The Philadelphia Eagles have had one of the more impressive offseasons in the NFL. With the acquisitions of receiver A.J. Brown and cornerback James Bradberry, in addition to the drafting of Georgia studs Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, it’s clear the team has been hard at work to address last season’s weak spots. Should quarterback Jalen Hurts take the leap that’s expected of him, Philly should be the early favorite to win the NFC East.
While the new faces are making all the headlines, some familiar ones on the roster could be due to surprise this season. The big names will likely perform as expected, but there are a few players in smaller roles that have the potential to be true hidden gems.
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Philadelphia Eagles Hidden Gems on 2022 Roster
The third receiver from Southern Miss could be a huge beneficiary of A.J. Brown’s presence. Opposing secondaries will be focused on Brown and 2020 Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, leaving the speedy Watkins to punish them down the field. In theory, the dynamic of the three receivers resembles that of the Dallas Cowboys from last season. Michael Gallup was able to reap the benefits of playing alongside CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. Look for Watkins to fill a similar role.
After playing in just six games his rookie season, Watkins played in all 17 his sophomore campaign, starting 12. He finished the season with 43 catches for 647 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers could have been even better if Hurts connected with him more often. Hurts’ first full season as a starter for the Eagles in the NFL showed a lot of promise but also showed a lot of room for improvement. One aspect of his game that needs work is his deep throw accuracy; and if that’s been addressed heading into the 2022 season, Watkins arguably has the most to gain from it. The team has been missing a true deep threat since DeSean Jackson’s first stint, but that may be about to change.
Maddox, a fifth-year cornerback, will continue to be used primarily in the slot due to the arrival of Bradberry. Playing between two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Bradberry and Darius Slay will less responsibility on his shoulders, and he has a chance to thrive in this smaller role. Maddox showed he’s more comfortable in the slot, and continuing to develop in that role bodes will for him.
In his rookie season, Maddox looked like he had the potential to be another anchor in the Eagles’ secondary. He allowed just 45.2% of passes thrown his way to be caught, amounting to a passer rating of 52.0 when targeted. Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly for Detroit native. Opposing passer ratings jumped to 85.1 when targeting Maddox in 2019, and then an alarming 108.3 in 2020. Although his completion percentage when targeted jumped to a career high of 75.7% in 2021, the rating dropped to a more respectable 87.2. He also allowed a career-low 177 air yards on 74 targets, but missed a career-high seven tackles. If he becomes a more reliable tackler – since missed tackles often lead to big plays after the catch – he’ll be a valuable slot corner.
After all the noise this offseason, many eyes will be on the Eagles to see if they’re truly back to title contention. On paper, it’s very possible but largely dependent on how reliable the quarterback will be. It will also depend on the players further down the depth chart being able to elevate their games.