The Eagles’ biggest needs heading into the 2022 offseason
The Philadelphia Eagles made a nice jump this season compared to the four-win squad prior. Considering the circumstances: a first-year coaching staff, along with a first-year starting quarterback, the Eagles far exceeded most expectations placed on them this season.
With that said, there are clearly many holes on the Eagles roster, most specifically on the defensive side of the ball, where they need to get younger and far more athletic. That’s not to say that the offense doesn’t need improvement either.
While Jalen Hurts’ status as the franchise QB remains to be seen, he appears to be the starter in 2022. The upcoming offseason can be viewed as one of, if not the most significant offseason in Eagles franchise history.
The philosophy of the Eagles has always been to build inside and then out. The once strong suit of the Eagles team turned out to be the most underwhelming unit on the squad. The Eagles finished the 2021 season with one of the worst graded pass rush in the NFL while ranking 29th in team sack percentage.
Luckily for the Eagles, they still have a great interior pairing of Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Along with a young Milton Williams who flashed some serious potential in his rookie season. The edge rusher position is where this gets very concerning. Brandon Graham, who turns 34 in April, went down with a season-ending injury in week 2. You combine that with the undisciplined and underwhelming play from Derek Barnett; it’s no wonder their pass rush was so poor.
Besides Josh Sweat, the Eagles don’t appear to have any answers for their starting or rotational edge rushers of the immediate future. On the bright side, this upcoming draft class is loaded with quality pass rushers. The Eagles hold picks #15, #16, and #19, so many assume a pass rusher will be taken with at least one of those picks.
Besides Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, there isn’t much proven talent in the secondary. Steven Nelson seemed to be a decent second outside corner for this past season, but they need some help on the outside corner spots. Nelson will be a free agent this offseason, as well as both of their starting safeties, Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris.
It will be interesting to see which of these free agent secondary players Howie decides to re-sign. The Eagles lack youth and athleticism at the safety position. This one could certainly be addressed in the draft. But, this year’s free-agent class has some excellent safeties. Jessie Bates (Bengals), Marcus Williams (Saints) are a few names to look out for. Both players are under 25 and among some of the best at their position.
Cornerback is a position I think the Eagles would prefer to draft instead of free agency. However, I wouldn’t rule them out of the free-agent market. Some premiere names such as J.C. Jackson (Patriots), Stephon Gilmore (Panthers), as well as Darious Williams (Rams) are out there.
Believe it or not, the Eagles linebackers weren’t the worst position group on the team in 2021. T.J. Edwards emerged and solidified himself as a solid linebacker. However, the rest of the group needs work. Alex Singleton will be a restricted free agent. Davion Taylor showed some promise, but he ended his second season on IR.
The Eagles haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979, which is certainly a position the fans have been pounding the table to address. For whatever reason, it has been a position they don’t value as highly as others. Of course, this could all be dependent on the scheme Gannon or whoever the replacement for him would be running. In that case, I think it’s a good chance they use one of the three first-round picks on one, especially if Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean are available.
The bottom line is they need some playmakers on defense. Ignoring the linebacker position is criminal. Especially when you watch teams like the Buccaneers who are loaded at that position, that position group completely exposed the Eagles in their wildcard matchup.
You would certainly hope a unit is addressed when you spend two first-round picks and a second-round pick on the same position group over the last three years. Unfortunately for the Eagles, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor haven’t even come close to being starters, let alone reliable NFL players at this point.
On the bright side, they have DeVonta Smith, who broke the Eagles’ rookie receiving record. The former Heisman winner appears to be the team’s No. 1 receiver for the foreseeable future. However, they need more than Smith. They need a reliable second option. Former sixth-round pick Quez Watkins flashed some serious potential. But he is much more ideal at the WR3 spot.
The Eagles need a veteran receiver in this young receiver group. This free agent receiver class is loaded with names such as Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Mike Williams, and many more. I would anticipate the Eagles using some spending money to address this position as opposed to drafting yet another receiver.
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