Nine new starters.
That’s a lot of turnover in key spots. Welcome to your 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, a team with playoff expectations. The short math has this squad with three new wide receivers — if you include the slot — a left guard, and a running back on the offensive side. On defense, we have a new tackle, end and two corners.
Howie Roseman 2.0 has been bold in his actions, no doubt. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Tim Jernigan and Ronald Darby are all established players. However, some come with asterisks, which we’ll get to in a second.
But there’s no denying on paper the Eagles are better suited to win and compete for the postseason this year than last. And the road could be a little less bumpy depending on what happens with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension appeal in Dallas.
From an Eagles standpoint, there’s no sense diving into the cesspool that was 2016 at positions such as wide receiver and corner — it’s been well-chronicled. And despite Brandon Graham's solid all-around season, the defensive end spot was not good enough. So change was needed. While the defense still has questions, the talent has been upgraded. A second season in Jim Schwartz's system should do them all good.
The new offensive faces should allow Carson Wentz to put away the knife he brought to all those gun fights last season. But back to those pesky asterisks.
Jeffery has played only 21 of a possible 32 games the last two years because of injuries and a suspension. Smith had just 53 catches in 28 games in San Francisco in that same time span. And you have to wonder why Buffalo would be willing to part with a 23-year-old corner who had a stellar rookie season and has two years left on his rookie deal. That would be the glass half empty look.
Half full folks — and I’m one of them — would say the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffery could be the Eagles' best all-around threat at wide receiver since Terrell Owens. Jeffery will give Wentz the luxury of someone who can win 50-50 battles with his size and hand strength. And motivation shouldn't be an issue – he's playing on a one-year, prove-it deal.
Smith was in a virtual no-win situation with the 49ers. He had instability at quarterback, and both of his head coaches — Jim Tomsula and old friend Chip Kelly — were one and done.
Darby’s play fell off for a number of reasons, some of which may have been his own doing. Perhaps he was sniffing himself a little too much after a successful rookie season. But he, too, fell prey to a situation that was not ideal from a coaching and ownership standpoint. Not to mention a scheme change that did not highlight his skill set.
The question remains, can this team with all the new faces and a challenging schedule out of the chute reach the playoffs this year? Can talent trump chemistry? There are many questions, and the answers will begin to be answered Sept. 10 against Washington.