Eagles Stock Report: Who's Rising, Who's Falling, Who's Holding Steady?
Training camp technically started Tuesday in the NFL, with players around the league reporting to their team facilities or choosing the opt-out. In Philadelphia, the Eagles learned that wide receiver Marquis Goodwin would be taking the opt-out. They also placed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list. As camp opens, but with weeks to go before more traditional practices commence, it's a good time to peek at the roster for a 2020 stock report. Here are my choices for player on the Eagles who's on the rise, on the decline and holding steady.
Rise: Miles Sanders
Though his rookie season got off to a less-than-ideal start, Sanders proved he has the intangibles to grow into a premier, three-down runner. And in 2020, he’ll be given every opportunity to become one.
With Jordan Howard sidelined for much of the second half of last season, Sanders infused a largely stagnant offense down the stretch. In December, he turned 80 carries into 381 yards and two touchdowns, while also demonstrating efficiency in the passing game. The Penn State product responded positively to his increased workload, prompting the Eagles to let Jordan Howard walk in free-agency and neglect adding to the position in the draft.
Pederson hasn't yet enjoyed the luxury of rostering a feature running back during his Eagles’ tenure, so look for him to alter his approach and rely heavily on Sanders. While his pass blocking improved from early last season, it remains a work in progress. Despite catching just 32 passes in three years for the Nittany Lions, Sanders transitioned seamlessly to the passing game at the pro ranks.
If the Eagles can manage his workload – somewhere around 16-18 touches per game – Sanders could feasibly produce a 1,700 all-purpose sophomore campaign.
Decline: Malik Jackson
After returning from a season-ending foot injury, Jackson will have to overcome the inevitable rust that comes from months of inactivity, and the challenges that come with a new role.
Jackson, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in 2019, played just one game before suffering the debilitating injury. Before his injury, Jackson was coming off an underwhelming 3.5 sack season in 16 games (10 starts) with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fast forward to 2020. Hesitant to rely solely on Jackson's return to be the primary complement to Fletcher Cox, the Eagles pounced on 27-year-old Javon Hargrave in free agency, inking the interior mauler to a lucrative free-agent deal. With Hargrave slated to start alongside Cox, the 30-year-old Jackson becomes a prominent depth piece.
How active Jackson can be in a minimized role and nearly a year away from the gridiron remains to be seen. The versatile defender will have some significant hurdles to overcome, as the Eagles hope to yield a return on one of their priciest investments.
Steady: Rodney McLeod
With Malcolm Jenkins no longer in the fold, McLeod effectively becomes the elder statesman of a new-look secondary. In 2020, he’ll likely be tasked with undertaking the backend communication and ensuring that Jalen Mills, Will Parks, and rookie K’Von Wallace can confidently execute their assignments.
Coming off a standout 2015 season with the Rams, McLeod signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the Eagles in the early stages of free agency. At the time of the signing, McLeod and Jenkins became the highest-paid safety tandem in football.
Appearing in 49 games in his four seasons in Philadelphia, McLeod compiled 223 tackles (five for loss), 23 passes defended, eight interceptions, and a pair of sacks and forced fumbles. The one-time undrafted defender has remained a rock steady presence on the back end for the Eagles. His production and experience in Jim Schwartz’ system will be valuable in getting the new additions up to speed in short time.
McLeod has never been named to an All-Pro team, and while approaching his ninth season, the Virginia product is hardly considered a household name. Still, McLeod’s savvy, physicality, and leadership can’t be understated.
While the Jenkins chapter has concluded in Philadelphia, McLeod has proven he can be counted on to play fundamentally sound football, force the occasional turnover – and lead.