2020 Season Preview: Offensive MVP Will Be ...?
This is the ninth 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:
Geoff's Choice: Zach Ertz, tight end
The healthy return of DeSean Jackson, the emergence of Miles Sanders and the added explosion of rookie Jalen Reagor should equip Carson Wentz with enough weaponry for the veteran quarterback to feel less burden to be perfect for the offense to function. But there's someone else who should benefit from these additions. The middle of the field should be a playground for Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz's steadiness can sometimes make him the forgotten man in the Eagles' offense, but it's hard to ignore that he's reeled in 204 passes for almost 2,100 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns over the past two seasons. Because he's a technician and not reliant on explosion, his turning 30 in November shouldn't be reason to fear an imminent decline. With deep threats around him commanding more attention, Ertz should continue to flourish, with at least 90 receptions and somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards as very realistic benchmarks for him this season.
Wentz and Ertz have a natural rapport that doesn't need to be honed and repeated as much for the natural symmetry to manifest. And with this season already marred by lost spring camps from Covid-19, and with training likely to feature fewer padded practices along with a lengthy ramp-up period, Wentz will have to lean heavily on his preferred weapons. Sure, the emergence of third-year tight end Dallas Goedert could put a dent in some of Ertz's production, but Eagles receivers are real question marks. Jackson needs to stay healthy, Reagor needs to bridge the rookie gap, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside needs to bounce back from an abysmal rookie season. The sure thing is Wentz and Ertz. In what should be an odd, unprecedented type of season, go with the sure thing.
Andrew's Choice: Miles Sanders, running back
The Defensive MVP candidates were limited to only a handful of choices but the offensive side offers a wide range of possibilities.
If DeSean Jackson, at 33 years old, can stay on the field for a sizable portion of the season, he will likely run away with the award. However, the electrifying deep threat hasn’t played a full season since 2013.
Then there’s the dynamic tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. While I fully anticipate Ertz reprising his role as Carson Wentz’ security blanket and go-to option, the added weaponry figures to eat into the Pro Bowler's target share. In Goedert’s case, I am inclined to think the team will rely on him more heavily in the red zone and capitalize on his ability to churn out yards after the catch. Still, the third-year tight end probably won’t see the requisite volume that typically warrants MVP distinction.
Process of elimination leaves us with Miles Sanders.
Although he struggled to find his footing in the early goings, the running back assumed a prominent role of offense late in the season. Sanders, who compiled 80 carries for 381 yards and two touchdowns in December, showcased his ability to become a three-down workhorse.
Doug Pederson, who has never rostered a feature runner throughout his tenure as head coach of the Eagles, relied heavily on Sanders in critical spots. He then displayed unwavering confidence in the second-year pro by allowing veteran bruiser Jordan Howard to walk in free agency and neglecting the position in the draft.
Make no mistake, the committee approach is a thing of the past. Pederson finally has his do-it-all running back.
Coming into the NFL, the knock on Sanders was his limited production and inexperience as a pass-catcher. A prerequisite for any Eagles running back is pass-catching efficiency, and after catching just 32 passes for the Nittany Lions in three years, Sanders reeled in 50 for the Eagles as a rookie. The Penn State alum is still relatively green in terms of pass protection but showed encouraging signs of development in that area as the season wore on.
On the surface, the Eagles appear to have struck gold in 2019 with the selection of Sanders. The sophomore runner quickly adapted to the pro level and possesses the skill set to emerge as one of the league’s premier running backs.
If the Eagles can keep pace with some of the juggernaut offenses on the slate, it is conceivable to envision Sanders accumulating 1,700 all-purpose yards in 2020.
– 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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