The Philadelphia Eagles made five shrewd offseason moves last season that helped catapult them to their dream season and euphoric win over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Without bringing in Alshon Jeffery, Tim Jernigan, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson, and some guy named Foles, it’s highly doubtful the city hosts a parade down Broad Street on a random weekday in February. Remember, though, that outside of Jeffery, none of the other players were expected to have a serious impact on the team, but we now know how that turned out.
If they have any hopes of repeating, the Eagles need their offseason acquisitions to step up again. Here are five players who could be this year’s difference-makers.
Acquired in a trade with the Seahawks, the outspoken 32-year-old brings grit, versatility, and extra snarl to an already formidable defensive line. He can create havoc for opposing quarterbacks while playing on the inside or at defensive end, and essentially replaces Vinny Curry, who went to Tampa Bay.
Last season, Bennett finished with 8.5 sacks, which would have ranked him second on the Eagles’ defense, 44 hurries, and was just as lethal against the run. Despite his age, he’s a good bet to equal, or even exceed, those numbers this year.
The Eagles will limit his snaps, like they do for all of their linemen by constantly rotating them in and out, to keep him fresh and more dangerous.
The wideout is basically a clone of Torrey Smith, who was dealt to the Carolina Panthers in the offseason. However, Wallace, who inked a one-year deal, should serve as an upgrade.
Although 31-years-old, he still has blazing speed, giving the Eagles a deep threat, and will open up the field underneath for Nelson Agholor and Jeffery. He caught 52 passes for 748 yards and four touchdowns last year with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith, however, had 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns.
At worst, the former Denver Bronco is a key addition to special teams and depth at linebacker. At best, he earns the starting weakside linebacker job (that the departed Mychal Kendricks held) and serves as a safety net should starting linebackers Jordan Hicks or Nigel Bradham get injured.
While Bennett steps into Curry’s role, Ngata, 34, is the replacement for backup Beau Allen on the defensive line. After missing the final 11 games last season due to an injury, the five-time Pro-Bowler (2009-2013) is determined to prove he can stay healthy and make a difference. An established run-stopper, his experience will fit in perfectly.
Who? The best punters are the ones that go relatively unnoticed, much like Donnie Jones, who was one of the best punters in the league and retired after last season. The Eagles are hoping Johnston, who played at Ohio State, was released by the Eagles after camp last year and did not sign with another team, is the heir.
For his sake, Johnston better hope he remains mostly anonymous.
Other than Bennett, none of the above players are expected to make major contributions this season. However, that’s what we said about last year’s group.