No team has repeated as NFC East champions since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, a dubious drought that has defined the division since Philadelphia held the throne for four consecutive seasons in the early 2000s. The NFC East has been full of parity ever since, even though it's crystal clear the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys have owned the division over the past few years.
If the Eagles don't repeat as division champions, the Cowboys are overwhelming favorites to overtake them. Philadelphia has a major advantage over its division foes as the Eagles are the only team to return their head coach from the previous season -- which is huge given the limited offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Philadelphia has been going "all-in" with veteran signings over the past few seasons in hopes of recapturing that Super Bowl glory from 2017, only to finish 18-14 with a division title and a playoff win. The Eagles took a step back in 2020 by revamping their offense and adding speed on both sides of the ball while getting younger in the process. The Cowboys, on the other hand, added veterans in hopes of a Super Bowl run of their own. As Eagles fans can attest, that doesn't end up well.
How the NFC East plays out is up for debate, but the Eagles are built for a fourth consecutive trip to the postseason. Instead of boldly predicting a Super Bowl run, these predictions focus on three players that are going to be major contributors for the Eagles' success this season -- and for years to come.
1. Jalen Reagor eclipses 1,000 yards in his rookie season
In the 87-year history of the Eagles, no player has ever surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in their rookie campaign. Reagor is going to be the first.
DeSean Jackson holds the Eagles' rookie record for receiving yards with 912, which was set in a 2008 season where he started 15 games and played in all 16. Without Jackson, the Eagles don't advance to the NFC Championship Game as he led the team in catches (62) and receiving yards. Jackson played his way into the starting lineup as a deep-ball receiver and never relinquished it, similar to the same situation Reagor finds himself in for Year 1.
Ironically, the Eagles have Jackson starting at one of the wide receiver spots, but there's a vacancy at the other one. Alshon Jeffery is on the PUP list and it's unclear when the veteran will return, leaving Reagor to compete with Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for playing time. The Eagles will have Ward strictly in the slot while moving Reagor interchangeably between the slot and outside. Reagor will win the starting wide receiver job and get a strong target share from Week 1 onward.
An impressive camp from Reagor will translate into regular season success (just like Jackson had in 2008) as he becomes another deep-ball threat for Carson Wentz. Reagor's elusiveness after the catch and game-breaking speed will open up the offense throughout the season, as he'll have opportunities for big plays with Jackson, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders as the other playmakers in the offense. Speed is the name of the game, and Reagor clearly has that asset.
With Reagor lining up opposite Jackson, he'll surpass the 1,000-yard plateau and break Jackson's rookie record. The Eagles front office will make sure fans forget why they didn't trade up to get CeeDee Lamb in April.
2. Miles Sanders breaks a LeSean McCoy's record
The Eagles haven't had a complete back like Sanders since the days of LeSean McCoy -- ironically, Sanders is the first team rushing leader from the previous season to return to the squad since McCoy -- and will certainly utilize him as much as possible. Doug Pederson has already declared Sanders is the No. 1 running back and dubbed him "our guy," meaning the running back-by-committee approach that has been a fixture in his tenure is no more.
Philadelphia is adding new wrinkles to the offense for Sanders, getting him more involved in the passing game by lining him up in the slot and expanding his route tree. With Sanders' breakaway speed and his ability to catch the ball (averaged 10.2 yards per catch on 50 receptions in his rookie season), the sky's the limit for the second-year back.
The Eagles are going to Sanders often in this offense, upping his touches from 14.3 per game in his rookie season to 20-25 per game this year (Sanders averaged 19.2 in his seven starts). Sanders eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards is very attainable with the way Philadelphia plans to use him.
"I think that Miles can do it all, and when you have a guy like Miles that can make people miss, that can lower his shoulder and also run you over, you want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible and you trust him," Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley said during training camp. "As much as I can give the ball to Miles and let him create and go out there and just kind of just trust him to do the right thing, I think do you it as much as possible."
LeSean McCoy finished with 1,672 yards from scrimmage (1,080 rushing, 582 receiving) in his second year with the Eagles, a franchise record for sophomore running backs. Sanders surpasses that with a huge season in Philadelphia.
3. Josh Sweat leads the Eagles in sacks
There are many positives surrounding Josh Sweat in Eagles camp this year, as the third-year defensive end is making his mark and getting to the quarterback in the live-hitting practices. Sweat has been lining up opposite Brandon Graham and having his way in his matchups with Andre Dillard during the 11-on-11 sessions. Chalk this up as Sweat performing very well instead of Dillard struggling.
Sweat may ultimately end up being the No. 3 defensive end once Derek Barnett returns, but the rotational edge rusher will have a valuable role in this defense. Thanks to outside pressure from Sweat, Fletcher Cox will be able to find the quarterback with ease as the interior pressure by the Eagles' defensive tackles has been one of the storylines at camp.
"A lot of our stuff with our defensive line is a lot of repeatable motion," said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. "I think anybody that's covered baseball, with pitchers, they talk about repeatable motion, and the guys that have a repeatable motion are consistent around the strike zone. The guys that don't, they can throw a wicked pitch and get a strikeout, and then can't find the strike zone after that.
"Josh is making really good strides toward that, having a repeatable motion at defensive end and it looks the same all the time and that consistency has shown, and as a result, I think his production has shown a little bit more."
It's taken years for Sweat, a former five-star recruit and former No. 1 defensive end out of high school, to regain his form following a severe leg injury his freshman year, but he finally started to reach levels of his potential last season. All this sets up for a big 2020 season on the edge for Sweat.
Graham doesn't get many sacks (but racks up a lot of pressures), and teams double Cox every chance they get. With Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson helping Cox get pressure in the middle of the line, the B-gap and C-gap will be open for an edge rusher to get to the quarterback.
Sweat is going to be the beneficiary of this matchup (especially on third downs) and lead the team in sacks this year. Don't be surprised if a double-digit sack season is in line for Sweat.