PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The ball bounced off the hands of Alshon Jeffery and into the waiting arms of Marshon Lattimore, and that was it. The end of the 2018 season for the defending Super Bowl LII Eagles.
As Jeffery lie prone on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf last Sunday, Nick Foles was the first one to console the Eagles’ receiver.
Foles won’t be there to console or bail anyone out next year, since he’ll be leaving the Eagles to test the free agent market. This basically leaves the 2019 Eagles without one of the most reliable safety nets in NFL history.
On Tuesday, both Doug Pederson and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman confirmed what was basically known anyway, that moving forward the keys to the Eagles will be in the hands of Carson Wentz, who’s shown that he has great talent in his first three years, but he’s also not finished each of the previous two seasons.
Add in the fact that stalwarts like Brandon Graham and Jason Peters could be gone, and the Eagles are looking at a quasi-serious overhaul. Peters will need to be replaced at left tackle, Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks will still be recovering from the torn Achilles he suffered in the divisional playoff game against the Saints, and possibility that Jason Kelce may retire, and what has been a stronghold for the Eagles, the offensive line, will need to be seriously patched up.
Jay Ajayi is gone. Darren Sproles may be gone. Corey Clement is coming off a knee injury, Josh Adams the Eagles don’t seem to have much faith in. Wendell Smallwood made great strides in 2018 and ran hard. He’s earned another spot in the Eagles’ backfield rotation. But a power back would be a huge help in this area next season.
Tight end Zach Ertz is a star, Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are proven receivers, but grabbing field-stretching receiver could aid the passing game. When the Saints went to a man defense on Sunday, Eagles’ receivers couldn’t create any separation.
Defensively, in an ironic twist, the secondary could be a very potent. Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Rasul Douglas all proved that they can certainly play in the NFL. With iron man and veteran star Malcolm Jenkins holding down the back end, and with Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod both returning from injury, what was a weakness this past season looks to possibly be a strength in 2019.
The biggest issue facing the Eagles moving forward will be culture. If they lose Graham, Peters and Kelce, there will be a gigantic void to fill on and off the field when it comes to the iron bond this Eagles team has had the previous two seasons.
As he left the NovaCare Complex on Monday, possibly for the last time, Graham pulled his white SUV over to curve and signed autographs and took pictures with fans who were standing outside the gates of the Eagles’ practice facility for 10 minutes.
That connection to the fans, and Graham’s infectious positivity will be greatly missed—and gaping hole in the fabric of the Eagles’ winning culture will need to be mended.