Pro Football Focus Grades Eagles Roster, Picks Surprising ‘X Factor’

TJ Edwards

Getty T.J. Edwards earned an 83.4 overall grade on 100 snaps) from Pro Football Focus in 2019.

Pro Football Focus released its annual list of the NFL’s best rosters and the Eagles were favorably ranked.

Philadelphia landed at No. 9 on the analytics-driven website’s rankings of all 32 NFL teams. The Eagles were praised for being strong “in the trenches,” thanks to arguably the best offensive and defensive lines in football. The O-Line earned PFF’s highest-overall grade in 2019 at 92.9, while the D-Line finished in fourth last season. But a revamped unit returns for 2020 with new nose tackle Javon Hargrave and a healthy Malik Jackson.

Cornerback Darius Slay was specifically called out by PFF and referred to as the “X Factor for 2020.” The former Lions cover guy has forced 85 incompletions from 2014-19, the best in the league during that stretch. Here is what the website wrote about Slay:

Darius Slay‘s PFF grade in 2019 doesn’t represent the kind of player that he has been throughout his career. The first thing to note is that he played a difficult role in Detroit, consistently shadowing the opposing team’s best receiver in man coverage. Despite that, Slay came in as the fourth-most valuable cornerback in the NFL in 2014-18 per PFF WAR (wins above replacement), and his 74 forced incompletions over that stretch were the most in the NFL. Expect him to bounce back and give a big boost to that secondary.

Slay had a “down year” by PFF standards in 2019 and finished with a 56.9 coverage grade, a number that ranked 92nd in the NFL.

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Lane Johnson, T.J. Edwards Earn Highest Grades

Then, PFF went through every single “projected” starter on the roster and handed out estimated overall grades. Right tackle Lane Johnson received the highest on offense (88.8) and linebacker T.J. Edwards scored the highest on defense (93.8). Other notable player grades included: Carson Wentz (75.6), Zach Ertz (72.7), DeSean Jackson (79.4), Jason Kelce (81.1), Fletcher Cox (89.5), Brandon Graham (84.2) and Nickell Robey-Coleman (74.5).

Their unofficial depth chart had three starting cornerbacks: Slay (56.4), Robey-Coleman, Avonte Maddox (55.9). On offense, they went with three receivers — Jackson, Alshon Jeffery (74.8), Jalen Reagor (69.2) — while sliding Matt Pryor (60.9) in at right guard and Andre Dillard (59.7) at left tackle. Despite the drool-worthy grade for Edwards, PFF expressed doubt about the linebacker corps and called the position a weakness.

Linebacker is still a question mark for Philadelphia. Nathan Gerry figures to be atop the depth chart after more than 600 snaps of average play in 2019, but there’s much less clarity behind him. Can T.J. Edwards break out after earning an 83.4 overall grade on just over 100 snaps last season? Will Jatavis Brown win a starting job after shaky play led to his role getting significantly reduced in 2019 with the Chargers? Rookie Davion Taylor will have a chance at playing time early, too. It’s a group that still doesn’t have much definition on what should be an improved defense overall.

Perhaps the biggest slight in their analysis was Miles Sanders who received a 61.5 grade. His 1,327 yards from scrimmage and 1,641 all-purpose yards led all NFL rookies last season. Sanders is expected to have a much bigger role in 2020 as the team’s bellcow.

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