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Eagles’ Biggest Strengths Heading Into the 2021 NFL Draft

The Philadelphia Eagles are in a weird spot, where they have some elite players, then have some terrible weaknesses. Oddly enough, if Jalen Hurts plays well, the Eagles can’t be counted out of the playoff hunt. A lot of that has to do with how weak their division is, of course, but there are some pockets of strength on this team. Let’s go over these strengths, prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Eagles Strengths Prior to 2021 NFL Draft

Strength 1: Running Back

Miles Sanders may not be as good as many Eagles fans seem to think (he’s not a top-five guy) but Sanders is still a good back. Sanders is sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none guy. Besides his speed, nothing he does necessarily stands out as an amazing talent or skill, but he’s not bad at anything either. He’s good at pretty much everything. Elusiveness, vision, pass-catching, power, agility; he can do it all, but isn’t quite as powerful as Josh Jacobs or Derrick Henry or as good a pass catcher as Alvin Kamara, etc.

He had two touchdowns of over 70 yards in 2020, and the rest of his touchdowns were within five yards, showing his versatility. His pass-catching was poor last year, but in his rookie year he was a major weapon on that front, with 50 catches for 509 yards and three scores. He was also fifth in yards per carry last year. As far as starting running backs go, you can do a whole lot worse than Sanders.

Miles Sanders Eagles nfl draft
Credit: Matt Rourke/AP Photo

What’s Behind Miles Sanders?

Of course, Sanders can’t do it alone. Well, maybe he could, but the Eagles don’t seem like they want to let him. Things could change with a brand new coaching staff, but Sanders had 11.2 rushes per game in year one and 13.7 in year two. The Birds don’t seem to use him as a workhorse back, which means he does cede carries to others. Luckily, as far as backups go, the Eagles are also solid. Boston Scott has filled in admirably when Sanders has been unable to go. He averaged 76 total yards per game in his four starts last year, and had arguably the highlight of the season, the game-winning touchdown against the New York Giants in Week 7.

The Eagles also re-signed Jordan Howard to a one-year deal earlier this month. Howard was a disaster in Miami, but in 2019, he was a nice piece for the Birds. He’s nothing spectacular, but definitely serviceable, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and scoring seven total touchdowns. Howard is still only 26, somehow, so physically, he should be ready to go in a reduced role. It’s enough that when Sanders needs a breather or if he gets hurt, the Eagles don’t have to abandon the running game.

Strength 2: Offensive Line

Despite this being a disaster position last year, when healthy, the Eagles line is a top unit in the country. They have three Pro-Bowlers in Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. Kelce and Johnson in particular are top-five minimum at their position when healthy. At left tackle, they have two options. Jordan Mailata was one of the few bright spots for the Birds last year, finishing with a PFF grade of 70.3 once he took over the job. 

Andre Dillard was the Eagles first round pick in 2019, and he showed a lot of promise when he was at his natural position of left tackle. He famously held his own against Kahlil Mack in his rookie year. He lost his entire 2020 to injury though, and may have been pipped by Mailata. Still, more options isn’t a bad thing. Finally, Isaac Seumalo occupies that last spot and is above-average. He’s posted a 60+ PFF grade the last three years, which is acceptable. If that’s your worst lineman, you’re doing great. 

Brandon Graham eagles free agency nfl
Credit: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Strength 3: Defensive Line

If football truly is won in the trenches, the Eagles are pretty well positioned to succeed. The defensive line has always been a point of emphasis, and it shows. While the depth may not be there like in past years, the starters are quite good. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are elite, as some of the best at their positions in the entire NFL. Javon Hargrave was a monster in the back half of the year. PFF graded him as the fifth-best interior lineman at pass rushing. Filling out the tackle rotation is Hassan Ridgeway, another good player when healthy. 

Finally, Josh Sweat had six sacks in a rotational role and is dramatically improving every year, while Derek Barnett has been consistently solid since coming into the league. That’s six guys who are above-average or better. Again, that’s not a bad place to be at all. Besides those six though, there is basically nothing, but that’s an elite top six. 

Honorable Mentions

Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are a good safety duo, with both ranking in the top-40 for safeties, according to PFF. Considering every team has two of them, that’s pretty good. Behind them, Marcus Epps filled in for McLeod after his injury and ended up leading the Eagles in interceptions. That was just two, but still. They also have K’Von Wallace, another young safety with potential. 

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