Eagles fans rejoice! Eagles football officially returns this Thursday as the team is set to play their first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field. In honor of this occasion, here are three things Eagles fans should look out for as the team continues to prepare for the upcoming NFL season.
1. The Cornerbacks
Heading into this season, the situation at cornerback has been closely monitored. Injuries and inconsistency to the Eagles cornerbacks contributed greatly to the poor showing of the defensive secondary last season as the Eagles surrendered the third most passing yards in the league.
Even though week one of the NFL regular season has yet to roll around, the team is still trying to shake off injuries at the cornerback position.
The recent injury of Cre’von LeBlanc deals a huge blow to the defensive secondary. LeBlanc was among the few reliable cornerbacks the Eagles had last season and reports suggest that he could be out until November.
Jalen Mills has yet to practice and the timetable for when he’ll return is uncertain. Even if Mills does return, many questions surround whether or not he’ll rebound from last season as he was among the league leaders in yards allowed while in coverage at the time of his injury.
Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones have both made tremendous progress so far during camp. Darby has made much progress on his recovery from his knee injury and Jones has been shining in practices and is poised for a breakout season. The biggest concern for these two players, however, is their ability to stay healthy as Jones and Darby have yet to play a full season with the team due to injury.
The Eagles need their star cornerbacks to be healthy in order to increase their chances of winning on the defensive front. If this isn’t the case, then the team will once again be left vulnerable by young but talent lacking cornerbacks to opposing quarterbacks.
2. DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson might be 32 years old but the NFL veteran is ready to go and is eager to contribute to the success of the team. Jackson returns for his first game as an Eagle at Lincoln Financial Field this Thursday and his blazing speed adds a new facade to the Eagles offense. This makes it crucial that the connection that quarterback Carson Wentz and Jackson have is rock solid as it creates more opportunities for the offense to score more points and fully impose their bolstered air attack on opposing defenses.
Reports out of training camp bears good news as Jackson and Wentz’s relationship has been a good one thus far as the two continue to make progressing strides on a daily basis.
Jackson and Wentz’s connection could potentially resemble the connection that Jackson had with Michael Vick earlier in the decade. Like Wentz, Vick had a strong arm and possessed great abilities at running the football. If Wentz and Jackson’s connection could resemble even a little bit of the connection that Vick had with Jackson, especially on the deep throws, then the Eagles offense could really be something special and potentially be the best offense in the NFL. Jackson along with tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey could serve as a major headache for opposing defenses.
3. The Running Game
The Eagles running game last year was virtually nonexistent and was among the worst in the NFL. The team had the fifth least rushing yards in the 2018-2019 season and hope to revive their running game this season with Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders.
Miles Sanders has put up one great performance after another in camp, earning him more reps with the first team. Sanders possesses many moves, such as this jump cut he made at the Eagles open practice, and has great vision at finding the open hole. Coming into camp, many assumed that Sanders was simply going to be a viable backup option behind Jordan Howard, but Sanders has displayed that he is much greater than that. These recent developments by the rookie out of Penn State currently has fans confident that Sanders could potentially become an elite NFL rusher and that he is going to be much more than just a backup.
Howard looks to “re-establish” himself with the Eagles after a quiet but successful campaign in Chicago. Although Howard had a meager 3.7 yards per carry last year, he almost managed to put up another 1,000 yard rushing season and garnered 9 rushing touchdowns. Despite past struggles in the passing game, Howard garnered praise from offensive coordinator Mike Groh for his route running and pass protection abilities in practice. Howard will also serve to be useful in short yardage situations for the Eagles, going 10-for-16 on short yard situations on third and fourth down last year.
It is evident that the tandem that Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders will form has the potential to be a grave threat to opposing defenses. If Corey Clement can stay healthy, these trio of rushers not only will transform the running game but will definitely help transform the passing game as well.