Philadelphia Eagles: Depth is the key to Super Bowl glory

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles will win Super Bowl LIV, and it will have little to do with Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins or any other star player.

Take a back seat, Carson Wentz. Ultimately, you’re replaceable. Step aside, Zach Ertz. The team can do it without you. Sorry, Fletcher Cox, you’re not completely needed. The 2019 Philadelphia Eagles will win Super Bowl LIV, and it will have everything to do with the second and third-stringers.

Yes, the second and third-stringers. The same guys who are battling for their roster lives with one pivotal preseason game left to playto.

The Philadelphia Eagles are in a tremendous spot. Their roster is loaded with supreme talent at pretty much every position. And as we’ve seen in the past, it’s not who starts that matters, but who finishes.

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The Eagles won a Super Bowl two years ago with this philosophy.

Nick Foles, Corey Clement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, and Patrick Robinson all played significant roles after beginning the season on the bench. You can add Jake Elliott into the mix, who was signed off the Bengals‘ practice squad after starting kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered what would be a season-ending hip injury in week one.

And circle back to last season. While the Eagles didn’t make it to the promised land, the team still turned it around in a significant way, once again led by reserves.

Aside from Malcolm Jenkins, the entire secondary seemed to be a revolving door of who’s who. Yet when it mattered most, guys like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Cre’von LeBlanc and Corey Graham asserted themselves as quality NFL contributors, stifling one of the league’s most powerful offenses in the process.

And that was just the secondary. Throughout the season there were key injuries to Derek Barnett and Tim Jernigan up front. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, now with the Cardinals, once again missed time in the middle.

On the offensive side of the ball, the team once again relied on Nick Foles to carry the load down the stretch as Wentz was forced out with a stress fracture in his back. Foles would have to power the offense with essentially no rushing attack, as Jay Ajayi and Clement were both lost to season-ending injuries.

As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to start the 2019 campaign, take a look at their depth chart. Championships are won up front, and I’d argue the Eagles second offensive line unit would be starting on most teams. Led by the versatile Vaitai, the team also has Stefen Wisniewski who returned on a one-year deal. They join 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard, who bookends the unit with the ever-intriguing Jordan Mailata.

The team is stacked. Last year they couldn’t buy a first down on the ground; now they have four viable options out of the backfield. This doesn’t even include Wendell Smallwood or the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, Josh Adams, who are both at risk of not even making the team. Rookie Miles Sanders looks to be dynamic, and with their running-back-by-committee approach, expect many first downs via the ground.

And through the air.

Wentz must be drooling at the bit with the likes of Ertz, Goedert, Jeffery, Agholor, Arcega-Whiteside, and some guy named Jackson who can take the top off of any defense. This doesn’t even include the route-running abilities of Sanders, Sproles, and Clement.

Josh McCown must be drooling at the bit, too. No wonder he chose to put his retirement on hold. The likelihood is strong that he’ll have to play at some point, and as evidenced by recent history, the team always expects to compete at a high level. McCown’s presence certainly helps.

Howie Roseman has done an incredible job constructing this team. And while the offense seems poised for a big year, if there is a weakness, it would have to be on the defensive side.

The biggest concern is depth at defensive line, in particular at end. Derek Barnett is coming off an injury and Brandon Graham, though coming off a solid 2018 season, is 31-years-old. Reacquiring Vinny Curry will help solidify the unit, and the interior depth is stronger than a year ago, which helps negate pressure coming from the ends.

The linebacking corp is sufficient with Nigel Bradham and Zach Brown, and as seen many times, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves to utilize hybrid safety Malcolm Jenkins in the box. Offseason addition L.J. Fort has looked good in camp and appears to be an adequate option filling in for either Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee sprain) or Bradham (torn toe ligaments) if unable to suit up for week one.

Once a weakness, the secondary is loaded with quality depth. Veteran safety Andrew Sendejo and corner Orlando Scandrick help solidify a young group that developed into its own during last year’s stretch run. This doesn’t even account for last year’s starters, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, both of whom are back, though still on the road to recovery (in Mills’ case).

All this defensive depth also strengthens the special teams unit. Roseman appears to have checked off every box. The most important box remains the one that will be decided on Sunday, February 2nd, in Miami.

Next. Nate Sudfeld to the Colts fixes the QB logjam. dark

The Philadelphia Eagles are on the road to Super Bowl LIV. And though the preseason finale may lack the current level of star players everyone’s eager to see, when the last box is checked, and Doug Pederson is hoisting the Eagles’ second Lombardi Trophy in three years, the game’s MVP is likely to be playing for his football life this Thursday.