LeGarrette Blount adds scoring punch to Eagles starting lineup

The Philadelphia Eagles could have as many as four new starters on offense -- including three at skill positions -- when the NFL season opens. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Carson Wentz): The rookie stats (62.4 percent completion rate, 16 TDs, 14 INTs) don't blow you away, but the Eagles' coaches and front office saw enough to be convinced that Wentz has all the tools to become a franchise quarterback. With more experience and better weapons at his disposal, they're expecting to see improvement in his second season.

Running back (LeGarrette Blount): Blount scored 18 rushing touchdowns for the New England Patriots last season, the most since Adrian Peterson matched the number in 2009. At 6 feet, 250 pounds, he provides balance to a backfield that includes the smaller running backs Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey.

Wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery): Can he stay on the field? That's the only question that stands between Jeffery and a big year. He was suspended for four games last season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, and has been hampered by injuries the past two years. When available, he'll be a No. 1 option for Wentz.

Wide receiver (Torrey Smith): While Jeffery can serve as the third-down/red-zone security blanket, Smith will play the role of field stretcher on the opposite side. Since 2011, Smith's 17.0 yards-per-catch average is second only to DeSean Jackson's 17.4.

Wide receiver (Jordan Matthews): Matthews should continue to man the slot position, assuming he can shake the injuries that have slowed him since last summer. In his absence this spring, Nelson Agholor looked quite sharp.

Tight end (Zach Ertz): Wentz leaned on Ertz down the stretch last season as their chemistry developed. Ertz averaged eight catches for 89 yards over the last five games. A sign of things to come?

Left tackle (Jason Peters): Peters should be in a good frame of mind after receiving more guaranteed money in a deal that will likely allow him to retire as an Eagle. The front office is banking on at least one more good season out of the potential Hall of Famer.

Left guard (Isaac Seumalo): There will be competition for this spot this summer, with Seumalo and veteran Allen Barbre among those pushing for the starting gig. Seumalo opened some eyes as a rookie last season. The coaching staff wants to see more.

Center (Jason Kelce): Despite trade chatter this offseason, Kelce remains on the roster. He'll have to hold off Seumalo and the like but enters training camp as the favorite to start at center.

Right guard (Brandon Brooks): The Eagles signed Brooks to a significant free-agent deal last offseason and received mostly positive returns on their investment in 2016. He missed a pair of games as a result of symptoms related to anxiety but has taken proactive steps since being diagnosed late last fall.

Right tackle (Lane Johnson): He missed 10 games last year after violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy a second time. The Eagles were 5-1 with him in the lineup and 2-8 during his absence.


Defensive end (Brandon Graham): Graham might have been the Eagles' best player on defense last year. He led the team in hurries (30) and tackles for loss (14). The next step is upping his sack total (5.5 in 2016).

Defensive end (Vinny Curry): Curry has been unable to break out of a niche role to this point in his career, but with Connor Barwin exiting this offseason, Curry has an opportunity to land the starting gig. He'll be pushed by veteran Chris Long and rookie first-round selection Derek Barnett.

Defensive tackle (Tim Jernigan): Bennie Logan was lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. So Jernigan, acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, is likely to take his place in the starting lineup, especially with Beau Allen sidelined because of a pectoral injury.

Defensive tackle (Fletcher Cox): Cox led the team with 6.5 sacks last year but also had a couple of costly lapses. A little more consistency is needed for this defense to realize its potential. He is a blue-chip player who regularly demands double-teams in the middle of Jim Schwartz's defense.

Weakside linebacker (Mychal Kendricks): According to linebackers coach Ken Flajole, the Eagles were in sub packages over 70 percent of the time last season. That was part of the reason for Kendricks' reduced role in 2016. There has been trade buzz around Kendricks this offseason; this spot is not locked in stone.

Middle linebacker (Jordan Hicks): Hicks is an ascending player who hit his stride about midseason after becoming acclimated to Schwartz's system. He led all NFL linebackers with five interceptions.

Strongside linebacker (Nigel Bradham): Bradham had 99 tackles and a pair of sacks last season and is a strong fit for this scheme. The concern lies off the field, as Bradham has been dealing with legal issues. While he reached a deferred prosecution agreement in relation to a battery charge, the matter remains under review with the NFL and could result in a suspension.

Cornerback (Jalen Mills): A seventh-round pick out of LSU a year ago, Mills is in position to land a starting job. He had an up-and-down rookie campaign, and there is some question about whether he has the recovery speed necessary to be a standout corner in the NFL. But he showed a level of aggressiveness and play-making ability that endeared him to Schwartz.

Cornerback (Patrick Robinson): The 29-year-old veteran had stints with the New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts before signing with Philly in free agency. He'll be in competition with the likes of rookie Rasul Douglas (and eventually second-round pick Sidney Jones, who is coming off an Achilles injury) for a starting post.

Strong safety (Rodney McLeod): McLeod led the team with 117 tackles while adding three interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 2016.

Free safety (Malcolm Jenkins): One of the Eagles' better free-agent acquisitions in recent memory, Jenkins has thrived since coming to Philly in 2014. A team leader and tone-setter, he has helped solidify a safety corps that had been rudderless for some time following the departure of the legendary Brian Dawkins.

Special teams

Kicker (Caleb Sturgis): He set personal highs in field goals made (35) and accuracy (85.4 percent) and went 4-for-6 from 50-plus yards with a long of 55.

Punter (Donnie Jones): He averaged 45.8 yards per punt a year ago, a tick above his career average. A steady presence.

Long snapper (Jon Dorenbos): The longest-tenured Eagle, Dorenbos signed a new deal last year that runs through 2019. A full-time magic gig will have to wait.