Washington Football Team: Previewing the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles

Alabama WR DeVonta Smith. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama WR DeVonta Smith. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports /

Previewing the Washington Football Team’s NFC East opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, for 2021.

Our final early preview of the Washington Football Team NFC East division rivals in 2021 checks in on Philadelphia.

Since 2000, the Eagles have won more division titles than anyone else in the NFC East, but in 2020, they finished in last place. Their roster was very old and very expensive and they have been engaged in a large-scale overhaul since winning the Super Bowl in 2018.

Here are five questions to that need to be answered in the upcoming season.

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Previewing the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles

1. Is Jalen Hurts a franchise quarterback?

Carson Wentz is gone. Nick Foles is gone. And for you Hoosiers fans out there, even Nate Sudfeld is gone. Philadelphia brought in veteran Joe Flacco as insurance, but they did not acquire a young quarterback to compete with second-year player Jalen Hurts. It is his job to lose.

Hurts flashed enough playmaking ability toward the end of last year to merit some optimism. In his first start, he ran for over 100 yards. In his next two, he threw for more than 300. But until he proves he can produce consistently, he will remain a question mark. He will certainly get that chance in 2021.

2. How good is DeVonta Smith?

The Heisman winner has a lot of pressure on him in 2021. This is the second consecutive year that the Eagles have spent a first-round pick on a receiver. Both Smith and Jalen Reagor are smaller receivers with game-breaking speed and talent. Alshon Jeffery is gone. DeSean Jackson is gone. And was Nelson Agholor ever really here?

Recently, the Eagles have been content to run the ball and play a possession game with tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. But with Reagor, and especially with Smith, they are hoping to be able to open things up. A productive Smith goes a long way toward reviving this offense.

3. Do Hurts or Smith matter if the O-line doesn’t stay healthy?

Probably not. Dallas and Philadelphia can argue over who got it worse in 2020, but both suffered major losses across the offensive line.

When healthy, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks form the best right side of an offensive line in the league. Brooks is returning from a torn Achilles and Johnson battled an ankle injury all season that kept him shuffling in and out of the lineup.

With veteran stalwart Jason Kelce at center, Isaac Seumalo at left guard and either Andre Dillard (also returning from a season-long injury) or Jordan Mailata at left tackle, the rest of the line should be OK. Rookie Landon Dickerson, who is slated to eventually take over at center when Kelce hangs them up, could help at guard, but he too is recovering from injury.

At the end of the day, that right side is crucial for how the Eagles want to play, and if either player struggles, the entire offense is likely to struggle as well.

4. Will age finally catch up with the defensive line?

Like the Giants, the Eagles have relied on a strong line to anchor their defense for many years. In Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, they have two of the best linemen of the past decade. But Cox is now 30 and Graham is 33. At some point, age will catch up with them.

When it does, it will fall to youngsters like Josh Sweat to step up. The other young starters – Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave – are fine. The question is whether Sweat and a couple of 2021 draftees can keep train rolling if either Cox or Graham begins to slow down.

5. Who is the second cornerback?

The Giants have the same question. For the Eagles, Darius Slay is locked in on one side. Everyone else is a question mark. Neither Avonte Maddox nor Nickell Robey-Coleman acquitted themselves very well in 2020. Maddox is still around, but the Eagles would love to upgrade the position.

They drafted Texas Tech cornerback Zech McPhearson (from Riverdale Baptist) in the fourth round and he is likely to get the first crack at playing opposite Slay. The Eagles are left holding their breath that Slay remains healthy. Even a nagging injury at this point could spell disaster for Philly’s pass defense.

That concludes these early looks at the Washington Football Team NFC East opponents for 2021.

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As much as I want to pick Washington to break a long drought and repeat as division winners, my very early pick is New York. I like what Joe Judge is doing there. But the main reason is this. Since 2011, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington have each won the crown three times, while the Giants have a big goose egg. I am a believer in the sports concept of “They Are Due.”