The NFL season rapidly approaches and teams are beginning to be set. Free agency is still going, but the initial wave has pretty much cooled off. For the most part, teams won’t be signing huge pieces that will be starters for the upcoming season. So, without further ado, let’s go through the projected 2021 Philadelphia Eagles starting depth chart, beginning with the offense.
Projected 2021 Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Depth Chart + Starters
Quarterback: Jalen Hurts
This one is easy. Honestly, most of the offense is pretty much set. Jalen Hurts was the starter at the end of last year, and he is a young guy that was the Eagles’ second-round pick in 2020. Only an injury will take Hurts out of the starting spot at this point. The only guys he has behind him are 36-year-old Joe Flacco, who hasn’t been good since 2014, and Nick Mullens.
Hurts showed some good signs last year, and he comes in as the incumbent starter without much in the way of competition. It’s nice that Hurts has said the now famous line “Rent is due every day,” in terms of competing for the starting QB job, but in this case, the rent is about zero dollars.
Running Back: Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders has been the starter for 1.5 seasons now, and nothing about his production has warranted the Philadelphia Eagles replacing him. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year, which was seventh overall in the NFL and fifth amongst running backs. Sanders can do it all at the running back spot, whether running or receiving. In fact, the hope for most Eagles fans is that he gets MORE touches.
Sanders is still just 24 and is getting better. His competition is stiffer than Hurts’, but not by that much. Boston Scott was the backup for Sanders last year, Kerryon Johnson couldn’t beat out a 35-year-old Adrian Peterson in Detroit and Jordan Howard had 60 total yards rushing last year.
Wide Receiver: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor
The last two first-round picks for the Philadelphia Eagles should take the starting wide receiver spots. Jalen Reagor started every game he was healthy last year, and again is still young and hopefully developing. There’s no need to sit him yet. On the other side, DeVonta Smith was a historic college receiver and the Eagles used a top-10 pick to get him. With how the Eagles receivers played last year, it’s not like there’s many entrenched guys to keep such a highly-touted rookie away. The leading wide receiver last year was Travis Fulgham, with a depressing 539 yards, 435 of which came in a five-week span.
That being said, there are some reasons to start Fulgham over Reagor or Smith. The size of Smith could see him start the year in the slot, and Fulgham’s role as a bigger, contested/red zone target is currently unchallenged. Fulgham was also the Eagles’ receiving leader, as sad as it may be. It’s not like Fulgham is some over-the-hill veteran either, as he is just 25. Still, the first-round duo is what the people want to see and is the most likely the answer.
Slot Receiver: Greg Ward
Like mentioned above, it’s possible Smith plays here occasionally to make room for Fulgham, but Ward, despite being just 25, is basically the longest-tenured receiver on the team somehow. The true answer is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (who’s 24), but he’s not someone that will factor in much at all in the Eagles’ receiving plans, unless Nick Sirianni is a WR whisperer. Ward has been a steady presence in the slot and was the receiving touchdown leader last year for the Eagles, so it would surprise me to see Ward benched. He’s also a trusted target of Hurts, accounting for half of Hurts’ passing scores.
The WR room is a bunch of unproven guys, hungry to show the Eagles, and the world, what they got, so it wouldn’t shock me to see a decent amount of upheaval here. John Hightower and Quez Watkins got some run last year, and despite Arcega-Whiteside’s horrendous first two years, there’s always a chance that the talent that made him a second-round pick in 2019 is in there somewhere.
Tight End: Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise to see Dallas Goedert here, considering that the Philadelphia Eagles have been desperately trying to shop Zach Ertz this entire offseason. Goedert is also younger and he outperformed Ertz last year by a large margin. They both played in 11 games, and Goedert accrued 46 catches for 524 yards and three scores while Ertz posted a 36/336/1 line. Gun to my head, Ertz is still probably the better player, but it’s not by a lot. He’s also five years older and he doesn’t fit into the Eagles’ future at all. For what it’s worth, PFF disagrees with me on Goedert vs. Ertz, as they’ve put Goedert at No. 5 in their best tight end rankings, ahead of names like Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson. It’s also possible that they both start. The Eagles started both last year and have been proponents of two tight end sets.
Regardless, reports have already come out that Goedert will be the starter even if Ertz does stay on the Eagles. The Eagles front office seems pretty set on their valuation of Ertz, so there’s a good chance he is on the team to start the year, but Goedert has pretty cleanly supplanted him for the top tight end spot. That being said, a new coaching staff looks at everyone with fresh eyes, and Ertz was a legit top 3-5 TE for three years. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing to see him start, especially if the Eagles want to somehow increase his trade value.
Left Tackle: Jordan Mailata
This one might be the most contested spot on the roster. Jordan Mailata was the starter last year, but he was only thrust into that role because Andre Dillard, 2019’s first-round pick, suffered a season-ending injury in 2020. Mailata played very well though, and the spot should be his to lose.
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t know what they have in Dillard yet. He showed major flashes of potential when he played in 2019 at left tackle, but there were so few snaps it’s hard to know how much stock you can put in that. He was also a trainwreck at RT in 2019 (also small sample size), and he’s coming off a torn biceps injury.
For what it’s worth, in a recent Instagram post by Eagles’ guard Brandon Brooks, the five linemen in the picture (presumably the starters) feature Mailata, not Dillard. The offseason is still young and things can change, but it seems right now Mailata is the guy. Given he was one of the best things about the Eagles season last year, it isn’t surprising. Both players are young and have a lot of promise, but only one can start, and it looks like it’s Mailata.
Left Guard: Isaac Seumalo
Well, posting that picture was a bit of a spoiler, but I don’t think many of these spots were necessarily in question anyways. Isaac Seumalo has been the Eagles’ starter at left guard for basically three years now, and he hasn’t been bad enough to demand a replacement. He’s not old either, with 2021 being his age 28 season. Seumalo is probably the most replaceable member of the Eagles line (he graded the lowest of the starters last year per PFF), but in many cases consistency in the line is more important than raw ability.
Nate Herbig was fine filling in for Brooks last year at right guard, and PFF liked him quite a bit. It’s possible he can switch sides and play left guard. Landon Dickerson, the Eagles’ 2021 second-rounder, also has experience at every line position. I don’t think either of them will be enough of an upgrade to unseat Seumalo though and risk upsetting consistency. Unless Seumalo gives the Eagles a reason to bench him, he should be the starter for 2021.
Center: Jason Kelce
There’s no reason for Jason Kelce not to be the starter. He’s back and ready to play, and he’s been the Eagles’ most consistent player since he’s been drafted. He’s also been one of the best centers in the NFL, as his three All-Pro selections in the past four years can attest to.
The slightest of arguments here is that Kelce is getting older and has been on the cusp of retirement since 2017. If the team is bad, it may behoove the Eagles to give his replacement, the aforementioned Dickerson, a shot, considering Kelce’s time in the NFL is coming to a close. Even with all that, realistically only an injury will take Kelce out of the starting lineup, and he hasn’t missed a game in six years.
Right Guard: Brandon Brooks
The right side of the Eagles line has an argument to be the best in the NFL, and Brooks is a major part of that; when he can stay healthy. He’s had three season-ending injuries in a row, and the latest one was a torn Achilles (second time he’s done that), which in my opinion is the new ACL tear when it comes to lasting effects. Brooks isn’t a spring chicken either, as this will be his age 32 season. A healthy Brooks is still one of the best guards in the NFL. He’s made the Pro Bowl in the last three seasons he’s played and has had stellar PFF grades since he’s been on the Birds. His 2019 season was his finest yet, posting an insane 92.8 overall grade. For reference, that grade in 2020 would have put him first amongst all guards in the NFL.
Nate Herbig did a decent job filling in, and Brooks is older and injury-prone, but there’s no reason not to play Brooks unless the Eagles have given up on the season. Brooks himself has said he’s ready to play and extremely confident he’ll be back on top, saying “I’ve torn my Achilles before and when I came back I was the best. Period. So, with that said, what tells you it would be any different this time? That’s exactly how I feel.”
The only thing that will stop Brooks from being the starter for the Eagles is injury or if he gets traded, both of which are very real possibilities. For now though, it’s safe to pencil Brooks in.
Right Tackle: Lane Johnson
Similar to Brooks and Kelce, Johnson has been one of the best linemen at his position for awhile now. Also like them, he is getting older. And like Brooks, he is injury-prone. Lane has missed 25 games in the past five years (some of that was for PEDs, to be fair), and is constantly in and out of games as well. That doesn’t change the fact that Johnson is a beast when he’s in. High PFF grades, NFL honors, the eye test — Johnson has it all.
Jack Driscoll and Matt Pryor weren’t horrible filling in for Johnson last year, but they weren’t good either. Just like his fellow linemen, barring the Philadelphia Eagles just giving up and hosting a firesale, Johnson is a set-it and forget-it guy in the lineup week in and week out, as long as he’s healthy.
Philadelphia Eagles Offense as a Whole
Looking at the starters all laid out like this, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense really isn’t that bad. The offensive line especially should contend as one of the best lines in football, if everyone stays upright. The running back and tight end spots are solid, and the receiver room has a lot of potential. The biggest unknown really will be Jalen Hurts and what he can do with a decent team around him.
That’s it for the offense, next time it will be the defense’s turn, and things will look a bit more bleak on that end.