Rebuilding Eagles look to bounce back under new coach

Jackson McCrae '23, Sports Editor

The Eagles kick off their 2021 campaign Sunday, August 12th at 1:00 PM when they fly to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. After a lackluster 2020 season, most expect the Eagles to have another disappointing year. However, under the leadership of first year head coach Nick Sirianni, the Eagles will look to bounce back.

Nick Sirianni had an interesting path to his job in Philly (covered in this article), and Eagles fans are interested to see how he will fare in the City of Brotherly Love. According to reports, Sirianni struggled in his new role at the beginning of training camp, but as time has gone by, he has grown accustomed to his new job and has earned the respect of his players.

Veteran center Jason Kelce told Sports Illustrated reporter Ed Krackz, “It’s not an act of any sort. That’s kind of who he is, and he’s really excited to be a head coach and that’s very evident. He’s really excited to have a staff here, to be working with the team.”

The biggest talk of training camp was the quarterback controversy between Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, and (as of the end of August) Gardner Minshew. While Eagles fans across the world were screaming for Hurts to be named starter, Sirianni waited until after all the preseason games concluded before naming the sophomore QB the starter. Hurts has made it evident that he’s not afraid to work and has shown incredible poise and leadership for a second year QB, generating some buzz around the league.

The Eagles’ starting RB was never really a question, as that job always belonged to veteran Miles Sanders, and the second RB slot was almost certainly going to Boston Scott. However, the third slot was a toss-up between veteran Jordan Howard, Elijah Holyfield, and rookie Kenneth Gainwell. After the final cuts, it was Gainwell that remained as the RB3 and the backup kick returner.

Despite concerns around the league about the Eagles’ receiving core, they could be poised to surprise most. Rookie DeVonta Smith battled injuries in the preseason but bounced back and has looked comfortable thus far. Sophomore WR Jalen Reagor has also looked good, slowly improving throughout training camp (he also broke the internet with a ridiculous one-handed catch at practice). Sophomore WR Quez Watkins has looked solid too, as the former sixth round pick has surprised nearly everyone with his speed, superb route running, and great hands. Despite being the Eagles best receiver on the roster last year, Travis Fulgham did not make the 53-man roster, and is currently on the practice squad, while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (notoriously taken ahead of star Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf in the 2019 draft) somehow got the final roster slot over Fulgham.

The Eagles’ TEs are, as usual, a massive bright spot. Dallas Goedert has taken the starting job this year, and veteran Zach Ertz is the backup. Both are very talented TEs and can make for some dangerous two-TE sets.

The Eagles’ offensive line is faced with the same question it is every year: can they stay healthy? If they can, the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the league, headlined by veterans Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, and Jordan Mailata, with former first-round pick Andre Dillard as a solid backup. If the Eagles can keep most of those linemen healthy, this offense will exceed expectations. If not, Jalen Hurts will have to spend a lot of time improvising and running around the backfield.

The Eagles’ defensive line is once again the brightest spot on this team. There are eight starting caliber defensive linemen on roster (some teams don’t even have four). The starting four are Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Derek Barnett. Behind this elite group is Ryan Kerrigan, Marlon Tuipulotu, Milton Williams, and Josh Sweat. The Eagles have been very inconsistent as a whole since their 2017 Super Bowl win, but the most consistent position group has been their star-studded defensive line.

The Eagles’ linebackers are the polar opposite of the defensive line. Simply put, they’re horrendous. Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, and Genard Avery are the starting linebackers, and none of them are very impressive. Passing on Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second round of April’s draft was a bad decision at the time, and it’s shaping up to be a decision that will haunt the Eagles this season.

The Eagles’ secondary faces the same issue as the offensive line: health. Every year the Eagles are scraping the bottom of the barrel after injuries devastate the secondary. However, the Eagles are starting Darius Slay, Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and Steven Nelson this year, a lineup that looks good on paper. Due to the secondary mainly consisting of players in their first or second year with the team, it will be interesting to see if they can gel on the field.

While there are many opinions on the Eagles, the consensus among fans and analysts is that they will be bad. However, if Hurts can perform well and the Eagles can stay healthy, in a weak NFC East, the Eagles can win the division and sneak into the playoffs