PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East division in 2019 under near impossible conditions. Injuries ravaged the wide receiver corps, defensive line and secondary and the team needed to win four straight games down the stretch to clinch the division title. They did and now, entering 2020, they’re hoping to repeat.
But, the hopes of a repeat once again, are likely to come down to a battle between them and the boys in Dallas. As CBS 3 sports reporter Pat Gallen points out, “it’s a two-horse race” for that NFC East title between the Eagles and hated Cowboys. Dallas’ offense is once again loaded for bear adding another dangerous wide receiver to the mix in first round pick CeeDee Lamb.
But, the Eagles addressed the issue that’s been plaguing them for years with the addition of top corner Darius Slay in order to match up with the Cowboys.
“The biggest issue from last season and it’s kind of been an issue for the last couple of years now under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles struggle against number one wide receivers. We saw that last year with the Cowboys and Amari Cooper lit them up,” said Gallen in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “It’s always been that way for as long as Jim Schwartz has been here. But, he hasn’t had a number one cornerback that can follow these number one receivers like Darius Slay who they picked up from the Lions. I think expectations for him are high.”
The addition of Slay helps solidify the secondary that lost one of its leaders this offseason in safety Malcolm Jenkins. On the front end, the team signed former Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave to be another wrecking ball in the middle of the line with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson.
The defense has the potential to be good as does the offense, though that will rely on Carson Wentz.
“I think Carson Wentz takes the next step forward because they have more weapons, they will hopefully be healthier and, you can look at it like they have two sets of offensive weapons. They have Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and Alshon Jeffrey when he comes back, DeSean Jackson and Miles Sanders who looks like he could be a real force out of the backfield,” said Gallen. “Then they have the second tier with guys like first round pick Jalen Reagor who is hurt right now and will miss the first couple of weeks but you have him, their 2nd round pick from last year in JJ Arcega-Whiteside who didn’t really pan out, it looks like he has been better in camp so that’s big. Then, a couple of guys in Quez Watkins and John Hightower as well.”
The focus in the draft was speed at wide receiver with the selections of Reagor, Watkins and Hightower, the team seemed to accomplish that. But, Reagor went down with a shoulder injury that will keep him out for the first few weeks. While that injury stings, there are two on the offensive line that have left real questions.
“There are a couple of other injuries that are an even bigger deal. Brandon Brooks who is their All Pro guard he’s done for the season,” said Gallen. “They brought Jason Peters back, who was their tackle last year, slide him to guard and now their starting tackle Andre Dillard has been lost for the year. They have been ravaged by injuries already without preseason games.”
Peters could move back to tackle, but it appears he wants more money in order to do so. The team has options to fill in at guard if Peters moves outside, but there are still questions to answer in the coming week prior to the opener against Washington.
Still, even with those questions, Gallen believes the Eagles can do what no other NFC East team has done in the last 15 years: win an NFC East title in back-to-back seasons.
“The Eagles can win but they have to stay healthy throughout the year. I think they did put pieces in place to help them deal with the weapons the Cowboys have. That offense is stacked with Cooper, Gallup and CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott. That’s a force,” said Gallen. “The Eagles are better prepared for that and then offensively, if the Birds can stay healthy this year which they could not do last year, certainly I think they can win. But, I think it’s going to come down to the wire.”
The Eagles open the season at Washington on Sunday, September 13 with kick-off slated for 1 p.m. EST.