Philadelphia Eagles News

10 Eagles hoping to take the next step in 2020

It's fashionable at this time of the year to look ahead and to project those players ready to be the next wave of stars in the NFL from around the league. Here, it's about taking the next step and maybe for some of the following 10 Eagles that means stepping into stardom.

While there is some work to be done on the roster for 2020 and there certainly will be additions made as the Eagles explore their options in free agency, the trade market, and the 2020 NFL Draft, the Eagles are also counting on players making improvements. With that in mind, here is a 10-pack of players to keep an eye on.

Miles Sanders, RB

This is the candidate to transition into the "star" category, but it's not going to come without a lot of work in the months ahead as Miles Sanders prepares to take over, from the very start of the 2020 season, the role of main ballcarrier in the Eagles' offense.

He had a record-setting 2019 with 1,327 total yards from scrimmage and 818 rushing yards, both franchise standards for rookies. Sanders was an equal-opportunity weapon as a running back and receiver coming out of the backfield. He approached the game with great maturity and responsibility and diligence.

Sanders is clearly in line to be the Next Great Eagles Running Back. He'll work on his overall strength and explosiveness in the offseason and should be in great shape when the players report for the offseason conditioning program in April.

Boston Scott, RB

In 85 touches from the line of scrimmage in 2019, Boston Scott totaled 449 yards, averaging 5.28 yards per touch, with five touchdowns in only 189 offensive snaps. That's excellent production and it offers a glimpse into the kind of versatility and change-of-pace ability Scott brings to the offense. The Eagles now have the entire offseason to expand his role and figure out where his skill set helps as the offense evolves in 2020.

Scott has proven that he belongs in this offense. The next step is using his talents in a maximum way.

Greg Ward, WR

The long wait to get to the gameday roster was worth it for Greg Ward, who had 28 receptions and averaged 9.1 yards per grab. His lone touchdown was the spectacular game-winner at Washington. Next for Ward? Fend off the competition that is inevitably coming as the Eagles address the wide receiver position in the months ahead.

Ward potentially projects as a candidate to man the slot wide receiver position should Nelson Agholor move on in free agency and if that's the case, Ward won't be handed the job. He's suited for it, though, with his sharp routes, his short-area quickness, his sure hands, and toughness. Ward can be a very valuable piece of the receiver corps here as he continues to refine his game and learn the subtleties of the position.

T.J. Edwards, LB

In his rookie season after signing as a non-drafted free agent, T.J. Edwards played all of 115 defensive snaps and made 18 total tackles. The sample size is a small one. But Edwards handled his responsibilities and the coaching staff clearly trusted him more and more as the season progressed. A great offseason during which Edwards gains overall body strength could position him for a more sizeable role in the defense, similar to the way Nathan Gerry took advantage of his extended playing time in 2019 and took his game to a new level.

Matt Pryor, OL

An injury to right guard Brandon Brooks forced Matt Pryor into the starting lineup for the playoff game against Seattle and he played a solid game. The Eagles discovered something about Pryor in 2019 – that he can play various positions in a pinch, that he can handle the pressure of the postseason, and that he's an improving commodity.

It's going to be difficult for Pryor to crack the starting lineup – Brooks is expected to make a full recovery after having shoulder surgery. A strong offseason, however, should have Pryor in a place where offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland trusts him and knows that Pryor can play inside or at tackle if needed.

Sidney Jones, CB

Next season shapes up as a now-is-the-time moment for cornerback Sidney Jones as he plays in the final year of his rookie contract. A few big plays late in the season propped up the expectations once again from Jones, who spoke confidently of his situation with the Eagles. The defensive backfield is certainly an area to watch in the offseason with both Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, the team's starting cornerbacks, slated for free agency in March.

Is Jones ready to make that jump, in his fourth season, to become a full-time starter on the rise in this defense? He's got tools, obviously.

Josh Sweat, DE

Josh Sweat made progress in his second NFL season, recording four quarterback sacks and 24 total tackles in 355 total defensive snaps. That was a promising step. Now he needs to go even further. Good health and a powerful offseason will help Sweat, who is part of a defensive end picture that's jammed with young players. The Eagles need more depth and production at the position. Sweat is part of the picture, for sure.

Marcus Epps, S

A full offseason in the defensive system will help Marcus Epps, who worked his way into the role of third safety late in the 2019 season. Selected by Minnesota in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Epps played seven games with the Eagles after he was claimed off waivers. And with Rodney McLeod slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March and with Malcolm Jenkins in the final year of his contract, safety is a big-picture position to watch in free agency and the draft.

Isaac Seumalo, OG

The least-heralded starter on an excellent offensive line, guard Isaac Seumalo continues to improve his game. How many people out there notice? Seumalo is big and strong and athletic and he's been a durable part of the equation up front. Is it impossible to think he could become a Pro Bowl-level player in 2020?

Genard Avery, DE

Acquired by the Eagles in a late-October trade with Cleveland, Genard Avery hoped to add some punch to the pass rush with his burst and his versatility. Instead, Avery played just 33 defensive snaps and added one-half of a quarterback sack. The Eagles expected to work Avery into the defensive picture slowly, so this offseason is critical for him as he integrates into the plan. How do you use a player who is 6-feet, 250 pounds? We'll see when the team gets on the field in the spring through the summer.

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