Jax attack is back
The Chip Kelly regime arguably never recovered from the DeSean Jackson fiasco. It was a nightmare of epic proportions. While the organisation protected and retained the ineffective Riley Cooper, despite video evidence of his major misdemeanour, they tried to spin Jackson as a gangster. Jackson always felt a good fit in Philadelphia, and you can bet he has a chip on his shoulder over the incident that led to his departure. During his original stint in Philadelphia, Jackson terrorised divisional opponents. The Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II not withstanding, D-Jax consistently produced his best against rivals. In his final year as an Eagle, Jackson recorded 32 catches for 430 yards and two touchdowns in six games against divisional opponents.
For all Carson Wentz’s qualities, he’s not always accurate throwing deep. Jackson’s deep-speed, combined with his ability to adjust to inaccurate passes down the field, should increase the explosiveness of the Eagles offense. I’d expect some kind of trick play designed to get him open deep Week 1 against Washington, and Jackson will likely be the x-factor in at least a couple of division games this season.
Miles Sanders will have to be patient
Yesterday, Miles Sanders set out his stall in Philadelphia. Rather than selling remakes of classic films, he suggested a brand new blockbuster was incoming. Pennsylvania has a history for producing quality runners; from Saquon Barkley (PSU) to James Conner to LeSean McCoy (both Pitt) and Brian Westbrook (Villanova). Sanders doesn’t approve of the comparisons, understandably considering the talent listed above, but his Players’ Journal article might have had another purpose – to mediate expectations for his first year in Philadelphia. Unlike his aforementioned peers, Sanders is not, and may never be, a workhorse back. Brian Westbrook was special in that regard, with his combination of balance, intelligence and vision. Doug Pederson has used a committee in the backfield consistently, and it’s fair to assume Jordan Howard, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles will each see their fair share of snaps. Pass protection will be a major challenge for Sanders as a rookie, and might plausibly be the limiting factor on his snap count. The selection of Sanders in the second-round was something of a surprise considering how Howie Roseman likes to allocate resources. It was a big investment considering Sanders might only be a role player. That said, the Eagles have the luxury of the most-loaded roster in the NFL.
In many ways, Rasul Douglas is a better fit for the Eagles’ scheme than Sidney Jones. The latter’s slide down draft boards presented an opportunity the front office felt they couldn’t afford to miss. Yet Jones was most effective in an off-man scheme, where he could use his strength in transition to track receivers down the field. In contrast, Douglas thrives up at the line of scrimmage, where he can use his physicality to challenge wideouts off the snap. Jim Schwartz runs primarily single-high coverages (cover-1 and cover-3), asking his corners to press frequently. Douglas is not only a better fit in man coverage, but his length and size helps him compete at the catch point from the deep third. Ultimately, Jim Schwartz prefers playmakers on the outside, and Douglas’ poor ball skills might end up keeping him on the bench, but he’s the most reliable option opposite Ronald Darby. For a defense as stacked as the Eagles’, not every player needs to be a consistent gamechanger, and it’s worth bearing in mind Douglas still managed three picks a year ago. He also helps in run defense, where his aggression attacking the line of scrimmage limits perimeter runs.