Making the playoffs has been the norm for the Philadelphia Eagles this century rather than the goal. Philadelphia has qualified for the postseason 13 times over the past 20 years, easily the best stretch in franchise history. The Eagles have qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, one of just four teams in the NFL to hold the current streak. Philadelphia is expected to reach the postseason.
The NFL expanded the postseason format to 14 teams, seven in each conference, seemingly making it easier for Philadelphia to reach the postseason. For the first time in several seasons, the Eagles committed to getting younger and faster on both sides of the ball, parting ways with high-priced veterans in favor of younger players with higher upside. Whether this affects Philadelphia's opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl will be determined, but in an offseason affected by the coronavirus pandemic the Eagles are the only team in the NFC East to return their head coach -- Doug Pederson and starting quarterback -- Carson Wentz. That continuity that will go a long way in how successful the 2020 Eagles will be.
The Eagles don't have Super Bowl expectations in 2020, but they didn't entering the 2017 season either -- and the league saw how that turned out. Here are four reasons to believe the Eagles can win their second Super Bowl title in four years:
1. Carson Wentz will have a year similar to his MVP campaign
Nick Foles may have been the closer to the Eagles' Super Bowl run three years ago, but Carson Wentz was the starting pitcher that gave Philadelphia seven shutout innings before going down in Week 14 with a torn ACL. Wentz was the league MVP frontrunner and led Philadelphia to a 10-2 record at that point, throwing four touchdowns in three quarters as the Eagles led the Los Angeles Rams in a battle that ultimately gave Philadelphia first place in the NFC standings.
Wentz was that good in 2017 and put up big numbers since his second year in the league. He has thrown 81 touchdown passes to just 21 interceptions over the past three seasons, with his 98.3 passer rating the sixth-best among NFL quarterbacks that have thrown over 1,000 attempts. Wentz's 21 interceptions rank fourth amongst quarterbacks with over 1,000 attempts during that span and his 81 touchdown passes are tied for seventh. Wentz and Drew Brees are the only two quarterbacks to throw over 20 touchdown passes and fewer than 10 interceptions in each of the the past three seasons. The debate rages on whether Wentz is actually an elite quarterback or not, but the Eagles' franchise quarterback has put up some very good numbers when healthy.
Wentz has his best cast of wide receivers since the Super Bowl season, possessing speed on both sides of the field with DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, and John Hightower. Miles Sanders is already one of the game's best pass-catching running backs and Zach Ertz is arguably one of the best tight ends in NFL history through his first seven seasons. The Eagles also have Dallas Goedert , arguably a top-10 tight end in the league, at the No. 2 tight end spot.
The new-look Eagles offense will be exciting, with Wentz entering the prime of his career. After taking a bunch of practice squad wide receivers to the NFC East title, imagine the numbers Wentz will put up with this group.
2. The Eagles pass rush is dangerously scary
Philadelphia may not have a marquee name like Yannick Ngakoue or Von Miller lined up on the edge, but the Eagles' edge rushers will get to the quarterback. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett don't exactly stack up near the top of the league in quarterback hits over the past three years (36th and 28th amongst defensive ends respectfully), but they are one of only two pairs of defensive ends to rank in the top 40 in that category and still with their current team (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the others). Josh Sweat is also one of the rising defensive ends on the team and arguably the Eagles' most improved player on defense, a solid No. 3 option in a rotation defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves to utilize.
The strength of Philadelphia's pass rush is on the interior. Fletcher Cox has the seventh-most sacks (19.5) amongst defensive tackles over the past three seasons while Malik Jackson is 18th (11.5) -- and Jackson played just one game in 2019. The Eagles' defensive tackle pairing is one of only two pairings of defensive tackles to have both players rank in the top 20 in sacks over the past three years. Jackson isn't even the starter next to Cox as that role belongs to Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia's top free agent signing this offseason. Hargrave is one of the game's best pass rushing nose tackles, but his skill set is better in a 4-3 defense. His sack numbers and quarterback hits are expected to increase next to Cox, who shouldn't be double-teamed as frequently as in years' past. The middle of offensive lines are going to have a difficult time blocking Cox, Jackson, and Hargrave.
When the Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago, they had a strong pass rush from top to bottom. They are expected to be even deeper on the defensive line in 2020.
3. A younger, faster cornerback group led by Darius Slay
The Eagles haven't had a cornerback as good as Darius Slay since Asante Samuel roamed the halls of the NovaCare Complex (not bringing up the Nmandi Asomugha disaster). Not only has Slay been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons, but he is tied for the fourth-best defensive passer rating (71.6) in the NFL over the past three years -- behind only Tre'Davious White, and Marlon Humphrey (tied with Stephon Gilmore). The Eagles have an elite cornerback for the first time in a decade.
Lining up opposite of Slay at the No. 2 cornerback spot is Avonte Maddox, who allowed a 52.0 defensive passer rating -- ninth in the NFL -- in his rookie season before injuries caused a bit of a sophomore slump. Maddox was targeted 75 times and recorded a defensive passer rating of 85.1, but only one touchdown. The Eagles parted ways with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas because of their added speed at cornerback and this group's ability to actually play the ball. Nickell Robey-Coleman is one of the best slot cornerbacks in the game while Cre'von LeBlanc has been incredibly productive in the limited snaps he's had since joining the team in 2018.
While the names don't appear impressive on paper outside of Slay, this is the Eagles' best cornerback group in years. Philadelphia will need all these corners to contain Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup this season.
4. Miles Sanders is set to be the NFL's next star running back
Has Carson Wentz ever had a running back as good as Miles Sanders? The Eagles' sophomore running back is the the first leading rusher on the Eagles to return to the team the following season since LeSean McCoy in 2014, showcasing Philadelphia's revolving door at running back over the last half-decade.
Sanders was beyond impressive in his rookie season, setting the Eagles' rookie record for rushing yards with 818 (4.6 yards per carry) and catching 50 passes for 509 yards (10.2 yards per catch). He finished eighth in the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,641 and recorded six touchdowns, but those are just the basic numbers behind a running back who split touches with Jordan Howard for half a season.
Not only did Sanders finish behind Austin Ekeler in yards per catch (minimum 50 receptions) in his rookie season, but Sanders is just one of 32 running backs in league history to catch 50+ passes in his rookie year and he is just one of just 21 running backs to surpass 500 receiving yards. He is also seventh in league history in yards per catch amongst running backs in their rookie seasons (minimum 50 receptions).
Sanders ranked third in the NFL in yards per touch (5.8), behind only Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. He was one of only six running backs to produce 650 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns from Week 11 to Week 16 (his six starts). He was only the seventh rookie in NFL history to surpass 800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards and joined Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara as one of just three rookie running backs since 2007 to post over 1,300 scrimmage yards and 300 return yards.
Sanders was on a 16-game pace for 1,694 yards from scrimmage (1,147 rushing, 547 receiving) in a full 16-game season if he started every game. The Eagles made Sanders the clear-cut No. 1 back for a reason -- and he's only going to get better in year two. Philadelphia's Super Bowl dreams run behind the legs of Sanders.