Eagles Wake-Up Call: Most Indispensable Players

Ryan Mathews and Sam Bradford. (USA Today Sports)

Ryan Mathews and Sam Bradford. (USA Today Sports)

After the Fletcher Cox contract extension and Howie Roseman’s flurry of moves this offseason, talk surrounding the Eagles has understandably shifted to the future and how the Birds shape up longterm. But with all of Roseman’s major deals done and training camp (slowly) inching closer, let’s take a look at who the most indispensable Eagles are this season.

5. Ryan Mathews — It’s tough to leave out talented players like Malcolm Jenkins, and a role as important as pass rusher that Vinny Curry fills, but if Mathews is unavailable, the Eagles have an unimpressive group of backs to carry the load. And if Sam Bradford has no running game, how much success will the Birds have as a one-dimensional offense? Mathews is on this list because of how big of a drop-off there is without him; even if he doesn’t rank second in the NFL again with more than five yards per carry, he’ll still give you good production. His talent has never been in question — it’s always been about him staying healthy. Mathews ranked eighth in the NFL last season in rushing DYAR, Football Outsiders’ metric that values performance on a play where the running back touches the ball compared to the replacement level, adjusting for situation and opponent. Mathews’ rushing DYAR was 133, while Darren Sproles’ was 80, and Kenjon Barner’s was 30. (DeMarco Murray’s, in case you were curious, was -29, sixth-worst among players with at least 100 carries.)

4. Jordan Hicks — Joe Walker. That’s who would likely be the Eagles’ middle linebacker if Hicks isn’t on the field. When you add that to the importance of this position group Hicks is expected to lead, it’s difficult to not include Hicks on here. With the defensive line free to roam around and leave gaps unattended, the linebackers will have to do a good job of cleaning up behind them and thinking on their feet to plug running lanes. It seems like the expectations for Hicks only get higher and higher, despite him starting just five games in his career, but that’s what happens when you discard Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans and don’t have much depth behind your starters. Read more »

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