Eagles Who Must Step Up in 2020
Wherever Eagles players are working out these days, with their gyms closed and their trainers presumably in coronavirus-mandated quarantines, and traveling to see them not an option, either, there better be some steps of the high knee-raising variety.
Howie Roseman talked last week on a conference call about many returning players on his roster having to step up this year.
The Eagles general manager touched on the obvious ones, such as receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and cornerback Sidney Jones and one perhaps not so obvious in offensive lineman Jordan Mailata.
Nobody knows what the Eagles have in Mailata. Probably the Eagles don’t, either.
Mailata was a seventh-round pick off the rugby fields of Australia in 2018, having never played a singl down of football in his life. He has looked solid in previous preseason games, but has ended both years on IR for a back injury. The injury isn't believed to be serious.
“This is his third year, this is his time to really step up, and we think he's got it all in his body,” said Roseman. “He's got the versatility to play both sides and when you look at his talent level, it's off the charts, and he learns from a great teacher.”
The teacher Roseman is referring to is offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland.
The Eagles would like to see Matt Burke become that good of a teacher since he will be in charge of the defensive line, which is where two of my three step-up players reside.
Here’s my three-pack of players who need to step up in 2020:
Derek Barnett. This is probably an obvious one, too. The skillset is there for the former first-round pick, but the health hasn’t been. The defensive end played 14 games last year, but not all of those were at full health. He had a career-high 6.5 sacks to go along with a career-high 11 tackles for loss and a career-tying hits on the quarterback with 32.
If Barnett can remain healthy for all 16 games, he should improve on all those numbers to the point where a double-digit sack season is not out of the question.
Barnett’s step-up is imperative because after him and Brandon Graham, the Eagles have inexperienced players in backup positions on the edge.
And speaking of one of those inexperienced players, next on this list is…
Josh Sweat. The former fourth-round draft in 2018 showed big progress last year, when he played 34 percent of the snaps and registered four sacks and eight tackles for loss. His season ended on Dec. 11 with an ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve.
Sweat’s snap count and production should increase next season, and, again, the Eagles will need that to happen because of the inexperience on the edge.
Nathan Gerry. This is the final year on the rookie contract of the former fifth round pick in 2017. The linebacker finished third on the team in tackles with 67, but he needs to improve his consistency if he wants to stick around beyond 2020.
The Eagles bid farewell to Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill during free agency, so Gerry’s consistency level needs to increase.
Other players could be on this list, such as defensive end Shareef Miller, who was unable to get on the field last year as a fourth-round pick. But it's too early to determine if Miller can be developed or not.