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Eagles looking to join ranks of the elite again

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Second in a three-part series examining the Giants’ NFC East foes.

Even though it is understood things change rapidly in the NFL, sometimes it is remarkable how turbulent the roster shuffle can be. The Eagles are only three years removed from claiming the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history and yet fewer than 20 players remain from the Super Bowl LII victory.

It is far too drastic to call what it is happening in Philadelphia a malaise, but it is not unfair to say this is a huge season ahead for the Eagles. They profess to be cutting edge as far as having a forward-thinking front office and an innovative and player-friendly head coach, and yet there is a stagnancy to their most recent results. The Eagles seem better than what they have been the last two seasons. And they do not lack for confidence.

“When I look at our football team, when I look at the depth or our football team, and see where we are right now, it’s exciting,’’ Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “We have a good football team and we can’t wait to get started.’’

Here is a look at the 2020 Eagles

What they were

The Eagles finished 9-7 for the second straight season. They won a weak NFC East mainly because the Cowboys imploded down the stretch. The Eagles wore down badly because of injuries and that downward trend continued in the wild-card playoff loss to the Seahawks as quarterback Carson Wentz got knocked out early with a concussion.

Carson Wentz
Carson WentzAP

Key losses

LT Jason Peters (unsigned), S Malcolm Jenkins (signed by Saints), WR Nelson Agholor (signed by Raiders), RB Jordan Howard (signed by Dolphins), LB Nigel Bradham (unsigned), OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (signed by Lions).

Key additions

Veterans: CB Darius Slay, DT Javon Hargrave, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, WR Marquise Goodwin, S Will Parks.

NFL draft: WR Jalen Reagor (TCU), QB Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma), OLB Davion Taylor (Colorado), S K’Von Wallace (Clemson).

The outlook

Despite the creativity oozing out of Doug Pederson’s fertile offensive mind, the Eagles are built the old-fashioned way, with a deep and powerful defensive line and what was perhaps the best offensive line in the league. The stunning loss this week of right guard Brandon Brooks to a torn Achilles tendon means a three-time Pro Bowler will miss the entire 2020 season.

The departure — unless he returns on a one-year deal — of left tackle Jason Peters should be mitigated by the ascension of 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard, although replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy task. The rest of the line — Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Isaac Seumalo — is terrific, but the loss of Brooks stings. The defensive line, anchored by Fletcher Cox, is muscular and athletic.

Problems surfaced when the Eagles relied too heavily on their lines, leaving the back end exposed on defense, and putting too much pressure on Wentz by failing to surround him with enough talent on offense. Steps were taken to alleviate these issues. The Eagles, with the 21st-overall pick, took Reagor, who caught 22 touchdowns at TCU, and expect a breakout year from running back Miles Sanders. Still, the Eagles did not exactly have an overwhelmingly impressive offseason.

Reason for hope

As long as Wentz is healthy, the Eagles have a chance. In his fourth season, Wentz became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season and, more importantly, he started all 16 games before the unfortunate concussion in the playoffs. Before the surprising selection of Hurts in the second round of the draft, Pederson called Wentz and assured him his job was not in jeopardy. “He’s our starter, he’s the face of the Philadelphia Eagles, he’s the franchise,” Pederson said.

Reason for despair

Well, maybe not despair, but trepidation. The Eagles allowed 6.25 passing yards per play in 2019 and were 22nd in the league in defending the deep ball. This is why the trade with the Lions for Slay must work out. Slay, 29, is a top-tier cornerback and three-time Pro Bowler. If he shows any sign of slowing down, the Eagles, and their secondary, are in trouble. Plus, the lack of interest in resigning Jenkins, a true team leader, cannot be minimized.

Final word

The other three teams in the NFC East all hired new head coaches for this season. The Eagles, in comparison, are a bastion of stability, with Pederson entering his fifth year, with two division titles and three consecutive playoff appearances in the past four years. From the top down, there is quality in this organization.

Too-early prediction

Second place in NFC East.

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