PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Eagles are going to score a ton of points this year – if everything holds to chalk, like Carson Wentz staying healthy and the offensive line staying healthy and a few running backs emerge to prove that they’re reliable runners.
If everything falls as planned, the Eagles could win as many as 13 or 14 games.
But there is potentially one gaping problem that they’ll have to address: Pass defense.
The Eagles were tied with the New Orleans Saints for the 30th pass defense in the NFL in 2018, each gave up an average of 269 yards. Put it this way: Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for four touchdowns and 402 yards against the Eagles for a 144.4 passer rating – and that occurred early in the season.
The Birds had 10 interceptions, which was ranked 25th and they also gave up an NFC-high 4,308 yards through the air.
The scary part is that those figures might not improve. For one, Michael Bennett and Chris Long are gone. The two combined to make 15.5 sacks last season. Vinny Curry, and aged Brandon Graham and the promising, though unproven, Derek Barnett is coming off a torn rotator cuff.
The secondary relied on Chandon Sullivan, DeVante Bausby and Avonte Maddox to replace corners Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, who missed significant time last year.
Safety Rodney McLeod is back after season-ending knee surgery last year, and when healthy, he’s had three interceptions in each of the past two of the last three years. McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins form one of the best safety duos in the league.
The problem with that is McLeod just turned 29 and is entering his eighth season. Jenkins, though a very special player on and off the field, will turn 32 in December and is entering his 11th NFL season.
Jenkins is still a great hitter, but he is slower and had issues last year in coverage. McLeod remains a question, based strictly on how he’ll look recovering from the injury.
If Jenkins, who’s played more snaps than any Eagles’ defender the last three years, were to go down, the whole defense could very go with him.
And two other problems loom: Just how good will Mills be recovering from injury in a season in which he bit on it seemed any double move from the field to the beer vendors, while Jones, believed to be a “shutdown” corner, has yet to show the promise many predicted.
If Jenkins or McLeod were to be lost, the Eagles season may be lost with it.
The alternative: Get ready for many 44-41 Eagles wins this year.