If you’re into lowball-style betting and like to routinely bet on who will earn the top pick in the following season’s draft, today’s post makes a strong case for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, the Eagles can still build a contender for 2021 via free agency and the NFL draft.
However, by the looks of things, they may take the same strategy that the Cleveland Browns took in 2016. This involved tearing down the roster to the bare bones and building it back up. Cleveland went 1-31 during that stretch but, so far, the bleakness paid dividends.
Also, Jalen Hurts didn’t impress in 2020. And it appears he’ll get the nod, at least in the first few games of the season. Couple Hurts’ ineptitude with a poor receiving unit, and things are looking bleak in Philadelphia.
Today’s post discusses these issues.
Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts Will Hurt Their Chances
Jalen Hurts hurts the Eagles’ chances of doing anything in the NFC East, let alone contending in games. While he can run, Hurts looked like DeShone Kizer (2017 Browns) when he actually threw the ball, completing just 52% of his passes.
Hurts is a run-first quarterback in the Lamar Jackson mold. An old-school style “running back who can throw,” type of quarterback. And with teams having caught on to the Ravens offensive scheme in 2020, it’s not exactly innovative, or re-innovative.
Translation: Hurts will struggle. Even if the Philadelphia Eagles go incredibly old-school and insert wishbone and flexbone formations.
Sure, Hurts can grow and sure, the Eagles could build around him. But really, why bother? Hurts lost his job back in college to Tua Tagovailoa. That could foreshadow something here in Philadelphia.
Some of you may say, “He beat out Carson Wentz. That’s why Wentz is a Colt.”
Wentz wanted out of Philadelphia. And if one team was more than interested in giving up a borderline King’s ransom for the North Dakota State product, it was the Indianapolis Colts, where Frank Reich once served as Wentz’s offensive coordinator.
Hurts struggled in 2020 once teams figured out how to contain him. He will struggle again in 2021. He’s nothing more than fodder for whoever the Eagles could contend to replace him in 2022 with the first overall pick—if they earn it.
And even if they bring in competition by drafting a quarterback in the first round this season, there’s still a massive drop off after Trevor Lawrence. Zach Wilson had just one good season. Teams figured out Justin Fields. Mac Jones is likely the product of the system. And Trey Lance played just one full season at NDSU.
There’s not a lot to like here, and a quarterback controversy can sink the Eagles. So, if you place bets on which team will land the top pick, pay attention to the bleak quarterback situation in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ Hints at the Cleveland Browns Strategy
Are the Philadelphia Eagles doing what the Cleveland Browns started five seasons ago, back in 2016?
There are a lot of similarities.
For one, we already talked about Jalen Hurts being played as potential fodder here—much like Kizer was in Cleveland. He was an inaccurate quarterback with fair rushing ability. Hurts may not go 0-15 as Kizer did, but don’t be surprised if he wins fewer than four games.
The Eagles also had a poor showing on defense back in 2020, allowing 418 points. And while the interior pass rush and overall pass rush clicked, the rushing defense faltered and fell to 23rd in the league. The good news for the Eagles is that their stellar pass rush and passing defense can return.
The bad news?
They have a lot of work to do on the rest of the defense, which we will cover later in the post. We also need to discuss a major concern regarding the Eagles: their barren wide receiver room.
And since we’re comparing this team’s supposed strategy to the 2016-17 Cleveland Browns, you will see a lot of similarities between the two teams’ receiver rooms.
Let’s look at the issue further in the next section.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ Barren Receiver Room
In 2016, the Browns had Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor, Rashard Higgins, and Andrew Hawkins. As for the Eagles, Alshon Jeffery remains the best receiver on the roster. However, the team expects to release him. This will leave Jalen Reagor as the next best option.
But how good is Reagor?
Like many former top selections at receiver for the Eagles, Reagor underperformed, having caught just 31 passes for 396 yards and 2 touchdowns. That can change. But with an inaccurate Hurts, it will be tough to adjust.
DeSean Jackson is gone. And as mentioned earlier, it’s likely you’ll see Jeffrey go, too. The team also expects to trade or release Zach Ertz, considering his contract situation is entering a season where the maximum salary cap is said to decrease. This will lead to player migration all across the league.
And Ertz is a likely candidate, leaving Dallas Goedert to man the tight end position. Goedert is also possibly the team’s best option at pass-catcher. He
has performed well as the TE2 in Philadelphia. But over the past fbfdd seasons, he’s been the third option at most.
This doesn’t bode well for Hurts, given his less-than-stellar accuracy throwing the football. It also gobbles up his running lanes, especially if defenses find it easy to stop the Eagles’ pass-catching unit.
If the Eagles had a more accurate passer at the QB1 position, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But considering the fact that Hurts has yet to prove he can be a legit NFL passer, it foreshadows a long season in Philadelphia.
Of course, this could change if the Eagles were to look to the NFL Draft and snag someone like Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. But even then, Wilson’s sole good season in college signals that he may need time to adjust. And Fields deeply regressed during his last season at Ohio State.
Plus, there’s always a potential quarterback controversy brewing if the Eagles were to go with a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. It shows that they’re not totally sold on Hurts. And most of the time, quarterback competitions sink both talents.
They could turn this into a Philip Rivers-Drew Brees situation. But even then, such a scenario will only work if Hurts has a breakout year.
Struggles on the Philadelphia Eagles Defense
The Eagles ranked well in several key defensive statistics in 2020. But it didn’t stop them from giving up 418 points, or over 26 points per game. Considering the team’s talented pass rush, which resulted in the team ranking in the top 5 in sacks, opposing offenses still figured them out.
It often came in the running game. And while the Eagles gave up a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, teams could run consistently on the Eagles. And as legendary head coach Woody Hayes once stated, “3 yards and a cloud of dust” is all you need to move the ball when you commit to the run.
And it seemed like teams followed that mantra against the Eagles all season long.
For the Eagles to improve in 2021, they need to focus on the rushing defense. However, as you can clearly see, such an improvement is scarce when there are so many holes on offense, potentially starting with the quarterback position.
The Eagles can’t fix all of this in one offseason. If the Eagles can’t fix their run game woes, expect improvement on offense. But don’t expect it to win them many games. On the flip side, if the Eagles focus on fixing the defense, it means points on offense will be hard to come by.
And the team has already started dismantling the offense by cutting DeSean Jackson, trading Carson Wentz, and implying that they will let Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz go.
So, perhaps they’ll target defense in the 2021 NFL Draft…
Then again, head coach Nick Sirianni has an offensive mind.
What’s not to say the Eagles rebuild the offense in his image?
And if that’s the case, the Eagles’ defense will continue to suffer for at least another year.
If you’re reading this thinking it’s a lose-lose-lose situation, you’re probably right. There are no guarantees that the Eagles will land the top pick or that you’ll land cash if you wager it. But the Eagles provide a strong case that they’ll land at least in the top 5 in 2022.
It’s clear that the Philadelphia Eagles are a weak football team heading into 2021 and pinning their hopes on a player who had a completion percentage of just 52%. Worse yet, the Eagles are tearing down their receiving unit, leaving it barren for 2021.
On the other side of the ball, the run defense struggled just enough to allow teams to run the ball down their throats. It’s one thing to give up chunks here and there, but the Eagles gave up “three yards and a cloud of dust” far too often in 2020.
And if new head coach Nick Sirianni focuses on fixing his offense first, the defense will regress in 2021.
Do you think the Philadelphia Eagles are a hot bet to land the first overall pick in 2022? Let us know in the comments.
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