NFL

Why Wide Receivers Top the List of Offseason Needs for the Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles had an injury-riddled 2019 season that ended in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Round. Carson Wentz, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Darren Sproles, Jalen Mills, Brandon Brooks, Timmy Jernigan, and Malik Jackson all missed time at some point during the season. And that’s not even the full list.

Philadelphia had to rely on multiple unproven, young players down the stretch. With many players returning from injury, the Eagles are poised for another run at an NFC East title. As the new league year approaches, here’s a look at the Eagles’ priorities for the offseason.

Add speed at wide receiver

It seems like this headlines the Eagles’ to-do list every offseason, but it’s more accurate now than ever.

The good news is DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery will be returning to the lineup in 2020. The bad news is neither player is reliable enough to stay on the field for long stretches, and both are on the tail ends of their careers.

The Eagles need to get younger and faster at the wide receiver position, and the best way to accomplish that is through the draft. Howie Roseman must use Philadelphia’s 21st overall pick on a receiver. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, and Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III could be the Eagles’ top targets in the first round.

Philadelphia would also be wise to invest in a cheap free agent receiver to bolster the group’s depth as well. With Nelson Agholor likely heading out of town, the Eagles will be thin at the position. Robby Anderson, Phillip Dorsett, and Demarcus Robinson are all viable options that won’t break the bank in free agency.

Resign Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod

The Eagles’ 2020 secondary has a ton of question marks surrounding it right now. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are both free agents at the cornerback position, as well as Rodney McLeod at safety. Losing all three starters would be disastrous for the Eagles.

As for cornerback, the Eagles might be forced to choose between Mills and Darby. Both players have had injury issues in the past few years, but Mills should be the priority.

Mills allowed a 57.4 opponent completion percentage last season while Darby allowed a 64.2 percent clip. Mills also allowed fewer touchdowns — four to Darby’s six. Darby was the worst tackler in the Eagles’ secondary last year, too. He missed 15.9 percent of his attempted tackles in 2020. Mills missed just 6.8 percent.

At the safety position, Philadelphia has no depth behind McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins. Both played every single game last season in the two safety spots. The only other safeties on the current roster are Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford, neither of which are starting-caliber NFL players. If the Eagles can’t sign McLeod this offseason, they will be desperately scrambling for a replacement.

Add depth to the defensive line

The Eagles struggled to get pressure on the quarterback at times last season. Brandon Graham was their most effective pass rusher, recording a team-high 8.5 sacks. Derek Barnett was second on the team with 6.5.

Philadelphia could also use more depth in the middle of the defensive line. Fletcher Cox is as dependable as they come inside, but Timmy Jernigan and Malik Jackson have proved to be injury-prone over the past few years.

With Jackson expected to be healthy for the start of the season, the Eagles don’t need to invest in a free agent at the position. They should, however, use a draft pick or two to add to the depth on the defensive line. Jackson isn’t getting any younger and Jernigan could leave in free agency, so having younger replacements ready for their departures is imperative.