game mightily. Sanders still has big-play potential, able to break off a run at will. Behind him is Boston Scott, a very competent 3rd down back who can step in a pinch. Scott is coming off a career year in scrimmage yards (586). Rookie Kenny Gainwell impressed in the preseason with the highest PFF rookie grade on the Eagles and one of the highest in the league. He very might challenge for a lot of touches in the Eagles offense. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles get Gainwell involved in the offense in multiple ways. The real thing missing in the Eagles backfield is a real power presence. Maybe it will be Jordan Howard, but for now, the Eagles lack a bit of bite in their rushing attack.
Wide Receiver: Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
The Eagles wide receiver room is not a great one, nor is it a proven one. While there is potential, there are two first-round receivers in the room, nobody is proven here. Devonta Smith should easily be the best pass-catcher on the Eagles offense, potentially able to be a true #1 receiver for Philadelphia. You’d still like someone a little more proven alongside him though.
Jalen Reagor has potential but didn’t quite live up to the hype last season. While he has looked good in practice he needs to prove it in a game first. Quez Watkins was a breakout star in the preseason, his lightning speed unmatched early on in the Eagles offense. Can the former 6th round pick carve out a big role in the offense, or is it just a product of the preseason. Ward is who he is, a reliable set of hands who doesn’t really do anything dynamic. Arcega-Whiteside is the puzzling name left, most fans surprised (and upset) to see him still on the team for his third season. Despite having an even worse sophomore campaign, Arcega-Whiteside managed to make the roster over Travis Fulgham, a free agent acquisition who showed real potential last year. Is this the year J.J. Arcega-Whiteside does ANYTHING for the Eagles?
Tight End: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll
As it has been over the past few years, the Eagles have one of the best tight-end groups in the entire league. Dallas Goedert is a player many are pegging as a breakout candidate in 2021, his flashes over the past three seasons finally culminating into true stardom. He’ll still have to compete with fan-favorite Zach Ertz who is back, contract situation is resolved. For a team hard-pressed to find any reliable receivers, bringing back Zach Ertz was a great decision for the Birds, his consistency was a great asset to such a young offense.
Offensive Line: Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Brett Toth.
If everything works out and everyone stays healthy, the Eagles should have one of the best lines in the league. Injuries have played the biggest problem over the past year, the Eagles unable to field a consistent unit upfront. The stars are back, with pro bowl center Jason Kelce returning for another season in Philadelphia. Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks look to continue to hold down the right side of the line, both amongst the league’s best when fully fit. The problem is health has definitely been an issue, with Brooks returning from his second Achilles tear. With both, over 30 health could potentially ruin a dynamic partnership.
On the left side of the line, it is finally Jordan Mailata time! Jason Peters is not here to take the job away from him anymore, and former first-round pick Andre Dillard was unable to take the job away from him in the preseason. Mailata is a giant amongst giants, towering over even the biggest defensive linemen. He has made incredible strides over the past few years, and really has the potential to be a franchise tackle for the Eagles. Always seemingly forgotten, Isaac Seumalo is certainly one of the better options at guard. While not a superstar like some of his compatriots, Seumalo gets the job done and is at worst a serviceable average guard in the NFL. Look for Philly to dominate upfront in easily their best unit on the offense… again so long as they can stay healthy.