Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Expectations for the Birds this year seem to be tempered, but no expectations usually means games can be more fun and less stressful to watch. With that in mind, here are five players to keep a close eye on as the Eagles try to win in Atlanta in the battle of the birds.
QB Jalen Hurts
This one is pretty obvious, as the future of the Eagles lies on the shoulder of Hurts. He'll have 17 games to prove to the front office that he can help lead the team to victories. If he fails, then the Eagles can move forward with Gardner Minshew still on his rookie contract in 2022 and trade Hurts to a team in desperate need of a bridge quarterback. If he succeeds, the Eagles can push all the chips forward for 2022 and 2023 as the team will have Hurts on a rookie deal and can invest early draft picks and big money for free agents into other positions to help them become a perennial Super Bowl contender.
LT Jordan Mailata
Even before he got his massive contract extension, all eyes were going to focus on Jordan Mailata this season. Now he is tasked to living up to his contract and will need to protect Jalen Hurts' blindside.
CB Steve Nelson
The Eagles are extremely thin in their defensive backfield, but with Darius Slay and Steven Nelson holding down the starting corner jobs, their past shows that the team has a chance of having solid cornerback play as long as they both stay healthy.
S Anthony Harris
As stated above, the Eagles defensive backfield is pretty thin behind their starters, but the addition of Harris has given Jonathan Gannon's defense a possibility of becoming ball hawks. With Rodney McLeod ruled out, Harris will need to be at the top of his game to make sure Matt Ryan doesn't pick apart the defense.
RT Lane Johnson
Johnson has missed 13 games in the past two seasons, and hearing that his ankle "collapsed" last season doesn't sound like a fun injury to recover from. Johnson is entering the season at 31 years of age, and there's a strong possibility that his best football is behind him. But his ability to stay healthy will be crucial for Jalen Hurts' success this season. Let's all just hope that Johnson's ankle is truly at 100% and that he can return to be as close as e can to his former self.