The biggest concern for the season

Roob’s observations: Biggest concern going into the season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

My biggest concern to start the day, the miracle of the Eagles 6th round picks and a pivotal moment in Eagles history.

Here’s a fresh batch of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles observations on the last weekend without NFL football until February.

1. Generating pass pressure remains my absolute No. 1 concern with the Eagles heading into 2022. We all know they were among the worst in the NFL on quarterbacks last year – the 29 sacks were the franchise’s fewest since the sacks became an official stat in 1982 and had 17 games to do so. I don’t know if Josh Sweat can take his game to another level. I don’t know if Brandon Graham can still be a force at 34 coming off an Achilles. I don’t know if Derek Barnett can make an impact. I don’t know if Taron Jackson can turn his potential into production. That leaves Haason Reddick, who had 6 ½ sacks in the first six weeks of last year and 4½ in the last 12 weeks. If Sweat can make a leap and play a full season like he did last month, if BG can turn back the clock a few years, if Barnett can ever play like the 14th pick in the draft? The Eagles will be in good shape. But for me it’s really Reddick, who has looked very good this summer but needs to give the Eagles consistent production pressure wherever he lines up. Reddick is such an important guy on this team because all the other rushers remain question marks. The Eagles haven’t had an outside rusher with 10 sacks since Connor Barwin in 2014. Every other NFL team has had at least one since then. So maybe it’s natural to be skeptical. But all I know is without pass pressure, this defense doesn’t work. This team needs to come up huge over the next 18 weeks. And Reddick has to be a big part of that.

2. The Eagles have the 2nd best opening day record in the NFL since 2004 at 13-5. Only the Patriots (15-3) are better in that 18-year span. The only other teams with more than 10 opening day wins since 2004 are the Steelers (12-5-1), Broncos (12-6), Packers (12-6), Seahawks (11-5), Ravens (11 -). 5) and 49ers (11-5).

3. Why is Trey Sermon here? Two reasons: Miles Sanders gets hurt a lot and Shermon is better than Jason Hadley. Sermon, a 3rd round pick last year, was curious about the 49ers. In fact, GM John Lynch said just a week ago, “He’s had a terrible offseason. Throughout training camp, (he’s) been one of our best players.” But with last year’s 6th round draft pick Elijah Mitchell, Sermon became expendable and the Eagles pounced before the 49ers could bring him to their practice squad. Sermon had one game last year where he got more than 10 carries and that was 19-for-89 (4.7) against the Seahawks. That works. I love Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott as situational runners, 3rd down receivers and goal line specialists. But Sermon gives you more of a traditional pure ball carrier in case Sanders gets hurt again. You’re getting a 23-year-old who was the 88th overall pick in last year’s draft for nothing. And after the 49ers paid his signing bonus last year, all you care about is his modest base salary of $881,497. Literally a move with no downside.

4. Jacques Pascal is 27 years old and turns 28 just a week before Christmas. He is the oldest skill player on the Eagles.

5. It annoys me that the Eagles now have more 6th round picks on their roster than 1st round picks. This should be impossible. They have nine 1st round picks and 10 6th round picks. In fact, they have more players on the roster drafted in the sixth round than any other round – eight 2nd rounders, five 3rd rounders, eight quarterbacks, two 5th rounders and two 7th rounders (and nine undrafted). So only 42 percent of the roster was drafted in the first three rounds. You never want to miss out on Day 1 or Day 2 picks, but it’s always more important to find good players than where to find them. And if you find Jason Kelce, Quez Watkins, Kenny Gainwell, Jordan Mailata, TJ Edwards and Boston Scott in the late rounds or undrafted? All that matters is that they’re Eagles, not where — or if — they were drafted.

6. The Eagles have played 385 games in 24 seasons since 1998. Tra Thomas, Jason Peters or Jordan Mailata have started 335 of them at left tackle.

7. Maybe Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will be ready to go in eight days, maybe he can learn the defense and acclimate in a week and a half. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Eagles make Anthony Harris up on game day in Detroit and start him opposite Marcus Epps at safety and give CJGJ a little more time to learn the defense and get comfortable. Harris was a starter last year, got all the 1st team reps this summer, and while he wasn’t much of a playmaker, he knows the defense and isn’t going to screw it up. The Eagles can move Harris up to three times if needed, which would buy Gardner-Johnson some time. Harris can become the first player in NFL history to be a starter throughout camp, be released, signed to the practice squad and then start a season opener. But he might be the Eagles’ best option.

8. Keeping Josh Siels over Jack Anderson was one of the more surprising moves of the last day of the trade, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Anderson is a guard-center and Sills is a guard-tackle, and tackles are more valuable than centers, and if you’re going to develop one or the other, it makes sense to develop the one who’s a potential lifter. Anderson had an impressive camp and was picked up by the Giants off waivers. But Seals also did some impressive things, and at 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, he’s huge. It will be interesting to watch how both their careers progress.

9. The Eagles are 3-28 in their last 31 games when their starting quarterback has thrown a pick-6.

10. I’ve always felt that the 1988 season opener in Tampa was a pivotal moment in Eagles history. They were coming off of six straight losing seasons, had made the playoffs just four times since the 1960 Championship season, and had the 5th worst record in the league over the previous 20 years (out of 28 teams). Well, they had won just five of their previous 21 starts. The 1988 opener was Randall Cunningham’s first opening day start, and by the end of the first half at old Tampa Stadium he had thrown TDs to Mike Quick and Keith Jackson and rushed for another TD en route to a 41 -14. The Eagles picked off Vinny Testaverde five times, and Terry Hoage became the only player since the Bears’ Joe Maniaci in 1940 with two interceptions and a 30-yard touchdown run in the same game. This was a real win to open Buddy Ryan’s third season and the Eagles won their first NFC East title since the 1980 Super Bowl season. Since then, the Eagles have the 5th best record in the NFL and have reached the playoffs 20 of 34 years. Only three teams have reached the postseason more during that span – the Patriots, Packers and Steelers. One of the worst teams in NFL history up until that day. One of the best ever.

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