A few years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, had a roster packed with talent, and looked set to go on a dynasty run.
Now, they’re struggling just to make it to the playoffs and are coming off their worst season since 2012.
Last year, the Eagles finished their regular season with a worrying 4-11-1 and lost seven of their last eight games.
They failed to score 30 or more points in a single game across the entire season, a malady that hadn’t occurred since 1998.
In January of this year, head coach Doug Pederson was dismissed after five seasons with the Eagles, including 2017 which saw them lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s history.
So, they will enter the 2021 season under the guidance of former Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. They’ll begin their regular campaign on September 12 against the Atlanta Falcons.
For those into football betting sites, Philadelphia is listed as slight underdogs for that opening game, with many expecting the Falcons to scupper the Eagles’ hopes of a strong start to the new season.
The Eagles will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets during the preseason throughout August, as each NFL team is limited to three preseason games.
With quarterback Carson Wentz traded to the Colts in March, Philadelphia has a swathe of new players in their roster to try and turn things around for the franchise. Chief among those is wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who was a first-round draft pick.
He joins the Eagles off the back of a legendary run with Alabama, picking up the Heisman trophy with them last year and proving himself one of the most exciting young talents in the sport. In fact, many feel he should have been higher in the Draft.
At roughly 170bs, he is wickedly fast and extremely good with his hands, meaning he can pinch the ball out of the air even when surrounded by opponents, and navigate his way out. Some believe he is still too small, but he has proven he can ride tackles and has the agility and athleticism to cause real problems for other teams in the NFL.
Questions remain over how Sirianni will deploy Smith, and how the young star will partner with quarterback Jalen Hurts. It might take a few games to find their stride, but if Smith can emulate the form he displayed in Alabama, the Eagles could have a much better season in 2021.
In the few games he replaced an injured Wentz last year, Hurts was impressive, particularly against Arizona. He threw for 338 yards and nabbed three touchdowns, proving that he deserves a chance to lead the Eagles’ offense this season.
The Eagles lost safety Jalen Mills to the Patriots in this year’s Draft, though managed to replace him with Anthony Harris from the Minnesota Vikings.
Smith’s Alabama teammate Landon Dickerson, who plays at center, could also be an influential Draft signing for Philadelphia. Despite injury troubles, he was a unanimous All-America selection and was awarded the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center in 2020.
One of the more baffling elements of the Eagles’ recent woes is that their roster is demonstrably talented and features some of the best players in the league. Offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce are two of the best players in their respective positions and the same can be said of defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
So, attention will of course turn to tactics and strategy for the new season and how new head coach Sirianni will attempt to course-correct the franchise.
One thing to remember is that last year, Philadelphia was plagued with injuries across their roster, resulting in the second-most adjusted games lost due to injury.
First-round Draft pick Jalen Reagor had his development hampered when he picked up an injury in training camp and missed four games. Jason Kelce was the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games in the regular season, and only two regular defenders didn’t miss an outing.
So, if the team has some better luck when it comes to fitness, their chances for the season will already be bolstered.
Plus, they’ve got the fresh enthusiasm of Sirianni.
After leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl, Pederson will always be a favorite at the club but his last few seasons in charge were dreadful in comparison to that dream 2017 campaign. Sirianni offers new blood and a fresh perspective, and he clearly favors offensive play.
There are also issues off the gridiron that do not seem to have been addressed, such as the meddling of Jeffrey Lurie, which has caused plenty of infighting. A fresh team and head coach can only go so far if the deeper-rooted problems aren’t resolved.
All this makes the Eagles a fascinating franchise to monitor over the coming season.
If their young talent can shine, especially Smith, and their older stalwarts continue to prove their worth, Philadelphia can do very well, especially in the NFC East. However, they’ve also shown that they can go off the rails alarmingly quickly, so this season really could go either way.
Featured Image: Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP
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