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Building The Eagles Offense: What Is The Next Step?

The Philadelphia Eagles are imposing. From their mammoth offensive line to their reliable stable of complementary running backs, physicality is their identity.

In this piece, we will delve deeper and investigate the best way for them to run a more complete offense without sacrificing their strengths.

Strength: The Offensive Line

The Eagles are huge. General Manager Howie Roseman has prioritized the trenches for his entire tenure in Philadelphia and it really shows. The offensive line is definitely the strength of their offense.

The anchor of the line is Jason Kelce. The athletic, elite center is coming off his fourth career First-Team All-Pro selection. He was dominant as usual, ending the season forfeiting just one sack in 993 snaps.

The Eagles are also solid at both tackle spots. Jordan Mailata is an elite blind side blocker, finishing 2021 with an 87.4 overall PFF (Pro Football Focus) blocking grade. The 2020 seventh rounder is still not yet 25 years old and already a standout.

On the other side, Lane Johnson had an impressive 82.4 overall PFF blocking grade. Furthermore, he did not allow a single sack in 821 offensive snaps. In fact, Johnson only allowed one hit on the quarterback all season. He is steady, reliable and physical.

Guard may need an upgrade. Rookie Landon Dickerson was sound in 2021 and figures to compete with previous incumbent starter Isaac Seumalo for the left guard spot. Nate Herbig showed promise but may not be the long-term answer at right guard. Look for the Eagles to invest draft capital into the interior line.

Rising prospect Zion Johnson from Boston College may in play for the Eagles with their 19th overall selection.

Strength: Running Backs

The Eagles have a stable of capable backs.

Philadelphia’s starting running back Miles Sanders had a peculiar 2021 season. He averaged an incredible 5.5 yards per carry and led all Eagles running backs in yardage despite missing five games. Conversely, he did not score a single touchdown and did have a career low 158 yards receiving from 26 catches. Sanders figures to have a breakout 1,000-yard season with consistent carries and a clean bill of health.

Boston Scott is still a free agent. If he is able to be retained, the small, stout back will provide the Eagles with a continuation of his red zone rampage. Scott had seven touchdowns on the ground and added tough, physical running.

Jordan Howard is a change of pace bruiser that was incredibly effective last season. The 224 lbs. back had 406 yards and three touchdowns. A staggering 198 yards came after contact as he frequently refused to go down. He is also a free agent.

Kenneth Gainwell is the team’s primary receiver out of the backfield. In his rookie season, he had 33 catches for 253 yards and a score. He added five touchdowns on the ground and looks to be featured as the third-down back in 2022.

Fortunately, the Eagles do have three fifth-round picks in the upcoming draft. One of these can be used to replenish any departing free agents, as well as offer insurance in case 2023 free agency sees Sanders walk.

Solid: Tight End

Dallas Goedert has arrived. So much so that the Eagles chose to part ways with their former superstar tight end Zach Ertz. Moreover, the Eagles also inked Goedert to a four-year, $57 million extension. This deal comes after a breakout season where the former second-round pick had 830 yards from just 56 catches.

While the starting position is in steady hands, the depth at tight end is suspect. Rotational pieces Jack Stoll, Richard Rodgers and Tyree Jackson all showed flashes of NFL-worthy ability. That being said, none of them galvanized themselves as the tight end to line up next to Goedert in 12 personal looks.

The Eagles will likely go after a sound run-blocking tight end who is also capable of being a short and intermediate outlet for Jalen Hurts. Thus, they will likely search for relief in the second or third day of the NFL Draft.

Solid: Quarterback

Jalen Hurts showed some really promising signs in 2021.

Firstly, he led the team in rushing with 784 yards and ten touchdowns. The smooth yet explosive runner was consistently damaging teams with his legs. Furthermore, he averaged 5.6 yards per rushing attempt, which gashed defenses regularly and forced them to account for an extra man in the box.

Secondly, Hurts made significant progress as a passer as the season progressed. Despite finished the season with only 16 touchdowns, he was able to have a solid 3,144 yards and only nine interceptions. He most certainly needs more consistency with his deep ball, but he showed steady improvement.

This improvement was quantified quite starkly when comparing his rookie season to his first full year as the Eagles’ starter. Although it was a small sample size with just four starts, Hurts lifted his on-target throw percentage from a paltry 60.7% to 78.2% from his first to second season. Similarly, his bad throw percentage went from 26.7% to 14.0%.

The Eagles hope that year three can yield a similarly productive year of development. They will need to provide Hurts with more weapons to accurately assess his capability as their franchise quarterback moving forward. Besides rookie DeVonta Smith and speedy receiver Quez Watkins, no wideout topped 300 yards.

Behind him, Gardner Minshew is a more than capable backup. He takes care of the ball, is savvy and will provide fantastic insurance should Hurts miss any games in 2022. The Eagles may shop him as the quarterback carousel winds down for further assets in the draft. Alternatively, Philadelphia could choose to keep him as insurance.

Weakness: Wide Receiver

DeVonta Smith is a bright star in an otherwise gloomy receiving corps. The Eagles’ top receiving threat fell just short of 1,000 yards in his rookie season, notching 916 yards from just 64 receptions. He found the endzone five times and had only two drops the entire season.

Quez Watkins was the number two option for the Eagles, but that certainly figures to change. He was solid with 647 yards through the air, but only found the end zone once. Furthermore, the speedy receiver is most likely more suited to a slot role. That being said, he has been solid as a sixth-round selection in 2020.

Jalen Reagor has become a draft bust. He had only 299 yards receiving last season and his measly 4.5 yards/reception was terrible. He will likely be buried deep within the depth chart. Even getting him the ball for rushing attempts didn’t work, with just 32 yards from his ten attempts. In his first two seasons, his quarterbacks have not crossed a rating over 70 when targeting him. He is a likely trade or release candidate.

Greg Ward may move up the depth chart as he found the endzone three times, despite only having seven catches. He also had two drops in just 11 targets. Yet, Ward does show some occasional flashes of solid play. The Eagles re-signed him for another year to provide depth.

The Eagles will certainly address their pass catching weapons in the upcoming NFL Draft, especially with their plethora of first-round selections. They signed former Indianapolis Colts receiver Zach Pascal to a one-year deal, who can provide depth. They are hardly done adding talent though.

It makes sense to get a deep threat in the draft to complement Smith. Look for Philadelphia to consider taking a receiver with one of their first-round picks as well as a flier on someone such as David Bell in the third.

Overall

The Eagles offense is built around a physical running game. With sound depth on their offensive line, as well as a quarterback who is a dangerous runner, the strengths are well established and should be built around. They can be a team that chews the clock and wears down opposing defenses.

That being said, they really struggled playing with a deficit. Their inability to move the ball through the air was exposed harshly against Tampa Bay in the playoffs, where their passing game became truly anemic. Moreover, the addition of a more consistent threat through the air will deter teams from stacking the box against the Eagles and selling out against the run.

The Eagles need to focus on upgrading their weapons. Their offensive line will be solid regardless of upgrading their guards. Their running backs are solid enough to take advantage of the huge holes they are given.

Clearly, the Eagles need to focus on upgrading their pass-catching weapons. The 2022 NFL Draft is the easiest way to do so. The Eagles can pursue an elite prospect with one of their three first-round picks and then take a flier on a falling prospect like David Bell in the later rounds.

Whatever they choose to do, the Eagles know where they need to invest. We hope to see a deadly passing attack to complement their physically dominant running attack.

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