Without breakout seasons from five players in 2019, the Eagles would not have won the NFC East.
Those five players were:
RB Miles Sanders. The rookie was terrific in compiling 1,641 all-purpose yards and scoring six touchdowns, three on the ground and three in the air.
RB Boston Scott. Called up from the practice squad, he won the NFC offensive player of the week award in the season’s final week and showed he can be this team’s change-of-pace back going forward, if not more.
WR Greg Ward. Elevated from the practice squad on Nov. 23, Ward caught 28 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown over the final six regular-season games.
TE Dallas Goedert. Just about doubled his production from his rookie season, going from 334 yards receiving to 607 and from 33 catches to 58. He also had one more touchdown than he did as a rookie with five last year.
LB Nathan Gerry. Started career-high 12 games in his third season and was third on the team in tackles with 67.
Only Gerry represents the defense.
This year, things could look a bit different.
Here are my five breakout candidates for the 2020 Eagles:
DE Josh Sweat. Now in his third season, the time is right for Sweat to step up, and he should be afforded the opportunity to do that with a defensive end group that needs somebody to step up. Though he played 34 percent of the defensive snaps last year, the most snaps Sweat played in 2019 was 31 against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 1.
Even in a part-time role, Sweat still recorded a career-high four sacks ad 24 tackles in 16 games. Both those numbers should rise.
DE Derek Barnett. The defensive end will turn 24 on June 25, though he is already entering his fourth season. He is still searching for that double-digit sack season that defines so many edge rushers these days. That Brandon Graham still has not had one in 10 years doesn’t seem to matter because Graham does so many other things well.
Barnett does a lot of other things as well, too, but for some reason won’t get the acclaim he should get until he hits 10 sacks. This feels like the year he does it because of the strength of the defensive tackles – Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson. Those three, along with perhaps Hassan Ridgeway and Anthony Rush, should provide pressure up the middle forcing a quarterback to try to escape around the edge where Barnett will be waiting.
If not Barnett, then it will be Graham waiting and, maybe at the age of 32, Graham will finally have his double-digit sack season
LB T.J. Edwards. There’s a lot of love being shown nationally for a linebacker who arrived as an undrafted free agent last year but one who could only get on the field for 11 percent of the defensive snaps. When Nigel Bradham – now out of the picture after leaving in free agency – got hurt, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz turned to Gerry, not Edwards.
There should be more of an increased role for Edwards, how much of one depends on how much trust he can earn with Schwartz. Whatever role is earned, the guess is Edwards will do well with it.
RB Corey Clement. The running back already broke out once, but that feels like an eternity ago. It was 2017, his rookie season when he burst onto the scene as an undrafted free agent and did big things, like six regular-season touchdown type things with 100 yards receiving and one TD in Super Bowl LII.
Injuries derailed the last two years, but if Clement can stay healthy the Eagles won’t have to worry about whether or not they have a veteran free agent like LeSean McCoy or Devonta Freeman because Clement would be the perfect complement to Sanders and Scott, just as he was in 2017 with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi.
WR Jalen Reagor. There has to be a rookie on the list, especially considering the Eagles drafted 10 of them and added more than a dozen others immediately after the draft. The internal debate was Reagor or safety K’Von Wallace, but Reagor won the debate since he came in the first round, but Wallace, who came in the fourth round, could certainly make enough noise to qualify as a breakout performer.
Oddsmakers have set the over/under for Reagor touchdowns at 4.5, but the guess here is he goes over that, through a combination of touchdown catches, rushing scores, and a special teams TD. As for the over/under on his receiving yards of 700.5, the optimism isn’t as high, but still he could come in around 500.