We are just at the start of the roster-shaping cycle, and there is a lot to talk about with the Eagles – some of which we've talked about (the release of DeSean Jackson) and some of which (the reported trade of Carson Wentz to Indianapolis that I can't talk about until March 17, per NFL rules). What we know is this: The roster is going to look a whole lot different by the time the NFL Draft ends in early May, so let's take stock of some of the positions on this team that could be impacted …
Prepare for a young, young group. Greg Ward, in his third full season, just might be the veteran of the group at the ripe old age of 26 in July. Whether the Eagles add to the group remains to be seen, but wide receiver is a position that will reflect recent drafts' efforts to improve the room. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside enters his third season, having contributed 14 receptions in his first two years. Last spring's first-round draft pick, Jalen Reagor, is expected to make a significant jump in Year 2. Same for 2020 draft picks John Hightower and Quez Watkins, who made limited strides in production in 2020.
Travis Fulgham, who experienced one of the most roller-coaster seasons a player can have in '20, looks for more consistency, production, and playing time. There are going to be other names in the mix, but that's a significant fivesome the Eagles need to step up. While there are going to be additions to the roster through free agency and the draft, it's also imperative that the Eagles see already-on-the-roster players make marked improvement. Wide receiver is a prime example as Aaron Moorehead returns for a second season coaching the position.
It's going to be interesting to see what the new coaching staff thinks of what the Eagles have at safety on the roster, because that room seems to be pretty wide open. Rodney McLeod is coming off a torn ACL suffered late in the 2020 season, so how long before he can play? Will Jalen Mills, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, return? What does the coaching staff think of players like Grayland Arnold and Marcus Epps and K'Von Wallace and Rudy Ford and other young players there?
At cornerback, the Eagles have Darius Slay, a standout. Avonte Maddox returns after an injury-plagued 2020. Nickell Robey-Coleman is scheduled to be a free agent in a few weeks. After that, what do the Eagles really have? They have young players who have a chance – Michael Jacquet, for example – but do they have answers? That's up to the coaching staff to decide, so the defensive secondary appears to be in play for some significant change.
Alex Singleton was a revelation in 2020 as he took advantage of playing time, and T.J. Edwards made some gains in his first real season of playing time, but at first glance, there really isn't a "sure thing" at linebacker. The Eagles want to see how their 2020 draft picks – Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley – respond in a new defensive scheme. Nathan Gerry spent most of 2020 in Injured Reserve and is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Same goes for Duke Riley. Because we really don't know the intricacies of the defense that coordinator Jonathan Gannon is going to run, we don't know the ask he will make of the linebacker crew. The 'backers were pretty dominating in Indianapolis, so maybe that position group is a significant focus for Gannon as he puts things together.
Jalen Hurts returns for his second season after starting four games and doing some good things in that small sample size. He's got arm strength, he's got mobility, he works hard, and he's a smart guy. Again, though, we don't know how new Head Coach Nick Sirianni sees Hurts and his role here. Nate Sudfeld, the team's third quarterback in 2020, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. OK, so yes, it's going to be fascinating to see how this position is addressed in the months ahead. Stay tuned.
Who really knows? The Eagles have some solid pieces here – Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave at tackle, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett at end – but the defense would love to have more depth and more versatility and oomph in their pass-rushing game, and, yeah, they could be better against the run as well. If you have a chance to add impact along the defensive line, the saying goes in the NFL, you do it.