The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles

TheProfessor_NFL preview-Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

The Eagles are employing an interesting strategy as they move on from many of the components of their Super Bowl team. They’ve opened up 2021 to allow Jalen Hurts to audition for the quarterback role long-term, and with the NFL’s shift toward more use of the quarterback run game, that’s a viable proposition. At the same time, they’ve stockpiled draft capital for the 2022 NFL Draft to maneuver for a new option at the position if needed. If Hurts plays well, no harm, no foul. The Eagles would have at least two first-rounders, and two seconds to build the roster, and will have one of those twos change to a one if former quarterback Carson Wentz hits certain marks in Indianapolis, which would give Philadelphia three picks in next year’s first round.

At the same time, Philadelphia still has players such as offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson, and the defensive line trio of Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Graham, which means they still have the potential to be very competitive depending on what Hurts does.

Running back Miles Sanders is coming off an excellent second season, and while tight end Zach Ertz may still be traded, Dallas Goedert’s presence means they’ll have at least one high-quality option at the position. Throw in drafting Heisman Trophy Winner DeVonta Smith at receiver, and the potential for Jalen Reagor to improve in his second season, and there’s more than enough weapons to get a good feel for how far a Hurts-run offense can go.

The interesting question is precisely what that Hurts-run offense will look like. His legs were certainly a big part of the equation last season, but new head coach Nick Sirianni could opt to go the Baltimore route with the type of run-heavy attack led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Hurts might not be quite as explosive or elusive as Jackson, but he has outstanding lower body strength and balance, and while running over defenders isn’t a great formula for a long career in the NFL, Hurts has more than enough wiggle to make it difficult to get a clean hit on him, and the strength to break what will become arm tackle attempts. He’ll need to improve on last season’s completion percentage, but a run-first offense could set up plenty of easy completions, and Hurts showed last season that he can throw the ball well enough to compete in the NFL, though he’ll need to develop more consistency in his second season. Given what we’ve seen in recent seasons from Jackson and Bills quarterback Josh Allen in that regard, it’s certainly possible Hurts makes the needed improvements.

On defense, the Eagles bought low on safety Anthony Harris, who was a playmaker for the Vikings in 2018 and 2019 before struggling on the franchise tag in 2020 and signed linebacker Eric Wilson, another former Viking, at a relatively low rate. Wilson likely brings a bit more range to the position than T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton, who were arguably Philly’s best linebackers last season. Darius Slay is in his second year with the team as the number one corner, and the Eagles need him to bounce back from a somewhat underwhelming campaign, as there are a lot of question marks at the corner behind him, as there are at safety, where Harris is looking to regain his past form and Rodney McLeod is coming off a torn ACL.

This roster probably isn’t ready to make a serious push in the playoffs, but if Hurts is effective, they could certainly push for the NFC East crown this season. Given the protection they’ve provided themselves in 2022, I’d guess the Eagles would agree that this is an experiment that could yield a wide range of results, but one that would open up an incredible opportunity with three potential first-rounders to build around Hurts if he turns out to be the guy, or a chance to reset if blows up on the launchpad.

QB Passing Projections

Jalen Hurts1817323.7553.90.587.163965.721.61517.27

QB Rushing Projections

Jalen Hurts1817103.15.34550.83.919.121.917.27

Skill Projections, Rushing

Miles SandersRB2617277.04.991382.77.851.444.312.97
Boston ScottRB1711772.04.69337.73.313.418.94.41
Kenneth GainwellRB2481721.84.3895.
Kerryon JohnsonRB2551765.43.96259.

Skill Projections, Receiving

Miles SandersRB261759.022.09.55209.
DeVonta SmithWR641758.679.213.041032.94.924.422.510.12
Dallas GoedertTE1161761.755.311.43632.35.316.224.77.23
Zach ErtzTE1371759.245.811.78539.04.714.022.16.19
Jalen ReagorWR1381758.841.917.99754.
Boston ScottRB1711770.513.38.38111.
Greg WardWR1861760.135.18.87312.03.110.614.63.97
Kenneth GainwellRB2481756.014.910.67159.
Travis FulghamWR3061744.59.812.02118.
John HightowerWR3371736.96.315.3497.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.