Going into the 2021 season, few observers had the Philadelphia Eagles as NFC East favourites. After they dispatched the Atlanta Falcons 32-6 in Week 1, it is fair to wonder whether the last team to beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl were underestimated. 

Yet Philadelphia's second game under new head coach Nick Sirianni is likely to be significantly tougher than their first, which came against a Falcons team caught in transition with Atlanta fighting the prospect of a rebuild staring them in the face. 

In Week 2, the Eagles face the San Francisco 49ers, seen by many as Super Bowl contenders, a status vindicated by the first 55 minutes of their performance in a victory on the road against the Detroit Lions. 

The Niners led 38-10 and 41-17 at Ford Field, but the final margin of victory was a much tighter 41-33 as the Lions staged a late rally after San Francisco had brought in its backups on defense with the game seemingly in hand. 

Philadelphia may see that as a reason to be confident they can move the ball on San Francisco. However, the Eagles' defense must be wary of a Niners offense that exploded for 8.04 yards per play in the opener, exploiting a weakness that was all too apparent in the Atlanta game. 

While the Eagles' defensive line dominated matters when it came to rushing the passer, it was consistently moved off the ball in the run game, the Falcons averaging 4.77 yards per carry, the eighth-best mark in the NFL in Week 1. 

San Francisco was slightly behind that average with 4.68 as the Kyle Shanahan offense, notoriously ultra-friendly to running backs, allowed sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell to rush for 104 yards and a touchdown after starter Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury. 

The ground game is pivotal to the 49ers' success on offense as it sets up a play-action passing attack that arguably does a better job of opening the middle of the field than any other in the NFL. 

Atlanta found early success against Philadelphia in that area too, as the Eagles linebackers played aggressively in getting downhill to guard the threat of the run, and it is fair to assume Shanahan and the Niners will do a far superior job of taking advantage of such openings than the Falcons did during their dismal showing. 

Mostert is now out for the season having elected to undergo surgery on his knee but that does not lessen the need for the Eagles to slow down Mitchell, whose yards after contact per attempt average of 3.15 was second only to his team-mate's 7.5 on two carries in Week 1. Rookie third-round back Trey Sermon will be active for Week 2; his 2.77 yards after contact per attempt for Ohio State were sixth in the Power 5 last year. 

By the same token, San Francisco must have a keen focus on stopping Philadelphia's ground game, which was third in the league with 5.58 yards per carry last week, after the 49ers' run defense put on a disappointing display versus Detroit. 

Indeed, the Lions averaged 4.83 yards per attempt (seventh-most in the league) as the absence of Javon Kinlaw from the defensive line proved telling for the 49ers. 

Kinlaw has practiced in a limited capacity this week and his presence as a defender who can soak up double teams on the interior of the line should serve as a boost to DeMeco Ryans' group. 

Yet there will still need to be improvements from the players behind the line for San Francisco to stiffen its run defense, the Niners' linebackers having had clear issues plugging the wrong gaps in the win over the Lions. 

Should they fail to make those strides, that will make life harder on a defense that has historically struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks on the zone-read plays that Jalen Hurts and the Eagles will look to attack them with on Sunday. 

It's a passing league and two fearsome sets of pass rushers and a collection of exciting receiving options will surely have plenty of bearing on how this intriguing NFC matchup plays out. But, in the end, it is a game that may come down to which defense can stem the tide on the ground

Each of the top three wide receivers taken in the 2021 NFL Draft entered Week 1 of the season facing pertinent questions. Could Ja'Marr Chase shake off his drop-laden preseason and revive his rapport with Joe Burrow? Can DeVonta Smith excel despite his slender frame? Will Jaylen Waddle be able to mesh with Tua Tagovailoa again amid concerns over his college quarterback's arm strength?

It is important not to be a prisoner of the Week 1 moment. With the opening slate of games notorious for enticing observers into mistaken conclusions.

However, after all three played major roles in wins for the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, respectively, the answer to each of those queries is, for now, a confident yes.

The trio all found the endzone in their NFL debuts, making league history in the process.

Indeed, the 2021 season is the first in common-draft era in which three rookie wideouts that were each selected in the first round scored on a touchdown reception in Week 1.

And their performances provided plenty of encouragement they will each vindicate their lofty draft statuses.

Chase the ace

The highlight of Chase's 101-yard showing in Cincinnati's win over the Minnesota Vikings was a 50-yard touchdown catch from college team-mate Burrow on a perfectly thrown ball on which the fifth overall pick took advantage of soft coverage from Bashaud Breeland.

But a receiver whose ability to separate was questioned prior to the draft also excelled at getting free from coverage on third down. Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, on four of his seven targets, Chase finished the game with 14.43 burn yards per target -- ninth among receivers who were thrown to at least five times -- with an average depth of target of 15.7 yards.

His debut effort and the numbers he produced should raise hopes he can rely more on his route-running to beat defenders rather than the physical approach that defined his success at LSU.

Crimson Tide connection returns

Separating from defenders was never an issue for Waddle at the college level, with preseason concerns aimed more at his quarterback than the former Alabama star.

As a rookie, Tagovailoa did not produce much to suggest he would gel with a speedster who won his matchup with a defender on 78.1 per cent of his 2020 targets and averaged 19.96 burn yards per target to lead the Power 5 in his final year with the Crimson Tide.

Yet this pair of college team-mates also had their connection from 2019 cooking again as the Dolphins knocked off the New England Patriots in Foxborough.

They did so largely through intelligently adapting Waddle's traits to the short passing game, giving him chances to run after the catch and using him in motion to stretch and deceive the Patriots' defense, as they did on his touchdown that eventually proved the game-winner.

There was also a play that could have been plucked straight from Waddle's Alabama tape as he got a step on a defender while running vertically and worked his way back to the ball, leaping over the covering cornerback for a 36-yard reception.

With a burn on four of his six targets and 13.09 burn yards per target, Waddle's numbers did not quite match up to those of Chase but, if he continues to stress defenses working horizontally and vertically, he will be a substantial asset to the Miami passing game. 

Smith shreds Falcons

Waddle will have hot competition for the title of best Alabama receiver from this draft, though, at least if Smith continues on his early trajectory from the Eagles' 32-6 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons.

Open on six of his eight targets, Smith's six-catch, 71-yard showing was not one in which he relied on his excellent route-running ability, instead finding holes in the Falcons' zone coverage in a game where he was a favoured receiver for Jalen Hurts, who was second among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts with a well-thrown ball percentage of 87.5.

Yet his 19-yard touchdown offered a snapshot of what he can do in that regard as he patiently released to the outside against man coverage, sending his defender into a pick play from tight end Zach Ertz. With open space now at his disposal, Smith accelerated before expertly tracking the ball into his grasp in the corner of the endzone.

For both Smith and Waddle, their early success was a continuation of how they performed in college, while Chase demonstrated encouraging progress in an area of the game considered to be a weakness.

Selecting a wide receiver in the top 10 is considered a gamble by many but the early payout from this trio suggests they may prove worth the risk.

The NFL is back and, for so many across the globe, that means it's time to examine the matchup data and prepare fantasy rosters for Week 1.

Unless you've left it remarkably late, fantasy drafts are in the rear-view mirror and it's time to set the best line-up to deliver an opening-week win.

But which players are ideally positioned to help fantasy managers start the year with a victory?

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players and a defense poised to deliver big fantasy points.

Quarterback – Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans

The pressure is firmly on Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Murray to deliver in year three of their partnership after they collapsed from 6-3 to miss the playoffs.

But if the Cardinals make a disappointing start to 2021, it is more likely to be because of their defense than Murray, who can do great damage against a Tennessee defense vulnerable to the ground game and to what the Arizona quarterback can do with his legs.

Tennessee gave up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last season. The Titans' 6.84 yards per pass play allowed was the 11th-worst rate in the NFL, while they were tied for the 10th-most rushing touchdowns conceded with 18.

Murray, who had 31 passing plays of 25 yards or more, ninth-most in the league, and averaged the second-most yards per carry (6.15) last season, is ideally equipped to take advantage of those vulnerabilities and put together a substantially productive fantasy day.

Running Back – James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Robinson's stock looked to have been dealt a major blow when the Jaguars drafted Travis Etienne in the first round having selected his former Clemson team-mate Trevor Lawrence first overall.

But a season-ending foot injury to Etienne ruled him out for the year, meaning Robinson will get the bulk of the carries in the Jacksonville backfield.

He is coming off a tremendous rookie year that saw him rack up 1,070 rushing yards while averaging 2.34 yards after contact per attempt, the sixth-best rate in the NFL.

And he has the perfect matchup to carry that momentum into the new season, facing a Texans team in disarray amid the Deshaun Watson saga that gave up a league-worst 5.2 yards per rush last season.

If you have Robinson, start him.

Wide Receiver – Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions

Week 1 often delivers some weirdness but, on paper, the Niners could not have asked for a better matchup than the rebuilding Lions.

The Lions gave up 7.85 yards per pass play, the most in the NFL last season, and their young secondary is one San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan should have little trouble exploiting.

Jeff Okudah, the Lions' first-round pick from 2020 and starting cornerback, gave up a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted – on 68.2 per cent of his targets. He conceded 15.28 burn yards per target, the third-most in the NFL.

As the 49ers' top wideout, Aiyuk will be frequently matched up with Okudah and, after producing a big play on 33.1 per cent of his targets – the third-most among rookie wideouts with at least 50 targets – in his first season, this extremely gifted route-runner has a clear opportunity to make a hot start to a potential breakout year.

Tight End – Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons

It's difficult to get too excited about the Eagles offense, given it averaged 224 net passing yards per game since Jalen Hurts took over as the starting quarterback in Week 14 last year, 21st in the NFL.

But the two players who averaged the most targets per game for the Eagles in that time were their tight ends, Zach Ertz and Goedert. Ertz averaged 5.8 targets and Goedert 5.7 while playing a game fewer.

Goedert is the younger and more explosive of that pair and should command a higher share of the targets going forward. Facing a Falcons team that gave up 7.18 yards per pass play last year and conceded the third-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, Goedert's role in the offense is a recipe for him opening the season in stunning fashion.

Defense – Los Angeles Rams vs. Chicago Bears

Justin Fields will not be starting for the Bears against the Rams, and the first-round rookie might consider himself fortunate given the discrepancy between the talent on the Rams' defensive front and the Bears' offensive line.

The Chicago O-Line is 30th in Stats Perform's rankings, which is a poor position to be in at any point of the season but is especially troubling ahead of a matchup with a Los Angeles team that tallied 50 sacks for negative yardage in 2020.

Chicago allowed 23.8 per cent of points on giveaways last season and, with their O-Line facing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who beat a pass protector on 94 of his 103 pressures last term, the Bears appear poised to concede more points in that manner and reward fantasy players who invested in the Rams' defense.

Drama has not been in short supply among the NFL quarterbacks this offseason.

There have been new names, new deals, new feuds, old feuds...

Now the 2021 season is on the horizon, but not every situation at the sport's most important position has reached a satisfactory conclusion.

There are intriguing QB scenarios to keep an eye on for plenty of teams this season, as Stats Perform explores.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Let's start with a rookie. While fellow first-round picks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones are set for starting roles, Trey Lance has a fight on his hands with the 49ers.

Lance is raw, having played just 19 college games in the FCS, and is set to begin the season behind Jimmy Garoppolo – fit again after becoming one of a remarkable number San Francisco players to suffer with injuries last year, unable to follow up their Super Bowl run.

But Lance's dual-threat ability gives Kyle Shanahan a new dynamic, as evidenced by his 14 rushing touchdowns in 2019 with North Dakota State. Garoppolo has only two career rushing scores.

That is likely to initially put the ball in Lance's hands in the red zone, where his legs should help improve a red zone efficiency of 53.2 per cent from the 2019 season, when a fully fit Niners team ranked 21st in the NFL.

By the end of the year, though, the 21-year-old will undoubtedly be keen for a bigger role, increasing pressure on Garoppolo while the team try to maintain a title challenge.

CHICAGO BEARS

Justin Fields is the second first-round selection starting the year behind an established NFL QB in Andy Dalton.

"There's no need for us to rush Justin," said Bears general manager Ryan Pace last week, explaining they were "very confident" in Dalton. "I just think the more time [Fields] has to learn that and observe, the better off for him," Pace added.

But Fields, who threw for 63 TDs and rushed for a further 15 in two years at Ohio State, is undoubtedly a more realistic long-term solution than Dalton, on his third team in three years.

Fields, like Lance, can run, ranking fifth in the Power 5 among quarterbacks with 7.42 yards per carry last year, but the Bears also need improvement through the air, having ranked 22nd with 228.4 net passing yards per game in 2020.

While the departed Mitchell Trubisky neither threw nor ran the ball well – delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on just 71.6 per cent of passes and averaging 1.81 yards per carry – Fields (80.18 well-thrown percentage) can do both if given the opportunity.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

It is not only the teams who have spent first-round picks on passers who have a battle under center, with the Saints able to consider two options to replace the great Drew Brees.

Jameis Winston threw only 11 passes in New Orleans last season after leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the versatile Taysom Hill preferred when Brees was out injured, making four starts at QB.

But Winston has been confirmed as the starter for the new campaign – at least for now. Whether Sean Payton is willing to stick with an entertaining yet erratic QB for a full season remains to be seen.

The 27-year-old became the first player ever to throw 30 TD passes and 30 interceptions in the same NFL season as the Bucs went 7-9 in 2019.

Winston's 10.70 air yards ranked second, yet his pickable pass percentage of 7.69 was second-worst among those with 100 attempts or more.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

While some teams have multiple reliable options at QB, the Eagles scarcely have one. Having moved on from Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts is their starter.

Last time out, in his rookie year, Hurts completed just 52.0 per cent of his passes – the worst rate of any QB with 100 or more attempts – and still could not quite keep up with the league's elite running QBs, averaging 6.00 yards per carry.

Yet Philadelphia's response was to trade out of the number six pick in this year's draft and then opt against taking either Fields or Jones, who remained on the board after they moved back up to 10.

Joe Flacco, now 36, is in as the back-up, while a "fired up" Gardner Minshew has arrived from the Jacksonville Jaguars after 37 TDs in two years but is set for a role as a third-stringer.

Unless Hurts makes significant strides, it is difficult to see how the Eagles will not again be in position to take one of the top college QBs in 2022.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was at the centre of the most compelling offseason speculation surrounding a quarterback this offseason. However, the Green Bay Packers star was not the only former champion at the centre of offseason speculation this year, with Russell Wilson's agent informing ESPN of four trade destinations that would interest the Seahawks stalwart.

Seattle kept their man in the end, but Wilson will be looking for progress from last season, when he complained of "getting hit too much" – "a pretty normal reaction," according to coach Pete Carroll.

Wilson was in the MVP conversation for the first half of the year but was soon left exposed behind a poor offensive line, sacked 47 times to swell his career total to 394 – the most of any QB since he entered the league.

Although left tackle Duane Brown has missed practice as he waits on a contract extension – another development that has frustrated Wilson – the Seahawks have at least traded for guard Gabe Jackson. That move needs to work.

Wilson last year averaged 8.70 air yards while throwing a pickable pass at the sixth-lowest ratio in the NFL (2.64%), but he has to have help if Seattle are to succeed.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded for Gardner Minshew II, acquiring the quarterback from the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday.

Minshew joins the Eagles as their third quarterback behind starter Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco after Philadelphia sent a conditional 2022 sixth-round draft pick to Jacksonville.

In a corresponding move, the Eagles released Nick Mullens as they usher in the post-Carson Wentz era following the Super Bowl winner's trade to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Minshew trade comes after Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer named number one draft selection Trevor Lawrence as the team's starting QB ahead of their season opener against the Houston Texans on September 12.

Minshew – a sixth-round pick in 2019 – has started 20 of 23 career games and completed 501 of 797 passes (62.9 per cent) for 5,530 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 93.1.

The 25-year-old's career passer rating of 93.1 is the highest in Jaguars history (minimum 100 attempts), while his 21 passing TDs and 3,271 passing yards in 2019 were both the most by a rookie in franchise history.

Minshew became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 230 yards passing per game, 20-plus TDs, and fewer than 10 interceptions.

The Eagles open their NFL season against the Atlanta Falcons on September 12.

The Philadelphia Eagles have bolstered their defense with the signing of Ryan Kerrigan.

Defensive end Kerrigan has spent 10 seasons with the Washington Football Team after being picked in the first round of the 2011 draft.

A four-time Pro Bowler, Kerrigan holds the Washington franchise record for sacks with 95.5, which are the fifth-most in the NFL since 2011.

"I'll never be able to sum up what these past 10 years have meant to me in an Instagram post, but what I can say is that they have been some of the best of my life," Kerrigan wrote in a farewell message to Washington on Instagram. 

"I hope you had as much fun watching me as I did playing for you. Thank you, Washington, for everything."

In a subsequent post announcing his signing with Washington's NFC East rivals the Eagles, he wrote: "I know I probably wasn't your favourite player over the past decade, but @philadelphiaeagles fans I'm fired up to be playing for you guys now!"

He joins a Philadelphia defense that was seventh in the NFL in forcing negative passing plays in 2020 with 53 for minus 349 yards.

The Eagles are not short on talented pass rushers. Brandon Graham was fifth in the league among edge rushers last season with a pressure rate of 23.5 per cent, while Josh Sweat's adjusted sack rate of 4.4 per cent was marginally better than that of Kerrigan (4.3) in 2020.

Interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox had 6.5 sacks and has at least 5.5 sacks in five of his past six seasons.

The Eagles will hope the addition of Kerrigan to an already talented defensive front will help them bounce back from a 4-11-1 season under new head coach Nick Sirianni.

Highly touted quarterbacks? Check. Oversized stage? Check. Raucous Fans? Check.

A year after holding a virtual NFL Draft in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement due to concerns over the coronavirus, the 2021 draft descended on Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, with Goodell once again sharing bro-hugs with the prospects on stage in front of thousands of vaccinated and mask-wearing fans.

Although the easy chair from Goodell’s basement did make the trip to the stage, this year’s edition of the draft felt much more normal than a year ago – and it began exactly as nearly everyone expected.

The Jacksonville Jaguars chose Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall and the New York Jets went with BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at number two.

Considered to be the most polished QB prospect in years, Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards in his collegiate career, while going 34-2 as a starter with the Tigers and winning the 2018 National Championship.

Wilson had been linked to the Jets for months after throwing for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdown passes to only three interceptions last season, and New York hopes he can be the franchise’s answer at QB and lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after the recently traded and 2018 No. 3 pick Sam Darnold never lived up to expectations.

A quarterback had also been projected to go third overall ever since the San Francisco 49ers traded up to that position weeks ago, the only question was who – Trey Lance out of FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Justin Fields from Ohio State or Alabama national champion Mac Jones.

The tight-lipped 49ers ended weeks of suspense by drafting Lance, who has only played in one game since the 2019 season but led the Bison to the FCS title that year while accounting for 42 total touchdowns without an interception.

With the surprising Lance going to San Francisco, this became just the third time in the common draft era that started in 1967 – and first time since 1999 – quarterbacks went 1-2-3 in the NFL draft.

The consensus top five QBs - Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields and Jones – had been slated to all get drafted in the top 10, but Fields and Jones were still on the board after 10 picks.

The Chicago Bears decided not to sit on their hands, trading up nine spots with the New York Giants to grab Fields, a dual-threat QB who finished his collegiate career with 5,701 passing yards and 67 TDs through the air.

The Patriots were more patient, selecting Jones with the 15th pick – a spot few believed he would still be available. Jones threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns to just four picks in leading Alabama last season, and became the first quarterback selected in the first round during Bill Belichick’s 21-year tenure in New England.

Jones also became the final QB selected in the first round, making this only the fourth time at least five QBs were drafted in round number one, along with 2018, 1999 and the famous 1983 draft, when six were selected.

Not only were QBs a hot commodity, so were their targets.

The Atlanta Falcons made Florida’s Kyle Pitts the highest drafted tight end in history when they picked him fourth overall after he had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 TDs in 2020.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins drafted who they hope will be their franchise quarterbacks in the 2020 first round, and this year they each focused on providing them with a playmaker they were familiar with.

Cincinnati selected LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth pick, teaming him 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, the quarterback who led the Tigers to the 2019 FBS title. In 26 games played together in 2018 and 2019, Burrow targeted Chase 162 times, resulting in 107 receptions for 2,093 yards and 23 touchdowns.

One pick later, the Dolphins chose Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, reuniting him with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, last year’s fifth pick. Waddle only appeared in six games last season because of a broken left ankle, but he left Alabama with 106 receptions for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns over three years.

The reunions continued with the 10th pick, when the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select 2020 Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith to get him back with former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, the 53rd overall pick a year ago. Smith, who put up eye-popping numbers in 2020 with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns, was a teammate of Hurts in 2017 and 2018.

While the Bengals, Dolphins and Eagles reunited former teammates, the Jaguars decided to go ahead and just bring aboard one of Lawrence’s teammates from this past season, selecting Clemson running back Travis Etienne with the 25th pick, making this the first time in the common draft era a quarterback and running back from the same school were drafted by the same team in the first round.

Etienne was a workhorse for the past four years with the Tigers, racking up 4,952 rushing yards and 70 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

Etienne became the second running back selected in the first round after the Pittsburgh Steelers took Alabama’s Najee Harris one pick earlier.

With the Denver Broncos nabbing Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II ninth overall and the Las Vegas Raiders drafting Crimson Tide offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood at No. 17, Harris became the sixth player from Alabama drafted in the first round, matching the University of Miami from 2004 for the most players selected from one school in the first round.

While the draft started with offensive players being selected with the first seven picks for the first time ever, the final five picks of the opening round were all defensive players, concluding with the defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting linebacker Joe Tryon out of Washington with the 32nd pick.

The Philadelphia Eagles saw a chance to grab a playmaker for Jalen Hurts and made their move, trading up to select DeVonta Smith with the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Philadelphia swapped with their division rivals the Dallas Cowboys to move up two slots in the draft order and take Smith, sending the 12th overall pick and a 2021 third-round selection to the Cowboys.

Smith won the Heisman Trophy as the best college player in the country in 2020, and the wide receiver will give the Eagles a significant weapon on offense. 

Last season, Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as he helped Alabama win the national championship.

Smith and Hurts were teammates at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, just before the receiver blossomed into one of the best players in the country. 

His selection continued a draft-day trend of NFL teams reuniting quarterbacks with receivers they had played with in college. 

Previously the Cincinnati Bengals paired up Ja'Marr Chase with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow and the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle to play with QB Tua Tagovailoa once again. 

The Miami Dolphins threw the NFL Draft into further chaos on Friday, trading back up to the sixth overall pick on the same day they moved down from three to 12.

Miami earlier sent the number three pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for number 12, a third-rounder and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 according to multiple reports.

Shortly after, it was reported the Dolphins had struck a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to go back up to number six.

To do so, Miami parted with number 12, a fourth-round pick and a 2022 first-rounder, while also receiving a fifth-round selection in return from the Eagles.

Having moved back from a prime spot with which to take one of the top quarterbacks in the class, the Dolphins' moves are a show of faith in Tua Tagovailoa, whom they selected with the fifth overall pick last year.

Tagovailoa was much criticised after a three-interception performance in the Dolphins' Week 17 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills, which saw them miss out on a place in the playoffs.

The former Alabama star underwhelmed in his first season in the NFL but the belief is the Dolphins have made this pair of moves with an eye towards getting a top wide receiver prospect to make his life easier while netting capital for future drafts.

Philadelphia's decision to move back likely locks in Jalen Hurts, a second-round pick last year, as their starter for 2021.

However, a report from NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, in which he claims the Eagles had tried to move up to number three before the Niners did, suggests they may not fully believe in Hurts.

But they could not come to a deal to move up and have instead decided to drop back and build around Hurts, who went 1-3 after replacing Carson Wentz last year but provided a spark for an Eagles team that finished the year 4-11-1.

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed veteran quarterback Joe Flacco on a one-year contract, the NFL team confirmed on Tuesday.

Flacco is in line to back up second-year QB Jalen Hurts, who appears set to start for the Eagles following Carson Wentz's trade to the Indianapolis Colts.

The 36-year-old Flacco moves to Philadelphia for his 14th NFL season after appearing in five games for the lowly New York Jets last campaign.

Flacco went 0-4 as a starter for the Jets, replacing Sam Darnold in October and November after the latter suffered a shoulder injury.

A Super Bowl winner and MVP with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, Flacco had an 80.6 passer rating and a 55.2 per cent completion rate last season.

Since making his debut for the Ravens in 2008, Flacco has 3,744 completions for 40,931 yards, 224 touchdowns and 144 interceptions in 176 games, with a passer rating of 84.1

Flacco joins a new-look Eagles team, who have turned to rookie Nick Sirianni after Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson was fired following a 4-11-1 season.

Hurts replaced 2017 Pro Bowler Wentz in Week 13, tallying 77 completions for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions in four starts.

The 22-year-old – drafted in the second round in 2020 – also rushed for 354 yards for three TDs on 63 carries.

After going from first to worst in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to make wholesale changes. 

Doug Pederson departed, the head coach who steered the franchise to a first Super Bowl success just three years earlier deemed to no longer be the right man at the helm.   

"After taking some time to reflect on these conversations, I believe it is in both of our best interests to part ways," Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in announcing Pederson's departure. 

The Carson Wentz era is over too, the former second overall pick getting a fresh start to his NFL career in Indianapolis. Nick Sirianni has moved in the opposite direction, leaving his post as offensive coordinator at the Colts to take charge in Philadelphia. 

A 4-11-1 record led to the departures, particularly as they lost seven out of eight after their bye week. That solitary success during the run came with Jalen Hurts starting at quarterback, seemingly offering a window into the future.  

Sirianni's appointment gives an indication as to where exactly the Eagles want to improve, as shown when looking into the team's numbers during what was a difficult 2020 season.

Offense 

Perhaps surprisingly for a team named the Eagles, there was an issue airing the ball out. Their average of 6.23 yards per pass attempt ranked dead last in the league, while they were also bottom of the pile in terms of completion percentage (55.9).  

Only the Broncos had more interceptions than Philadelphia's total of 20. Wentz was responsible for 15 in just 12 games, while a disposition to hang onto the ball led to him being on the wrong end of 50 quarterback sacks.  

Hurts was sacked 13 times, too, suggesting pass protection was a problem in general. 

Injuries did not help in that regard, admittedly, as they were without guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Andre Dillard for the entire season. They also had issues at receiver, Greg Ward finishing top for receptions with 53, hardly surprising considering he was the solitary wideout to appear in all 16 games.  

Despite the offensive line becoming a case of shuffling the pack on a weekly basis based both on form and fitness, they were still able to run the ball effectively, averaging 5.03 yards per attempt and 126.7 yards per game. 

Still, new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will know the importance of re-establishing a consistent passing game.

Defense 

Creating pressure was not a problem for the Eagles, who finished behind only the Steelers and Rams with an impressive total of 49 sacks. 

Brandon Graham led the way with eight, while Fletcher Cox was again a factor in helping disrupt opponents on passing plays. 

And yet Philadelphia still allowed teams to complete at a rate of 68.7 per cent when throwing the ball, working out at 7.8 yards per attempt. If the pass rush failed to get home, the secondary was too often exposed. 

They also struggled when it came to stopping teams moving the ball on the ground, giving up an average of 125.8 yards per outing. 

Their cause was not helped by allowing 13 running plays of 20+ yards, as well as 20 rushing touchdowns. 

There were problems in the secondary, too. The Eagles managed only eight interceptions, making them one of just four franchises to fail to reach double digits. That low number led to a +/- takeaway deficit of -10.

Offseason

General manager Howie Roseman has holes to fill on both sides of the ball, yet not a lot of money available to find solutions. 

The Eagles' salary cap situation is not aided by having just over $40million in dead money weighing them down. It is not the table you want to top, though was deemed a necessary situation to move on from Wentz.  

Hurts tops the depth chart at quarterback for now; he will be helped by having the chance to get to grips with a new offense while getting the vast majority of reps, though that also means there is less wiggle room in terms of the level of his performances in year two.  

Philadelphia will also be hoping Jalen Reagor – selected with the 21st pick in the previous draft – can make a leap, particularly with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson gone after barely making an impact in 2020.  

There are building blocks elsewhere on the roster, plus it can only be hoped the injury issues that weakened the offensive line do not strike again.  

Darius Slay is the number one cornerback, but there is a distinct lack of depth beneath a player who found the going tough at times in his first season in Philadelphia. 

With limited resources to spend in free agency, Roseman will have to lean heavily on the draft. The Eagles have 11 picks in total, albeit five of those are in the final two rounds. They will pick sixth overall, which opens up a number of opportunities, including trading back to gain more selections should the right offer come their way. 

An ageing roster appears to need a major overhaul, rather than attempting to paper over the cracks.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz conceded "it wasn't fun" playing for the Philadelphia Eagles before his trade in the offseason.

The Eagles dealt NFL Super Bowl winner Wentz to the Colts in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 first-round selection.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13.

It spelled the end of Wentz' time in Philadelphia, where the Pro Bowler was drafted by the Eagles with the second pick in 2016.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- it wasn't fun," Wentz told reporters on Thursday, in his first comments since leaving the Eagles.

"It's not fun when things were going well for years and all those things. ... As a man, you have to look yourself in the mirror and learn from it and become a better man, better player.

"It wasn't fun, it was difficult, but I did everything I could to be supportive of Jalen [Hurts] and my team-mates."

The 28-year-old Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

Philadelphia turned to rookie Nick Sirianni after Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson was fired following a 4-11-1 season.

"I've learned you're not going to make everybody happy," Wentz said amid reports he was not a good team-mate Philadelphia. "As much as you want to, you can't. It's unfortunate people have those opinions.

"I'm going to learn from it and try to be the best team-mate I can be. If there are team-mates who I don't think I was the best team-mate, I apologise, I wish I could be better. Last year was tough for everybody."

Wentz, who reunites with Colts head coach Frank Reich – the former Eagles offensive co-ordinator – added: "A lot of things in life we can't predict. A lot of crazy circumstances where you expect things to unfold. When you're drafted in a place like Philly you have a lot of high expectations and everything, but obviously the year didn't go as planned.

"Excited for this opportunity in Indy and be a part of something special that has already been created here."

Wentz joins a Colts team who are ready to contend in the playoffs, having narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round in 2020 after going 11-5 in the regular season.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said: "I can't emphasise how strongly I feel that Carson is the man for the job for the Colts at this time. There's been a lot at the quarterback situation that has happened over the last three years.

"To get someone I really do believe, after looking at this game for 50 years, I really think that he can be that guy that's the centerpiece and the guy who will be around with these teams we put together for the next decade that gives the Colts a chance for greatness."

Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro center and Super Bowl champion Jason Kelce will return for an 11th season with the NFL franchise.

Kelce ended speculation over his future on Friday, the 33-year-old star putting retirement on hold for another season.

A vital member of Philadelphia's championship run in 2017, Kelce has reportedly reconstructed his contract to offer the Eagles cap relief.

"I'm really fired up to be able to come back and play for the Eagles again," Kelce said on Friday.

"I've always said I'm playing until I'm not and I still have a very strong desire to play the game of football. I still want to do it. I still want to be around the guys. I want to be around the building, around the coaches. I still enjoy that aspect of it and I'm not ready to stop doing it yet.

"I'm excited with a lot of the energy going around right now and, also, I didn't want to end my career on a season like we had last year. It wouldn't feel right.

"I want to leave the Eagles knowing that I left it in good hands."

Kelce was selected by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

He is a four-time Pro Bowler, while Kelce has been named an All-Pro on three occasions.

Kelce's return is a big boost for new head coach Nick Sirianni, who has replaced Doug Pederson, after the Eagles went 4-11-1 in a forgettable season.

"I'm having fun and as long as I'm having fun and I feel I'm playing at a level I want to play at, I'm going to keep doing it," Kelce said. "I'm looking forward to what's ahead for us."

When the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, they did not look like a team ready to take on a reclamation project.

The seventh-seeded Colts pushed a Bills team that reached the AFC Championship Game all the way before falling to a 27-24 defeat. 

Yet that exit, combined with Philip Rivers' retirement after one season, left the Colts in the empty void of quarterback purgatory, without a solution on the roster and not in a position in either free agency or the draft to find a long-term solution.

The Colts' answer to their quarterback problem was to take a chance on a player most in the NFL appeared reluctant to consider, putting faith in their head coach Frank Reich to return Carson Wentz to his MVP-calibre form of 2017.

Indianapolis sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second, which can become a first if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the offensive snaps or if he plays 70 per cent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the former second overall pick.

They may not have given up too much in terms of premium draft capital, yet the gamble on a quarterback who was one of the worst in football last year was one few would have advised them taking.

Is their belief in the ability of Reich, who was Wentz's offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2017, to turn the much-maligned signal-caller's career around justified? We looked at the Stats Perform data in an attempt to answer that question.

The scale of the challenge

Eventually benched for Jalen Hurts as his relationship with then-head coach Doug Pederson reportedly deteriorated, Wentz endured the worst season of his career in 2020.

His completion percentage of 57.4 was the second-worst in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks, Wentz drastically underperforming an expected completion percentage of 61.5.

Only Sam Darnold had a lower passer rating than Wentz's 72.8, while his adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) average of 3.98 was last in the league.

The disparity between Wentz's numbers in that regard and those of Rivers, who was 10th with an ANY/A of 7.18, helps underline the scale of the challenge facing Reich and his staff in rehabilitating a quarterback who once looked like the future of the league.

Further illustrating the difference between Wentz and Rivers last season was their performances against the blitz. Wentz ranked 34th of 36 quarterbacks to have 50 passes against the blitz in passer rating, with Rivers in ninth.

Sacked a league-high 50 times in 2020, Wentz had 27 completions of 20 yards or more compared to 56 for Rivers, whose significant edge in big plays came despite Wentz boasting a slightly superior passer rating on throws of 21 air yards or more (70.8 to Rivers' 67.1), pointing to the large gap in explosive passes being a product of Indianapolis having superior protection, receiver performances and play-calling.

Reich's record

Before tearing his ACL in Week 13, Wentz thrived under Reich to the extent that he still finished the year second in passing touchdowns (33) and touchdown to interception ratio (4.71).

Reich's success in getting the best out of his quarterbacks has largely continued in Indianapolis since he stepped in after Josh McDaniels went back on his agreement to take over as coach.

Andrew Luck's sole season with Reich at the helm in 2018 saw him throw 39 touchdowns, second only to Patrick Mahomes, while he was fifth in red zone passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts inside the 20 and 11th in ANY/A.

Though Jacoby Brissett did not come close to replicating that kind of production after Luck's shock retirement in the 2019 preseason, the combination of Rivers and Reich produced a bounce-back year in 2020.

Rivers was ninth in red zone passer rating, throwing 17 touchdowns to just one interception, and outperformed his expected completion percentage of 66.3 by connecting on 68 per cent of his passes.

In short, when Reich has been paired with a quarterback with the skill set to challenge the league's upper echelon, success has followed.

And, though Rivers was a substantially better quarterback than Wentz in 2020, the ceiling of the Colts' offense will be higher if the partnership that produced such remarkable results in 2017 delivers the desired impact for the Colts.

The possible pay-off

While Wentz has never recaptured the magic of 2017, he has consistently been more aggressive with the football than any of the quarterbacks Reich has worked with during his time with the Colts. 

Since 2017, Wentz's air yards per attempt average has only once dipped below eight yards. That was in a 2018 campaign defined by injury issues and Wentz still had a narrow edge over Luck. Wentz (7.75) was 19th in the NFL with Luck (7.63) ending the year 20th.

Even in the low point that was last season, Wentz was fifth in air yards per attempt, Rivers was 26th.

His willingness to push the ball further downfield and the play-calling acumen of Reich resulted in Wentz finishing 2017 sixth in ANY/A, providing a clear indication of how that mix could elevate Indianapolis' attack.

Wentz also provides greater rushing upside than any of the quarterbacks Reich has had at his disposal as a head coach. Indeed, since entering the league in 2016, Wentz's 1,061 rushing yards have him sitting 11th among quarterbacks with a minimum of 500 attempts, a total that surely would have been higher had he played more than two full 16-game seasons during that span.

Of course, for Wentz's reunion with Reich to pay dividends, his accuracy must improve. In two of his three seasons in charge, Reich has had two quarterbacks who had a well-thrown percentage above 80, meaning fewer than 20 per cent of their passes were poorly thrown.

Luck had a well-thrown percentage of 82.1 in 2018 and Rivers finished 2020 on 84.2 per cent.

Wentz has only surpassed 80 per cent once in his career, marginally outdoing Luck in 2018, when he ended the year on 82.5.

However, poor throws were a common feature of Wentz's game in 2020, as evidenced by his well-thrown percentage of 68.8.

Yet the fact he delivered slightly fewer poor throws than Luck in the former number one overall pick's Comeback Player of the Year season is testament to the talent Wentz possesses and the level of play of which he is capable.

Reich has had the most success at harnessing Wentz's best. If he can do so again in 2020, it would give the Colts a more dynamic downfield attack and potentially a more diverse offense that emphasises what Wentz can do with his legs.

For a Colts team that was on the cusp of knocking off an AFC heavyweight, the price they paid for a quarterback who represented extremely damaged goods will prove a bargain should Reich's repair job whip Wentz back into 2017 shape.

Carson Wentz is heading to the Indianapolis Colts after the team struck a deal to trade for him from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The quarterback, who was benched for Jalen Hurts towards the end of a miserable 4-11-1 season for the Eagles, is poised to join the Colts, according to widespread reports.

Indianapolis will give the Eagles a 2021 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2022 selection in exchange.

The pick in 2022 is provisionally a second-rounder, but can increase to a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the snaps next season.

It could also convert to a first if Wentz leads the Colts to the playoffs while playing in 70 per cent of snaps.

Wentz will be reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, who spent the QB's first two years in the NFL as the Eagles' Offensive Coordinator, with impressive results.

The 2017 season, Wentz's second in the NFL, saw him produce MVP-calibre form and throw for a franchise record 33 TDs before going down with injury and famously being replaced by Nick Foles, who took the team to Super Bowl glory.

Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract ahead of the 2019 season.

But he has struggled to replicate his early career form, culminating in the Eagles drafting Hurts in the second-round last year and benching Wentz after Week 13.

The 28-year-old averaged 218.3 yards per game last season, the lowest mark of his career, and threw a career-high 15 interceptions in 12 games.

Philip Rivers' retirement had left the Colts seeking a new QB to lead a roster that appears ready to contend in the postseason.

They narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round in 2020 after going 11-5.

Wentz is the latest domino to fall in what is proving to be another dramatic offseason on the QB market.

Jared Goff was the number one overall pick in 2016 - one spot ahead of Wentz - but was recently traded by the Los Angeles Rams to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford and draft picks.

Question marks remain over the future of Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans and Dak Prescott is still unsigned by the Dallas Cowboys. 

Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence – billed as a generational talent – leads a star-studded crop of QBs in the draft.

There are suggestions Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields could go 1-2-3 in the draft.

Wentz had also been connected with the Chicago Bears, who now continue their search for a 2021 starter.

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