Eagles analysis

Eagles mailbag: Which players will improve most in 2024?

In his latest Eagles mailbag, Dave Zangaro picks two players who will improve the most in 2024.

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As you get ready to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, we’re still plowing through a bunch of Eagles questions.

Thanks for all the great questions. We rolled out two rounds already:

Part 1.

Part 2.

And here’s Part 3:

I’ll give you one on each side of the ball.

Offense: Devonta Smith. It’s not like Smith had a bad season in 2023. He still had 81 catches for 1,066 yards and 7 touchdowns. But he didn’t match his totals from 2022 and I think there’s a next level to his game that he hasn’t quite hit yet. I also think he’s been underutilized during his three years in the NFL. There’s a good chance the addition of Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator will help get the most out of Smith, who is a top 10 talent at the position.

Defense: Jalen Carter. The first-round pick had a good rookie season but definitely tailed off in the second half of the year along with pretty much every other player on the team. In Carter’s case, you can call it the rookie wall. But if Carter is able to play an entire season the way he did early in 2023, he’s going to be a Pro Bowler in 2024. 

The Eagles signed Rodgers last August but the 26-year-old missed the entire 2023 season on the reserve suspended list for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Rodgers will need to apply for reinstatement but it seems likely he’ll be eligible to play in 2024.

That could be a nice boost for the Eagles. Rodgers was a sixth-round pick out of UMass back in 2020 and played in 45 games (10 starts) with the Colts from 2020-22. While Rodgers is 5-10, 170 pounds, he hasn’t been a nickel corner in the NFL. He’s actually played on the boundary more.

Here’s a look at his snaps at wide corner vs. slot corner over his first three NFL seasons, via PFF:

Wide corner: 922
Slot corner: 31

Rodgers might have the frame you’d typically associate with a nickel corner but he just hasn’t played that position. With the Eagles, you’d expect Rodgers to compete for a roster spot but also perhaps compete for a starting job depending on how free agency and the draft goes. Right now, I'd expect Darius Slay on one side and that other job is up for grabs if the Eagles move on from James Bradberry. It could belong to Kelee Ringo.

In addition to his play on defense, Rodgers has also been a very good kick returner. He has returned 61 career kicks, averaging 27.0 per return and took one 101 yards to the house as a rookie. The Eagles’ kick returner from 2023, Boston Scott, is a free agent this offseason.

Jake Elliott is the 12th highest-paid kicker in the NFL, making a little over $4 million per season. So, yes, Elliott is underpaid. He’s also entering the final year of his contract in 2024 so an extension at some point wouldn’t be out of the question.

The best case every year is to come out of free agency without glaring holes. Because if you end up trying to reach to fill holes in the draft, you end up with Marcus Smith or Jalen Reagor.

So in this case, the Eagles’ top holes to fill are on defense and appear to be linebacker and defensive back. If the Eagles can at least get some players they feel comfortable with, then they won’t have them to fill in the draft. Then they go go best player available with the understanding that all positions are not created equal.

Don’t want to take away from what Alshon Jeffery did here. You’re right. He was a huge part of that Super Bowl win but he’s not top 10 in Eagles history. Last offseason, Reuben Frank did his top 10 rankings of every position in team history and I’m not taking any of these receivers off the list. For reference, his No. 10 was Jeremy Maclin, who had four seasons better than Jefferey’s best year here.

And that list came out before A.J. Brown had another monster season. Brown has more receiving yards in two seasons with the Eagles than Jeffery did in four. If you want to say Jeffery is a top 20 guy, sure. He’s an important player in Eagles history.

I think there’s a chance that Brian Johnson and Sean Desai end up going elsewhere and have good careers. But it’s also fair to wonder if they were just not ready to be NFL coordinators. Generally speaking, I do blame Sirianni more than anyone for that collapse. Part of the reason is because he hired Desai and promoted Johnson. But the other reason is that on offense, it was still his scheme that got stale. That’s apparent by the addition of Kellen Moore this offseason.

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