2020 Season Preview: O-Line Still Top Dogs?
This is the third story of a lengthy series from now until the start of training camp by Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco previewing the Eagles' 2020 season. Each weekday, Mosher and DiCecco will give their viewpoint on a specific topic. Today's category:
Strongest Position, Offense
Geoff's Choice: Offensive Line
This wasn't an easy decision given the team's surplus of talent at tight end. Certainly, the Eagles can stake claim to having the NFL's top tight-end duo. And if Carson Wentz reverts to 2017 form thanks to some new weapons on offense who provide perimeter speed, he can be among the top QBs in the game. Andrew will also detail a position that has more talent than some might recognize. But I'm going with ol' reliable here – with emphasis on old. The return of 38-year-old Jason Peters to play right guard comes with some questions, but even without Peters, the Eagles still flaunted two of the best players at their position in right tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce. Offensive line play around the league has sunk to an all-time low, which is why the Eagles and Wentz are still better equipped for success than most. PFF isn't gospel, but the stat site ranked the Eagles as the No. 1 offensive line last season.
It'll be tough to reclaim that ranking after losing Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks to an offseason Achilles tear, but bringing back Peters to fill Brooks' void gives the Eagles a combined 15 Pro Bowls and six All Pros. That's some serious star power. Some have interpreted Peters' re-signing as an indication that Andre Dillard, a 2019 first-round pick, isn't ready to lock down the left tackle spot in 2020. Dillard will get his chance to prove critics wrong.
Sure, there's concern that Kelce, 32, and Peters, 38, will struggle to hold up another season, especially with Peters at a new position. But this piece is about analyzing talent under the presumption of full health. When healthy, this offensive line still has the makings of a dominant unit that can control the line of scrimmage. If the additions on offense can help Wentz get rid of the ball a tad quicker, that'll only help the line play better and more consistently.
Andrew's Choice: Running back
Make no mistake, the Eagles boast an elite tight end tandem and the offensive line presumably returns to elite territory with the addition of Jason Peters. However, I opted to go with a position group that appears relatively underwhelming but possesses a unique blend of traits that should add another layer to a revamped offense.
With Jordan Howard’s departure in free agency, second-year pro Miles Sanders will handle the lion’s share of the carries in 2020. If all goes according to plan, Sanders should see anywhere between 16-18 touches per game and feasibly produce 1,700 all-purpose yards. After a sluggish start to his rookie campaign, Sanders came into his own down the stretch, injecting life into a mostly stagnant offense. Sanders’ big-play capability and rapidly developing skill set will be crucial if the offense expects to catapult into the elite.
While many fans yearned for the Eagles to sign a veteran running back to complement Sanders, the team appears keen on venturing into training camp with Boston Scott as the immediate backup to Sanders. Scott, who appeared in 11 games last season, rushed for 245 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries and thrived as a pass-catcher. The diminutive runner thrived down the stretch for the Eagles, showcasing his exceptional vision, short-area burst, and contact balance while pin-balling his way through traffic.
Scott proved enough in his 85 touches to suggest he’s ready to undertake a prominent role on offense going forward. The 5-foot-6, 203-pound dual-threat will likely see 6-8 touches per game and could have some plays exclusively designed to take advantage of his elusiveness in space.
Beyond Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield, and rookie free agent Mike Warren will be battling it out for what will likely be the third and final spot on the depth chart. I am particularly high on Holyfield's and Warren’s prospects. They're two punishing runners with limited tread on the tires. Both players possess a higher upside than Clement and have yet to scratch the surface of their capabilities.
If the roles and usage materialize as expected, the Eagles will have a talented, diverse stable of running backs for the foreseeable future.
Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Andrew DiCecco (adicecconfl) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com.
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