Columnist Dave Spadaro evaluates strengths and weaknesses the Eagles may face come September.
By Dave Spadaro
It is break time for the Eagles, which is roughly equivalent to a five-week school-is-out experience for the players and coaching staff. The NovaCare Complex is largely shut down until late July, when training camp begins.
So what do we know about the Eagles after a busy offseason of roster shuffling and on-field work? Truth is, nobody really knows until the pads go on and the tackling is live and the games count in the standings. Until then, until September, we can talk about what we think we know. So here goes …
• The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency and Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson in the draft have improved the wide receiver corps significantly. Jeffery may not have dropped a pass in the entire spring. He’s the real deal. Smith still has wheels and big-play capability. The rooks have some skills. Heck, the wide receivers were so encouraging in the spring — and this is why over-evaluating what you see with no pads is dangerous — that Nelson Agholor had a really strong performance and you think that maybe, just maybe, he’s turned the corner.
• Quarterback Carson Wentz has a quick release, a great arm and he makes throws that few other quarterbacks can make. All of the talk about his “mechanical flaws” is hogwash. The kid is special. Enjoy watching him develop.
• The questions about the cornerbacks are legitimate. The Eagles have young players there. They’re going to go through ups and downs. It’s fair to say that cornerback is №1 on the list of concerns for this football team.
• This team has a chance to be really good at the line of scrimmage. Never have the Eagles been as deep and talented along the offensive line. If Jason Peters can hold up at left tackle, and if the Eagles stay healthy, the offensive line should be among the best in the league. On the other side, the question is depth at defensive tackle. Otherwise, the Eagles should be very good. №1 draft pick Derek Barnett’s next step is to impress with pads on as much as he impressed without the pads in the spring.
• Free agents and their order of potential impact: Jeffery, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, running back LeGarrette Blount and Smith. Defensive end Chris Long looks like he has some life in his legs and should be a solid part of the end rotation.
• How many wins? It depends on how the Eagles handle the fourth quarter of games and how well they play on the road. The team struggled in the fourth quarter last season and also went 1–7 away from Lincoln Financial Field last season. To make the playoffs, the Eagles have to be a whole lot better in close games.
• Which side of the football is ahead — the offense or the defense? Probably the offense. The Eagles seem to have all the parts in place to score a lot of points. On defense, the questions are valid about the cornerbacks and, truth be told, the linebackers need to show that they have enough depth to last a full season.
• Finally, this: What will be different about head coach Doug Pederson this season? He’s been decisive and authoritative and energetic in the offseason. He needs to take the next step on game days, too. Losing 10-point leads in the fourth quarter on the road in Dallas just won’t cut it this season. ••