Bob Ford: The Eagles’ greatest strength, and it is easy to overlook when focusing just on the roster and a position-by-position analysis, is the organization itself, starting with head coach Doug Pederson.
This is a solid, well-run franchise that doesn’t make huge mistakes. It plays the salary-cap game intelligently, with a front office led by Howie Roseman, and it is quick to plug the holes that inevitably arise.
Pederson’s ability to connect with the players is obvious. He is viewed in the locker room as one of them, and they play willingly for him. That isn’t a small thing, and the players appreciate not having to deal with the sort of nonsense that comes along with, say, a Chip Kelly.
The test for the coach is as a tactician, and there are those who feel the team took a step back in that area with the loss of offensive coordinator Frank Reich. But judging any season that follows on the heels of what took place in 2017 is far from fair.
The players are just occupying the house for the duration of their time here. The stability of the house itself is what ultimately matters most.
Marcus Hayes: It is, without question, the offensive line. Right tackle Lane Johnson is a top-five lineman. Left tackle Jason Peters is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Center Jason Kelce made his second All-Pro squad last season while fighting knee, elbow, and foot injuries. Right guard Brandon Brooks has gone to the last two Pro Bowls. Left guard Isaac Seumalo had his best games down the stretch last season. Rookie tackle Andre Dillard and guard/tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai give the unit real depth. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the best coach in the building.
It’s tempting to choose the defensive line, anchored by the team’s best player, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. But defensive end Brandon Graham slumped to four sacks last season, his worst total since 2013, and he just turned 31. Third-year end Derek Barnett, coming off shoulder surgery, hasn’t played this preseason, and offseason additions Vinny Curry and Malik Jackson were available because they weren’t effective in 2018. The receiving corps, bolstered by DeSean Jackson and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, is deeper than it is dangerous.
Really, the only competition is tight end, where record-setting receiver Zach Ertz and second-year stud Dallas Goedert will make up the best tandem in the NFL.
Except the offensive line will be the best quintet in the NFL.
The Eagles spent nearly $40 million on the offensive line this season. It had better be the area of greatest strength.
Les Bowen: If Carson Wentz is healthy, it’s quarterback.
The defensive line generally is considered the team’s most dominant unit, followed closely by the offensive line, if Brandon Brooks returns to form from a torn Achilles tendon. But who is going to be more productive than a healthy Wentz, with a strong line and improved weapons? Maybe Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Maybe Tom Brady in New England, though I’m not entirely sure Brady has the weapons. I would take a healthy Wentz and the Eagles’ weapons over anything Aaron Rodgers can do with Green Bay or Drew Brees can do with the Saints.
When Wentz was last healthy, with a good running game and a solid offensive line, he was the favorite to win the 2017 MVP award, until a December knee injury intruded. Where else on this team are you going to see a potential MVP? Fletcher Cox wants to be defensive player of the year, but even that is a stretch in the prime of Aaron Donald, and MVP is pretty far beyond Cox’s grasp.
If the counterargument is going to be that it has to be a position group, and not just one guy, I would counter with Josh McCown, who is as solid a backup as anyone figures to have this season.