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Offense Is Complete: Now What?

Posted May 18, 2017

The changes are significant, deep, and potentially impactful for the Eagles' offense in 2017. In the course of free agency and the draft, the Eagles have overhauled their wide receiver corps and altered their personality in the running back room. How do the moves impact the design and upside of the offense ahead? ...

The changes are significant, deep, and potentially impactful for the Eagles' offense in 2017. In the course of free agency and the draft, the Eagles have overhauled their wide receiver corps and altered their personality in the running back room. How do the moves impact the design and upside of the offense ahead?

Clearly, the Eagles upheld their intention, stated in the weeks after the 2016 season ended, to put pieces around quarterback Carson Wentz and give the second-year quarterback an opportunity to grow.

"We gotta make sure that we don't sit here in Philadelphia five, 10 years from now and say, 'You know what? We did a disservice to Carson Wentz.' We take that very seriously," Roseman said in January during a SportsRadio 94WIP appearance. "We wake up every day, we come in and we talk about making sure we surround this guy with the right talent, to give him a chance to play in games like (the conference championship games)."

Said Roseman at the NFL Combine a few weeks later: “We’re trying to build this thing around our young quarterback and develop some continuity. That’s our priority.”

Mission accomplished, for the most part. By signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, the Eagles provided an infusion of proven talent to a wide receiver corps that struggled in all phases last season – consistency in catching the football, production of big plays, reliability from week to week – and instantly sent the message that the competition level would be increased.

More help for the wide receivers arrived from the draft, with the additions of North Carolina’s Mack Hollins and West Virginia’s Shelton Gibson. How much they can contribute is in the wait-and-see category, but at the very least those two add to the depth of talent at wide receiver. There are no givens here for returning veterans like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham, who need to win jobs and earn trust and produce on the field.

The Eagles fortified the offensive line in free agency by signing guard Chance Warmack, a former top-10 draft pick who is trying to find his footing in the NFL. He’s reunited with his college line coach, Jeff Stoutland, and while Warmack is here on a one-year deal, he’s going to be given a chance to earn a starting job.

By bringing in Warmack and retaining Stefen Wisniewski, the Eagles bolstered the depth chart with more than two starting units full of players with NFL experience. The Eagles are deep up front, folks, and they’ve got options and they have competition. It’s fair to think this should be a very good offensive line in 2017.

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Then there’s the running back position and all the questions there. Ryan Mathews has played with the Eagles for two seasons and, while he’s been productive with the ball in his hands, Mathews has just been unable to stay healthy. A knee injury in 2015 and a neck injury in 2016 marred Mathews’ ability to line up, and now his future is in question. In the meantime, the Eagles added Donnel Pumphrey in the draft and now they’re in the process of seeing how college football’s all-time leading rusher fits into the offensive equation, and on Wednesday the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount, a proven running back coming off a season during which he scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in New England’s Super Bowl year.

Blount offers great size, power in short-yardage situations, a nose for the end zone, and is a player who defenses must account for, particularly in the red zone and in goal-to-go situations.

Jeffery, Warmack, and Blount are here with one-year contracts, so the Eagles weren’t able to lock in with them for long-term deals, but you never know how the scenarios will play out. The Eagles are building around Wentz, and they’ve succeeded in taking some of the pressure off of No. 11. He’s got a big target in Jeffery, who has been motivated to return to greatness after a couple of tough seasons in Chicago. Smith is aching to be a long-ball threat once again after playing in a vertically challenged offense in San Francisco.

With the additions made, the Eagles will have more multiplicity in the offense. They’ll have receivers who are going to challenge secondaries. They have a power running back for the first time in a generation. And they have an offensive line that, when intact in 2016, won five of six games (the Eagles were 2-8 with right tackle Lane Johnson serving his suspension).

The entire look of the offense has been altered, and for the good. Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich now have more flexibility and options within the scheme. An offense, for example, that had major trouble throwing the ball down the field last year has legitimate weapons and threats to do so this year. The inside-the-20-yard-line offense, ranked 24th in touchdown efficiency last year, has a bull in Blount who scored 15 touchdowns on inside-the-10-yard-line runs last season.

This offense is all but complete now. Sure, the Eagles will keep their eyes open, and injuries are all part of the equation, but what you see now is largely what the Eagles will take into battle in September. A lot has changed. How much will the personnel additions alter the look and feel and personality of the offense?

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