We're preparing for the fifth season of quarterback Carson Wentz's Eagles career as the roster continues to build around his many talents. Wentz has established himself as one of the game's finest at the position. He comes off a 2019 season in which he had 27 touchdowns against only seven interceptions, pushing his career touchdown-to-interception ratio to an impressive 97/35. His leadership was never more evident than during the late-season surge to win the NFC East playing with a cast of reserves.
Nobody doubts Wentz and his skill set and what he means to the Eagles. In question, as the offseason marches on for Philadelphia, is what are the Eagles going to do around Wentz to make a deep postseason run in 2020, to keep Wentz on the field and healthy and to bring to the field on a consistent basis the kind of versatile, explosive attack the Eagles thought they had in place in 2019.
How much work is needed to get this offense where the Eagles want it to be? Let's take a look, position by position.
The Eagles have some work to do here in the months ahead. Wentz is in great shape – signed to a long-term contract, still very much in his prime. He has to avoid putting himself in vulnerable positions as he did against Seattle in the postseason game – and as much as there is debate over the Jadeveon Clowney hit on Wentz, the fact is that Wentz put himself in a tough spot on a first-down play early in the game – and he has to stay on the field. Wentz made it through a 16-game schedule for the first time since 2016 and then he was injured nine plays into his first playoff game.
The situation behind Wentz on the depth chart is unclear looking ahead. Both Josh McCown and Nate Sudfeld are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March. Does either one/both return in 2020? Kyle Lauletta was here for an entire season on the team's practice squad and he’s confident that he knows the system and is ready to show the coaching staff what he can do, but the Eagles need some depth here.
Bottom line: The Eagles need more than Wentz and Lauletta.
It is abundantly clear that Miles Sanders is in place to be the undisputed No. 1 option in the backfield after his outstanding rookie season. Sanders needs a big offseason as he works on his strength and durability, because he's going to get a lot of touches, he's going to take a lot of hits, and No. 26 is going to be the target for every defense.
Behind Sanders – or, rather, alongside Sanders in this interesting backfield – is the versatile Boston Scott, who got a taste of playing time and showed that he's a playmaker running the football, getting into space in the passing game, and doing anything the Eagles ask him to do.
Jordan Howard is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, a situation that bears watching after a season in which Howard played so well through nine games only to be sidelined with a shoulder injury the rest of the way. What is his next step?
Elijah Holyfield, signed off Carolina's practice squad late in the season, offers an intriguing body type at 5-10 and 215 pounds. He's a rugged, physical running back. The Eagles want to take a long look at him in the spring and summer.
Then there's Corey Clement, one of the stars of Super Bowl LII. He's big enough at 5-10, 220 pounds to be a physical back. He catches the ball extremely well. He blocks. He is excellent on special teams. And … he has had trouble staying healthy the last two seasons. One of the more "forgotten" players on this roster, Clement has a lot to prove as he looks to earn back this team's trust.
Bottom line: There is a lot to work with here. Running back probably isn't near the top of the list of "wants" for the Eagles, but never rule out adding a young back or retaining Howard and moving on with this group. Given the number of injuries the running backs have had in recent seasons, the Eagles just can't have enough of them.
One of the deepest positions on the roster, tight end is loaded with Pro Bowl standout Zach Ertz and third-year man Dallas Goedert. The Eagles plan to continue to use their 12 personnel packages (one running back, two tight ends) and the tandem of Ertz and Goedert is the best 1-2 punch in the league. Joshua Perkins stepped up late in the season and showed that he can make plays consistently as a pass catcher, giving the Eagles some versatile depth.
A young player to watch is Alex Ellis, who has been in the NFL since 2016. He's been involved in 19 transactions – on a roster, then gone, on a practice squad, and then moved – and he impressed the Eagles last summer. Let's see what tight ends coach Justin Peelle can get done with Ellis now that Ellis has a full comprehension of the X's and O's.
Bottom line: This figures to be a low priority for the Eagles, but you never know. As we've seen, you just can't have enough depth in this league.
This is a complicated position for a lot of reasons. The Eagles have some front-line talent with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, but both are coming off injury-riddled seasons and they're each another season older. Nelson Agholor is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after a disappointing 2019 campaign.
How do the veterans figure into the picture for 2020? Where does a guy like Greg Ward, who stepped up once he got the chance, fit into the offense? What are the Eagles going to get from second-year man J.J. Arcega-Whiteside now that he'll have a full offseason to make himself better in 2020?
The Eagles have a handful of other young receivers who are going to compete, they're going to have a new coach, and they'll have to make sure they significantly bump up the collective production from the wide receiver group.
Bottom line: When the Eagles lost Jackson after Week 1, they lost so much of their explosiveness in the passing game. Jackson will return and he'll still be the fastest player on the field – at least, that's the expectation – but the Eagles need more here. They are likely to add considerably at wide receiver.
There is every reason to believe the Eagles will have an offensive line that is among the best in the NFL, if not the very best. But there is some concern here with Jason Peters entering his 17th NFL season, Jason Kelce prepping for his 10th year, and Brandon Brooks entering Year No. 9, with his most recent two seasons ending because of injuries. Age has to be factored into the equation here.
That said, how ready are some of the young offensive linemen to challenge? Is Andre Dillard going to show the Eagles that he's ready to take over at left tackle? What does Matt Pryor offer after he played well at right guard in place of Brooks late in 2019? Is Year 3 the season that we find out, once and for all, about Jordan Mailata? Is Nate Herbig a player to consider as a starting-caliber interior lineman in the near future?
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Should he move on, the Eagles would lose a good player, a versatile lineman.
Bottom line: The Eagles will never pass on a chance to upgrade along the offensive line. They're good up front, and had both Brooks and Lane Johnson stayed healthy last season, they might have been great. This is a positional group to keep an eye on, but it's not necessarily a priority. Then again, we would have said the same thing 12 months ago and the Eagles moved up in the first round of the NFL Draft to take Dillard.
There are going to be some tweaks here and there as the coaching staff examines what went right and what didn't work as well in 2019, but the core principles are here. The Eagles want to inflict damage in every way when they have the football. They need to be better early in games and they need to have more sudden scoring, two areas that lacked last season. Don't expect a lot to change as head coach Doug Pederson continues to tinker with his X's and O's and philosophy heading into his fifth season here.