Power 20: Ranking the Eagles’ Top Players
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - With training camp less than a week away, it's time to take a look at the core of the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles and exactly whom Doug Pederson will be hanging his hat on as the rookie head coach enters his inaugural season in charge.
Overall Pederson will enter his first year in charge with a top-heavy roster which lacks depth. Whether he can turn that into a legitimate division-title contender in the watered-down NFC East will likely depend on the team's health moving forward.
So, without further ado, here is the Eagles' current power 20:
1. - Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle - Fresh off his $100 million extension the Pro Bowl selection figures to have a career year at his more natural under tackle spot in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. The new Eagles' defensive coordinator had a well-earned reputation of exploiting talented three-technique's dating back to his days in Nashville and that's not changing with Cox in Philadelphia, a player who excelled playing the five-tech despite the limitations of Bill Davis' philosophy.
2. - Malcolm Jenkins, safety - An ex-cornerback Jenkins is one of the better coverage safeties in football who really showed off his versatility last season by dropping down in the slot in the team's nickel defense. Under Schwartz the plan is to keep Jenkins back at safety but that could change if the team is not comfortable with it's younger sub-package options. Either way, Jenkins shapes up as a top-five safety in all of football.
3. - Zach Ertz, tight end - Ertz seems primed to take the next step in Pederson's west-coast system. A tremendous receiver and willing blocker, the Stanford product is Philadelphia's best option when throwing the football.
4. - Jason Peters, left tackle - At 34 Peters is certainly slowing down and far closer to the finish line than the starting blocks. For that reason injuries moving forward have to be a concern but when he's on the field the six-time All-Pro remains one of the more dominant left tackles in the game.
5. - Lane Johnson, right tackle - Peters' bookend has lived up to the billing of a former No. 4 overall pick and has quietly developed into one of the better right tackles in the NFL. Whether he flips over to the left side once Peters moves on remains up in the air but Johnson proved he had the chops to make the move when Peters was forced to the sidelines last season.
6. Jason Kelce, center - Kelce got a lot of heat last season after getting too caught up in Chip Kelly's movement-based philosophy. In an attempt to become the most athletic center in football (which he already was) Kelce lost too much weight and was bullied by bigger defensive tackles. He's made the necessary adjustments and the expectation is that Kelce will return to being one of the better centers in the NFL.
7. Connor Barwin, defensive end - At first glance Barwin looks like a natural 3-4 player and a poor fit for Schwartz's scheme but he spent the entire offseason with the ones at right end ahead of Brandon Graham, which speaks to how much the Eagles believe in him. Barwin is the team's lunch-pail guy who is always going to outwork the competition.
8. Bennie Logan, nose tackle - Logan isn't the traditional 330-pound nose tackle who engulfs two blockers and enables the linebackers behind him to make plays like a Linval Joseph or Snacks Harrison but he is a tremendously athletic player who has a knack for shedding blocks and making things happen.
9. Rodney McLeod, safety - Don't judge the book by its cover here because the undersized McLeod is as physical as they come in the 2016 NFL and the type of dual-purpose safety that enables defensive coaches to disguise their intentions.
10. Jordan Matthews, wide receiver - Matthews has been a volume guy through his first two seasons who needs to improve his consistency catching the football. Being able to move away from the slot now and again should accomplish a number of things, namely it will likely improve Matthews' focus and attention to detail and it will also enable him to take advantage of more desirous matchups on a weekly basis.
11. Leodis McKelvin, cornerback - In a lot of ways McKelvin was the MVP of offseason work as the team's best cornerback by a country mile and things only figure to get better for him when he gets to camp and is allowed to play press coverage, his strength as a player.
12. Brandon Brooks, right guard - Brooks is a monster-sized road-grader who improves the right side tremendously but the size of his contract could breed unrealistic expectations and that's something to keep an eye on.
13. Vinny Curry, defensive end - Curry has always excelled as a pass rusher in limited opportunities as a sub-package player but now the training wheels come off as the starting left end.
14. Brandon Graham, defensive end - Although no longer a starter Graham figures to be very important in the teams defensive end rotation because it's doubtful Barwin and Graham can last 16 games at 4-3 DE with a full plate. Graham obviously doesn't have the length you look for in a weak-side rusher but he's got everything else and plays with great leverage and a high motor.
15. Jordan Hicks, middle linebacker - Hicks proved to be a very instinctual player with a nose for a football in half a rookie season cut short by a torn pec. He's now the QB of the defense but a history of injuries, which date back to his days at the University of Texas and continued this offseason with a pair of nagging leg injuries, is a big concern.
16. Darren Sproles, running back/returner - At 33 age is becoming a concern with Sproles and you need to limit his touches if you want him staying productive down the stretch. That said, he remains a difference maker and one of the tougher matchups problems for any DC when he's on the field. On top of that Sproles remains a home-run threat as a punt returner.
17. Mychal Kendricks, weak-side linebacker - Kendricks had a disappointing 2015 season while playing out of position. A move back to the weak-side where he can take advantage of his athleticism without seeing blockers reach him consistently should help.
18. Sam Bradford, quarterback - Bradford is never going to live up to his pedigree as a former No. 1 overall pick but he's good enough to win football games with if he's kept clean in the pocket and throwing to receivers who actually catch the football. He's a short-term bridge to Carson Wentz but a pretty competent one.
19. Ryan Mathews, running back - When he's on the field Mathews tends to produce but expecting him to play 16 games isn't something any coaching staff can count on.
20. Brent Celek, tight end - A traditional Y-back in an era where those are becoming almost an endangered species, Celek's versatility as an in-line tight end makes him perhaps the most undervalued member of the Eagles.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: punter Donnie Jones, cornerback Nolan Carroll
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen