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Cosell Outlines Where Eagles Must Improve


Football fans were treated to a few extra minutes of the 2016 season as the Patriots rallied from a 25-point deficit to send Super Bowl LI to overtime before winning the Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time.

Now, the offseason is underway for all 32 NFL teams. Everyone is back at the starting line getting ready for 2017. The Eagles didn't make the playoffs in Doug Pederson's first year as head coach, but the franchise made significant progress in the quest to make this team a perennial contender that can hopefully one day bring a Super Bowl championship to Philadelphia.

At this time last year, the Eagles had just brought Pederson on board and began the task of securing a franchise quarterback for the long haul. That process resulted in Carson Wentz. After a year in which most of the team's rookie passing records went by the wayside, thanks to Wentz, what's next for the Eagles?

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell joined Fran Duffy on a recent edition of the Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast to share his thoughts on the state of the Eagles' roster.

1. Eagles Must Build Around Wentz

"When you have a young quarterback, particularly a young quarterback who is not afraid to turn it loose, you must address the wide receiver position," Cosell said. "You must get wide receivers because the last thing you want to do is take away that instinct to turn it loose.

"I would love to see more at the wide receiver position because there are times when your wide receivers have to win isolation routes on the perimeter."

2. But Don't Forget About Running Back

"I personally would like to see a little more of a one back that is clearly the guy, who is the feature (back), and an identity with the run game where you know you're going to run the ball, theoretically, a certain number of times (each game)," Cosell said.

"Do you need Ezekiel Elliott? No, you don't. But you walk a fine line here. I'm not a big believer in running back by committee as sort of your modus operandi where each week it's a different guy."

3. Where Does Wentz Need To Improve?

"I think there can be nothing but positive reviews for his rookie season," Cosell said.

But this offseason will be a critical one for Wentz, who said he will spend time with noted throwing experts Tom House and Adam Dedeaux to work on his mechanics.

Cosell said that Wentz's ball placement was inconsistent at times, and that too many routine throws were missed. On the flip side, Wentz made some big-time throws that not every quarterback would be willing to attempt and even fewer could execute.

From a mental standpoint, Cosell said that with additional film study this offseason Wentz will improve his pre-snap recognition. It's a matter of eliminating what is there as quickly as possible to isolate the weaknesses in opposing defenses.

"The great ones do that 95 percent of the time before the ball is even snapped," Cosell said.

4. The Offensive Line Can Be A Strength

Cosell thinks the Eagles have "a lot of pieces" to work with along the offensive line, which is a far cry compared to where this position group stood a year ago. The two rookies - guard Isaac Seumalo and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai - are both players to watch next season.

"I was impressed with Isaac Seumalo. I don't know what the plan (for him in the future) is. ... He acquitted himself well when he played both guard and tackle. He's not going to play tackle. I don't know if they see him as their left guard. I think he was probably drafted with the thought that he might be a left guard, but I think he can play center as well.

"Vaitai's an interesting player to me. I thought he settled in after that really poor first performance. He was clearly a little overwhelmed against the Redskins. I thought he settled in at right tackle."

Cosell expects Vaitai to be a backup with Jason Peters starting at left tackle and Lane Johnson manning the right side.

5. Bigger Need On Defense: Cornerback Or Pass Rusher?

Cosell emphasized that in today's NFL "it's difficult to compete and be consistent on a weekly basis if you can't compete on the perimeter." That means at wide receiver, cornerback, and edge rusher.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme places heavy emphasis on getting to the quarterback with a four-man rush. During the podcast, Duffy asked Cosell which position should be more of a priority in the offseason - defensive end or cornerback.

Cosell doesn't think the Eagles have a defensive end who keeps offensive coordinators up at night.

"They don't have that true edge rusher that my sense is offenses say, 'We need to take care of that guy.'" Cosell said.

And Cosell was quite blunt about the performance of the cornerbacks last season.

"I don't think you want to sugarcoat it. They're going to need to be better at corner," Cosell said. "This was a tough year at corner."

At the end of the day, Cosell leaned toward defensive end for one main reason.

"Ultimately, in this league, if you talk to most coaches, they'll tell you that you want to affect the quarterback," he said. "You need to speed the quarterback up. You need to make him uncomfortable."

For more in-depth analysis of each position group, listen to the entire podcast here.

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