Eagles looking for big season from unheralded sources

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An early burst of summer heat swept through Philadelphia last week.

For many Philly fans that’s just a reminder that Eagles season is coming upon us quickly.

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Nothing could be better than anticipating a late summer Sunday, or Monday, or Friday, even with the Eagles on the field.

Expectations are once again as high as can be with fresh memories of a Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs and a 10-1 start to last season still rolling around in everyone’s heads.

The less said about December and January, the better.

The Eagles should be one of the top teams in the NFL once again. The offseason has gone almost as well as anyone could have possibly expected. With training camp ahead, there are fewer and fewr question marks in the lineup.

Still, so many things have to go right that there’s no telling exactly what kind of season we’re going to have this fall, and hopefully, deep into winter.

In that spirit, here are five underappreciated Eagles who need to have good seasons to ensure the Eagles will have a successful year.

Safety Reed Blankenship

Now in his third season after not being drafted out of Middle Tennessee State, Blankenship has worked himself into the conversation as an NFL starter. A big hitter and fan favorite, Blankenship could solidify a defensive backfield that was a dumpster fire last season.

The Eagles made big strides by adding to the talent level in the secondary. A good year from Blankenship would go a long way toward changing the fortunes of the team this year.

Guard Landon Dickerson

Once upon a time the Eagles drafted Dickerson to be the replacement for center Jason Kelce. In the meantime, Dickerson worked himself into becoming one of the league’s top guards.

These days, Dickerson is the only returning interior lineman returning to his position. In many ways, his steady play will have to carry the offensive line until the line sorts itself.

Dickerson will be leaned on more than ever for leadership at one of the team’s strongest position groups.

Running back Kenneth Gainwell

Maybe backup running back isn’t the first area fans think of when gauging how good an offense is, but Gainwell will definitely have a key role in the Eagles offense.

The addition of Saquon Barkley and the absence of Boston Scott leaves Gainwell as the elder statesman in the Eagles backfield. Adding 600 rushing yards, 20-plus receptions and a key touchdown here and there would make Gainwell one of the most important Eagles on the field.

Punter Braden Mann

Last year, and as far back as the Super Bowl season, the Eagles punting situation could only be described as a concern.

Enter Braden Mann, beginning as a practice squad call up in Week 3 last year, the former four-year Jets punter started slowly before firmly grasping the job for good and, eventually, being brought up to the 53-man roster for the season.

Mann averaged career bests with 49.8 yards per kick and 43.9 net yards after returns. Similar numbers would give the Eagles one of the best specialists in the league.

Defensive tackle Milton Williams

Williams could be the most important part of the defensive tackle rotation this season, especially with the retirement of Fletcher Cox.

Williams started 10 games last season, playing on 43 percent of the snaps. Both those numbers should rise this season, as should his productivity. With younger bigger players like Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter attracting a ton of attention, Williams should be able to make sure there is no dropoff at the tackle position regardless of who is on the field for a specific play.

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