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Malcolm Jenkins is best player on the Eagles

Eliot Shorr-Parks
July 05, 2019 - 5:30 am

With OTAs and minicamp in the rearview mirror, and training camp less than a month away, here is my ranking of the top 10 players on the Eagles: 

10. Avonte Maddox (2018 season: Not ranked): Maddox gets the final spot on this list for a couple reasons. First, he displayed plenty of potential and versatility in his rookie season. He played safety, outside cornerback and nickel cornerback in 2018, and played all of them at a fairly high level. Going forward, there is an argument to be made he is the most important member of the secondary. The sky truly appears to be the limit with Maddox, who looks like one of the biggest steals of Howie Roseman’s career so far.

9. Brandon Graham (2018 season: 9th): Graham having a mostly disappointing season in 2018 was a surprise, but maybe it shouldn’t have been, considering he missed the entire offseason with a foot injury. As a result he didn’t play like himself until midway through the season. Now, however, Graham is fully healthy and looked to be in the best shape of his career during offseason workouts earlier this summer. When Graham is at the top of his game he is oe of the best defensive ends in the NFL. The Eagles might be getting that Graham once again this season. 

8. DeSean Jackson (2018 season: Not on Eagles): In almost every way, and by almost every measure, Jackson is the best wide receiver on the Eagles. His speed is what everyone talks about, but he is a better route runner, has better hands and does a better job creating separation at the line of scrimmage than the other Eagles’ receivers. Alshon Jeffery might be better at catching 50/50 balls, but Jackson is a more complete receiver than Jeffery. If both Jackson and Carson Wentz stay healthy, Jackson could be heading to the Pro Bowl this season. 

7. Brandon Brooks (2018 season: 8th): Brooks remains arguably the best guard in the NFL in both the run and pass game. Brooks allowed just 13 pressures in 2018, fourth best in the NFL at guards who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Brooks’ strong played allowed the Eagles to have a dominant right side of the offensive line. The torn Achilles he suffered in the playoffs, however, could impact his 2019 season.  

6. Jason Kelce (2018 season: 7th): Kelce’s age knocks him down a few spots on this list, because on pure talent, there is an argument to be made he belongs higher than Lane Johnson — although Johnson does in some ways play a tougher position. Regardless, Kelce is one of the best players on the Eagles without question, as he was arguably the best center in the NFL last season. Kelce is one of the players the Eagles can least afford to lose, as they have no quality options behind him if he were to go down.

5. Carson Wentz (2018 season: 1st): Wentz has topped this list each of the last two seasons. So why the dramatic fall? Back-to-back season-ending injuries are certainly a concern, as Wentz has now suffered broken ribs, a torn ACL and a fractured back since entering the NFL in 2016. There is also the harsh reality that the team has won their biggest games over the last two season with him on the sideline. Finally, although it wasn’t completely his fault, the offense struggled with Wentz under center last season. Wentz playing the most important position in all of sports puts him above players on this list that he probably shouldn’t be ahead of. The potential is still there, but after three seasons, the days of being able to point to Wentz’s potential, as opposed to looking at what he has actually accomplished in the NFL, are running out. The Eagles need a breakout season from Wentz, and if OTAs and minicamp are any indication, he could be primed to give it to them. If he does, he will find himself back at the top of this list next season. 

4. Lane Johnson (2018 season: 2nd): Johnson struggled to start the 2018 season, but recovered nicely despite dealing with an ankle injury. At his best, Johnson is arguably the best right tackle in the NFL and capable of shutting down any of the premier pass rushers the league has to offer. Johnson didn’t have the dominant 2018 that he had in 2017, but he was still pretty close to an elite-level player when the Eagles needed him to be. 

3. Zach Ertz (2018 season: 6th): Ertz was the best player on the Eagles’ offense last season, setting an NFL record for receptions by a tight end and carrying the unit for stretches of the season. Many will point to the large amount of targets Ertz got, but penalizing the tight end for getting open despite opposing offenses trying to stop him is foolish. Ertz plays what is quickly becoming one of the most important positions in the NFL, and is arguably the best in the league at it. On an offense with plenty of weapons heading into 2019, Ertz is the best of the bunch.

2. Fletcher Cox (2018 season: 3rd): Cox had perhaps his best season in an Eagles’ uniform yet, leading the team with 10.0 sacks and 95 pressures. Cox’s 95 pressures were second to only Los Angeles Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and that this point, Donald might be the only defensive linemen Cox trails overall as a player in the NFL. Cox’s important showed in the playoffs when he missed a considerable amount of snaps against the New Orleans Saints, and the Saints were able to control the ball without Cox in the game. Cox might not play a premier position like defensive end, but he is without question one of the best defenders in the NFL. 

1. Malcolm Jenkins (2018 season: 4th): Jenkins gets the top spot for a few reasons. The first is his importance to the team. Jenkins is the key that makes the Eagles’ defense go, and when Jenkins is playing his best football, the Eagles have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Jenkins’ ability to move all over the field — from safety to nickel to linebacker — makes him irreplaceable on the defense. Jenkins is not only able to step to the line and play man coverage, but he is also strong in the run game and one of the best tacklers on the team. If Jenkins were to go down with an injury there is a strong chance the Eagles’ defense would completely collapse. That was clear during OTAs when Jenkins was absent and the team hand no player capable of replacing him. Add in the fact he is the undisputed locker room leader, and Jenkins isn’t just the most important player on the Eagles, he is the best player overall. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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