So often, off-season pundits look at the top of the depth chart and make their predictions and their prognosis off that alone. The QB1, RB1, and WR1 dictate the editorial future of every NFL team between the months of March and August. However, so much of what happens in an NFL season trickles down far beyond the starters, and in the Philadelphia Eagles case last year, can trickle down to the practice squad. That begs the question, will the Eagles be prepared if they experience a high number of injuries in 2020? A Philadelphia Eagles depth chart preview is in order.
Philadelphia Eagles Depth Chart
The Demise in 2019
The 2019 Philadelphia Eagles offense was supposed to be explosive, versatile, and teeming with talent. The Philadelphia passing game was supposed to be balanced by DeSean Jackson and his elite speed and Alshon Jeffery with his size and catch radius. Not to mention, Philadelphia had one of the deepest running back corps in the NFL, with Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles. All of this talent was to be at the fingertips of one the NFL’s best young quarterbacks in Carson Wentz.
That did not happen.
The injury-ridden Eagles trudged to a 5-7 record through 12 games. They were in desperate straits, losing Desean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, and more to injury. Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson, and company picked up the pieces down the stretch, and made the postseason with practice squad players on the roster. Greg Ward became Alshon Jeffery. Miles Sanders became Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard. Carson Wentz found a way to win, and guide Philadelphia into the postseason. While they did make the playoffs with a reasonable amount of momentum, they were undermanned and outgunned in the Wild Card Round against the Seattle Seahawks, especially after Carson Wentz left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Without the onslaught of injuries, the Eagles would have surely been a real Super Bowl contender.
The position of wide receiver gave Eagles fans the most heartache in 2019, but Philadelphia has taken huge leaps forward going into 2020. Many expected the Eagles to move on from Alshon Jeffery, but instead they kept Jeffery on the roster and retooled around him with the additions of rookies Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins, along with veteran Marquise Goodwin. All of these receivers are explosive and clock in under 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, per Pro Football Reference. If Jeffery, Jackson, or even tight ends Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert succumb to injury in 2020, the Eagles will be in good shape to fill those respective roles.
Miles Sanders and Company: Running Back Depth
At the running back position, the Eagles are dangerously thin. Miles Sanders is expected to take over as the bell-cow back in Philadelphia. But an injury to Sanders would leave Philadelphia with Boston Scott and Corey Clement in their backfield. Scott showed flashes last year, but is severely undersized and is at best a change of pace back. And Clement has not seen the field since 2018 due to injury. Philadelphia is rumored to be in the market for a veteran running back, and they will still be weak at that position, behind Sanders, if they do not add a quality veteran.
Offensive Line: Questions Abound
The offensive line was an absolute force in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, “All five starters — Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson — graded among the top-10 players at their respective positions.”
Three of those five players are back in 2020. Jason Peters, one of the two who is not, saw his play deteriorate over the course of 2019, and is now 38 years old. However, this past week it was announced that Brandon Brooks would be out for the year after tearing his Achilles. That untimely news, combined with the fact that the Eagles lost serious depth in Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who signed with the Detroit Lions, leaves the Eagles offensive line with serious questions of depth.
Behind the four “known” starters, Andre Dillard, Kelce, Johnson, and Seumalo, the Eagles offensive line depth is largely in the hands of mostly unproven talent in Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata, who have 79 career snaps total (all Pryor) and rookies Jack Conklin,and Prince Tega Wanogho. One of the aforementioned will have to fill the void Brandon Brooks left, which means the Eagles will have even less depth along the offensive line. Jeff Stoutland, the Eagles offensive line coach, has gotten the most of his guys year in and year out. However, it will take him time to coach up his largely inexperienced second unit. The Eagles may be well served to search for a veteran backup that can play multiple positions along the offensive line. If one of the starters goes down, especially early in the year, things could get very interesting.
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, the interior defensive line is retooled and dangerous. The signing of Javon Hargrave, coupled with a healthy Malik Jackson should provide ample interior defensive line depth. But the edges are weaker, with Brandon Graham, who is still effective but on the tail end of his career. Graham is paired with Derek Barnett who has not quite lived up to his draft position. Behind them sits Josh Sweat, who in limited reps in 2019 showed true promise, recording four sacks while playing only 34 percent of snaps. Beyond that, the Eagles have no player with significant NFL experience, which could be an issue if Graham or Barnett goes down.
The Linebackers: Fluid and Uncertain
The Eagles linebacker corps is a bit of an enigma. Nigel Bradham remains unsigned as a free agent, and the Eagles signed the rangy Jatavis Brown, but his role remains unclear. TJ Edwards is also in the fold, and he was remarkably effective last year, recording a PFF Grade of 86.6, albeit in limited reps. Beyond Brown and Edwards, though, the Eagles are thin at a position the front office clearly does not value highly. While an injury here might expose that depth, it also is an area where defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could shift personnel from the secondary, adjust scheme and cover any potential losses the position group might suffer. as he has done in the past with Malcolm Jenkins.
As Eagles fans know, the secondary was abysmal in 2019. Rewatching the Week 12 matchup against the Miami Dolphins will tell you all you need to know about the secondary last season. This off-season, they certainly took some steps towards improvement, and more importantly, brought in more depth. They signed All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay from Detroit. Slay will be able to shadow the bevy of top-flight wide receivers the Eagles will have to face this year. As a result, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones will shift down the depth chart, and shoulder much less responsibility. Philadelphia also signed Nickell Robey-Coleman, who will slot in as the nickel corner, and provide depth to the position at large. Eagles fans should feel much better about this group than they have in years past, even if the injury bug bites them once more.
But beyond the corners, the Philadelphia Eagles depth in the secondary leaves something to be desired. Malcolm Jenkins’ leadership will be sorely missed. Philadelphia intends to transition Jalen Mills to start opposite Rodney McLeod at safety. In addition, they signed Will Parks to serve as depth. Parks showed flashes of promise with the Denver Broncos but never had consistent success as a Bronco. The position will be seriously lacking if McLeod gets hurt, or Mills cannot make the transition to safety.
Much like Rome, NFL teams aren’t built in a day. Philly fans should feel much better about what the Eagles have done this off-season to address the glaring 2019 weaknesses at wide receiver and cornerback. Philadelphia added speed at wide receiver and versatility at cornerback. However, the loss of Malcolm Jenkins looms large, and Philadelphia may not have done enough to provide safety depth. Meanwhile, the offensive line is decidedly thinner than in years past. Injuries throughout a 16 game season are the luck of the draw, but the Philadelphia Eagles depth overall should help them stay afloat.
Remember, a second-string quarterback became immortal in Philadelphia three short years ago. It is safe to say this city and this team knows a thing or two about backups.