Eagles Outlook: Three offensive breakout candidates for the 2023 season
We’ve made it to July, which means were just about a month away from Eagles training camp. I, for one, cannot wait.
With training camp right around the corner, it’s time to start looking at potential breakout candidates for the 2023 season. Offensively, there are several Eagles players worth keeping an eye on this year, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to three for the sake of this list.
Here are three offensive breakout candidates for the Eagles entering 2023.
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RB Kenneth Gainwell
Kenny Gainwell is typically the first player most Eagles fans point to as a potential breakout candidate this season, so let’s start there.
The former fifth-round selection has had his ups and downs throughout his first two NFL seasons. At times, he’s looked like a legitimate three-down back. Some weeks, he’ll barely sees the field. Inconsistency has been Gainwell’s biggest flaw, but after putting together a great postseason run in 2022, he may finally be ready for a consistent role in Nick Sirianni’s offense.
After Miles Sanders’ effectiveness diminished in the postseason last year, the team turned to Gainwell and he didn’t disappoint. He racked up over 100 yards on the ground in the divisional round and averaged over five yards per carry for the postseason.
Even with the additions of Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift this offseason, Gainwell still has a chance to carve a significant role out for himself. A great training camp would go a long way in securing that.
If given the opportunity, Gainwell could really shine as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He’s only seen 79 targets over his first two seasons, but it’s not for a lack of receiving ability. Coming out college, he was touted as arguably the best dual-threat back in his class. During his final collegiate season, Gainwell recorded 51 receptions for 610 yards and three touchdowns.
Here’s a look at what Pro Football Focus wrote about Gainwell as a prospect leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft:
“Again, Gainwell’s receiving process jumps out. He earned a receiving grade in the 86th percentile and was also above average at generating incremental yards, with a forced missed tackle rate in the 78th percentile. The breadth of his skill set is, perhaps, more complete than the comparable backs, meaning he could have more upside.”
Gainwell’s ability as a receiver is a skill set the Eagles have yet to tap into. We’ve seen his between the tackle abilities on full display already; adding anywhere from 3-5 targets per game could really add value to Gainwell’s role.
Add on the fact that Gainwell is the only back on the roster who’s contract doesn’t expire after this season, I expect the Eagles offensive coaching staff to put Gainwell to the test to see what they truly have in him.
WR Quez Watkins
Some will argue Quez Watkins already had his breakout campaign back in 2021, where he hauled in 43 receptions for 647 yards and a touchdown. After his production took a major dip this past season, it’s safe to say the jury is still out on the former sixth-round pick.
Watkins is entering a prove-it year in 2023. Not only because his 2022 outing was lackluster, he’s also entering a contract year – which is obviously a huge motivating factor.
It would be foolish for any of us to expect Watkins to put up similar numbers to AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith (or even Dallas Goedert), but seeing him recapture the type of production we saw in 2021 would help the Eagles tremendously. And to be sure, that’s still possible even with Brown taking away targets.
Quez just needs to make the plays that come his way. No more drops, no more fumbles at inopportune times. Put it all behind you and just play ball. We know he has the talent to do so.
His NFL arc really reminds me of Nelson Agholor. The first few seasons have been up and down, but the ability is there and the work ethic to get better is present as well. Watkins may never become a bonafide No. 1 receiver, but he has a chance to prove he’s worth giving a role to this season. Even if the Eagles don’t resign him after this year, this is Quez’s chance to get paid.
I doubt he’ll let that go to waste.
C/G Cam Jurgens
Now that RG Isaac Seumalo is no longer around, last year’s second-round pick Cam Jurgens is slated to fill his vacancy. When the Eagles drafted him, the plan was to groom him to be Jason Kelce’s successor at center. Kelce is coming back for another year, so for the time being, Jurgens is the top candidate to start at right guard.
Based on what we’ve heard from his teammates and coaches, Jurgens is more than ready for the challenge.
“He’s so damn strong,” Lane Johnson told reporters during OTAs. Jason Kelce himself even came out this offseason and said that he believes Jurgens will be better than he ever was, which is obviously huge praise coming from one of the best centers to ever do it.
But, can he effectively transition from center to guard? That’s the question none of us have a real answer to. He’s much smaller than the types of guards the Eagles usually employ.
Landon Dickerson successfully transitioned to guard after being drafted as a center, but he’s also 6-foot-6, 325 pounds. Jurgens comes in at a slim 6-foot-3, 305 pounds. As long as he strength is there, and Johnson claims it is, then the size shouldn’t be a huge issue.
In the limited snaps we’ve seen from Jurgens, he looks plenty strong. And his ability to move and find defenders in the open field is like poetry in motion.
In short, there’s a reason the majority of the NFL media sphere still believes the Eagles have the best offensive line in football despite losing a key starter this offseason. Jurgens may not be on anyone’s radar just yet, but if he lives up to expectations, he’ll join Dickerson and Jordan Mailata as the future cornerstones of Jeff Stoutland’s group.
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