American Football

Eagles roster inventory: Here’s what they have and what they still need

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NFL: FEB 12 Super Bowl LVII - Eagles vs Chiefs
Photo by Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pretty much everyone in this picture is coming back in 2023.

In the wake of C.J. Gardner-Johnson signing with the Detroit Lions for a far cheaper than expected one-year, $8 million deal this week, Eagles fans are understandably left scratching their heads, wondering why general manager Howie Roseman wouldn’t give their starting strong safety that kind of money. Of course, there are salary cap reasons and perhaps off-the-field reasons why Roseman was reluctant to match Detroit’s offer, but it’s also understandable that fans are feeling the loss of CJGJ, a player who made some outstanding splash plays and brought stability to a position that was the team’s biggest question mark during training camp.

The departure of Gardner-Johnson is just one of a number of starters from last year’s Super Bowl team that will be suiting up elsewhere: Javon Hargrave, Marcus Epps, Miles Sanders, Isaac Seumalo, T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, and those departures have Eagles fans a tad nervous.

It’s easy to focus on the departed than on the people still here, and it’s human nature to fixate on the last transaction rather than the ones before, even if those transactions were pleasant surprises and at positions more vital to the team’s future.

So, here’s a reality check. With one week of free agency in the books, the NFL Draft coming next month and the rest of a long off-season after that, it’s important to realize the Eagles are still an outstanding team with one of the best rosters in the league.

Your inventory of the 2023 Eagles, with depth chart information via Ourlads:

Quarterback

Jalen Hurts is the unquestioned best quarterback in the NFC and one of the three best signal callers in the sport. As long as he is running the offense, the Eagles will be a Super Bowl contender. He’s one of perhaps 5-7 QBs in the league who has proven, proven, he can win on the game’s biggest stage.

He’s backed up by Marcus Mariota, who we hope will be an upgrade over Gardner Minshew, a mobile QB that will allow Nick Sirianni to keep most of his gameplan intact should Hurts miss a game or two along the way. And Ian Book is around, for whatever that’s worth.

The Eagles have a monstrous advantage at QB over virtually everyone else in the conference. That’s enormous.

Running Back

Under normal circumstances, the loss of a running back that piled up 1,269 yards rushing and scored 11 touchdowns would cause panic among the fanbase. And yet, no one seems to be sweating the departure of Sanders to Carolina. The reason? The belief that behind this offensive line and with Hurts one of the team’s primary ball carriers, virtually any collection of somewhat talented running backs will find success in this offense.

Kenny Gainwell came on strong at the end of the season and in the playoffs. He appears ready for a larger role. He’s joined by Rashaad Penny, the free agent from Seattle who is one of the league’s most dynamic runners when healthy. His health, however, is a huge question mark. Boston Scott returns as the No. 3/Giant killer, a perfectly fine player for that role.

Wide Receiver

A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith are among the best wide receiver duos in the NFL, if not the best. Period. They could use an upgrade at No. 3 over Quez Watkins, who should see his target share decrease in 2023. Zach Pascal is out the door, so they could also use another receiver to do the dirty work of blocking and picking that he was so good at. The Birds will fill some of those holes in the draft and as other players are released in the weeks and months ahead. But this is still an outstanding group. Well, Brown and Smith, anyway.

Tight End

Dallas Goedert returns as one of the most dynamic and consistent tight ends in football. They could probably do a bit better than Grant Calcaterra as the back-up, but honestly, Calcaterra did fine when Goedert was out, and there is hope Tyree Jackson eventually figures things out.

Offensive Line

The return of Jason Kelce for at least one more season is absolutely huge. It allows Sirianni to move Cam Jurgens to right guard to replace Seumalo, with Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson returning to form the best offensive line in football. The departures of Semualo and Andre Dillard hurt their depth a bit, but Jack Driscoll and Sua Opeta are still around, and the team will likely add to that depth in free agency and the draft.

The bottom line: the offense will remain one of the best units in the NFL and can score on anybody.

Edge Rushers

Expect the Eagles to address this position in the draft, likely with one of their first round picks. In terms of defensive need, however, it’s not at the top of the list. Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham are all back, with Derek Barnett playing on the final year of the deal he signed last season prior to getting hurt. These guys will still put major heat on the QB, so this is one area of the defense that should remain elite.

Defensive Tackles

Obviously the loss of Hargrave is a big one, and it’s unlikely Jordan Davis or Milton Williams will adequately replace him on their own. Nevertheless, Sean Desai will likely look to these two young players to step up in 2023 and do more. Williams improved substantially as the season wore on, while injuries slowed down Davis in his rookie season. More will be required of him in order for this defense to work. Fletcher Cox is back as the 3rd tackle in the rotation, while Marlon Tuipulotu is the No. 4. Expect reinforcements as the off-season rolls along.

Linebackers

With the departures of T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, the Eagles will rely on last year’s third-round pick Nakobe Dean to hold down a starting spot in ‘23. In addition, the Eagles on Tuesday added another potential starter to beef up the position.

Morrow is just 27, and whether he or Dean plays the MIKE or off-ball backer remains to be seen, his addition was necessary. Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor have both been around for a couple years but haven’t played well enough to break through, while Christian Elliss is on the depth chart as well.

Safeties

It’s understandable this is an area of concern, with both of last year’s starters also out the door. There is confidence Reed Blankenship can be a viable replacement for Gardner-Johnson. He showed promise as an undrafted rookie in pass coverage last season, and should only improve with that experience under his belt, and the team sign Justin Evans this week for depth, but the Eagles cannot go into the season with K’Von Wallace as the other starter, and they know that. Happily, there are other safeties around the league who could come in and play well, so again, expect reinforcements to arrive, most likely by free agency but also possibly with their second round pick, or a mid-rounder if they trade back.

Cornerbacks

While the Eagles lost four starters from the middle of their defense, they did so at the expense of bringing back one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. And as we all know, cornerback is one of the most important positions on the field, certainly moreso than safety or linebacker.

With James Bradberry’s surprise return as well as Darius Slay’s shocking extension, there is reason to hope the pass defense will remain strong, especially with Avonte Maddox remaining in the slot and Greedy Williams brought in to be the No. 4 corner. Unless a corner falls into their laps in the first round, there is no need to force a corner in the draft with one of their first three picks.

Special Teams

Jake Elliott is back. They need a new punter.

Coaching Staff

The coaching staff saw a number of departures, and it’s fair to wonder how that will affect things on the field. Can Brian Johnson call plays as well as Shane Steichen? Will Desai’s defensive schemes be all that different than Jonathan Gannon’s (we sure hope so!)? Will the other position coaches who are being elevated to take the place of those who departed be able to fill in the gaps?

Sirianni appears to have a good handle on his staff and their duties, so one would think it won’t be a rough transition. But one never knows until the ball is kicked off in Week 1.

In the end, this team is still loaded with talent. There are holes in the middle of the defense at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety, but also options that have likely not yet emerged. No one saw Bradberry or CJGJ being Eagles at this point last season.

There are miles to go and, thankfully, the 2023 Birds are already a very talented team even before new players walk through the Nova Care Complex this summer.

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