Philadelphia Eagles News

Lawlor: State Of The Eagles Entering Training Camp

  • As the team opens Training Camp, it is a good time to take a look at the State of the Eagles. Confidence is high, with the team entering the 2018 season as the reigning Super Bowl Champs. They bring back most of the coaching staff and key players who helped the team have a great 2017 season.

As the team opens Training Camp, it is a good time to take a look at the State of the Eagles. Confidence is high, with the team entering the 2018 season as the reigning Super Bowl Champs. They bring back most of the coaching staff and key players who helped the team have a great 2017 season.

Doug Pederson did a brilliant job last season. The Eagles were seen as a team on the rise last summer. They exceeded those expectations in large part due to Pederson's coaching. He's got a very different challenge this year. Pederson has to find a way to keep a championship team hungry and focused. There have been plenty of distractions for Pederson and his players, ranging from book deals to increased media appearances to more non-football events. Winning a Super Bowl makes you a celebrity.

Pederson is the right coach for this situation. He's naturally humble. Could you imagine Buddy Ryan if his Eagles had ever won the Super Bowl? The bragging and hyperbole would have been something straight out of pro wrestling. Pederson played for the 1996 Packers, who won the Super Bowl. The next year the team made it back to the big game and almost won again. He has seen up close and personal what it takes for a title team to stay at the top of the league.

There were some changes on the coaching staff, but Pederson was able to promote from within for a couple of the key roles. Continuity is crucial for a coaching staff. You want the same leaders and teachers who helped the team win the Super Bowl.

The offense brings back a lot of firepower. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles give the Eagles the best duo of quarterbacks in the league. Wentz is working his way back from a torn ACL, but he looked to be ahead of schedule in the OTAs. If there are any delays, Foles can take over until Wentz gets back.

Four skill players are gone from last year. LeGarrette Blount and Trey Burton left in free agency. Brent Celek was cut, and Torrey Smith was traded. The Eagles have talented replacements for all of them. Darren Sproles returns to the backfield after being injured last year. Rookie Dallas Goedert and veteran Richard Rodgers will add depth at tight end. Veteran receiver Mike Wallace signed with the team to add speed to the receiving corps.

Losing Blount will take away size and strength from the backfield. Sproles brings more explosiveness and he's also a dynamic receiving threat. Goedert had a strong showing in the spring and could be a player to watch. He is a gifted pass-catcher. Wallace could be an upgrade over Smith.

The offensive line is all back. That's great news for Wentz and the other skill players. All those creative plays dreamed up by Pederson and his staff don't mean a thing if the Eagles don't block well and control the line of scrimmage.

Wentz will have a gifted group of stars to get the ball to on the field. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor combined for 17 touchdown catches last year. Zach Ertz was one of the best tight ends in the league. He should be every bit as good this season. Jay Ajayi will have his first full season as an Eagle. He could have a monster year.

The defense won't have as much continuity. The defensive line could still be the best in the league, but there will be new faces. Vinny Curry and Beau Allen both signed free agent deals with Tampa Bay. The Eagles added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to replace them.

We didn't get to see much of Bennett in the spring so he's still a mystery. He was terrific last year for Seattle and the Eagles expect him to be a disruptive force this year. Ngata is coming off injury, but he's a proven run-stuffer who should offer instant impact. Rookie Josh Sweat has huge potential, but he might be more of a long-term project.

There is also the mystery of Tim Jernigan. He hurt his back in the offseason and underwent surgery. It would hurt if Jernigan misses time in the regular season.

Having Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Derek Barnett still give Jim Schwartz plenty of firepower. Those guys can all disrupt offenses with their ability to get to the quarterback. Graham missed some time with an injury this spring.

There will be changes at linebacker as well. Jordan Hicks is coming back from a season-ending Achilles injury. He is on pace to be ready this summer. Nigel Bradham re-signed in free agency so the Eagles keep their best linebacker from 2017. Mychal Kendricks was released so there is a competition for his old spot on the weak side. Kamu Grugier-Hill, Corey Nelson, and Nathan Gerry are battling for that spot.

If Hicks returns to form, the Eagles could be even better at linebacker than they were last year. He is a turnover machine, and that was one thing lacking from the unit last season.

Patrick Robinson was a terrific nickelback in 2017. That earned him a big free agent deal from the Saints so the Eagles have to replace him. The coaches also have the challenge of trying to figure out how to use all the talented corners they have. Good problem, huh?

It would be convenient if Sidney Jones could lock down the slot. That would allow Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills to stay outside, where they played well last year. De'Vante Bausby opened some eyes in the spring and he will push for playing time. You also can't count out Rasul Douglas or rookie Avonte Maddox.

The coaches will mix and match players until they find the right combination of guys. The goal is for the pass defense to be even better this season.

Dave Fipp is one of the best special teams coaches in the league, but his unit was up and down last year. The return of Sproles should help in a big way. He is one of the best returners in NFL history. Jake Elliott had an amazing rookie year. He does need to get more consistent on extra points. Rick Lovato did a good job in his first year as the long snapper.

The one big mystery here is at punter. Donnie Jones is gone. Cameron Johnston has the inside track to replace him, but Johnston is completely unproven. This summer will be huge for him. Fipp has proven that he can break in new personnel it will be interesting to see if he can work his magic again.

The Eagles will open Training Camp as one of the deepest, most talented teams in the league. There are some injury situations to keep an eye on, but overall life is good for the guys in green. If they stay healthy and hungry, 2018 could be another great season.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the editor of IgglesBlitz.com.

Get an inside look of the Philadelphia Eagles arriving for 2018 Training Camp.

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