The Eagles are currently on their Bye-week, undefeated and top the NFC East after three regular season games. When the team ran out onto the field to take on the Cleveland Browns, not many believed that they were capable of such a strong and convincing start. From the stunning rise of Carson Wentz to a ruthless Defense and some stellar play-calling from Doug Pederson, the Eagles have shocked the NFL and while it’s easy to praise the phenomenal play of Carson Wentz..the man behind the success, is Howie Roseman.
The offseason was a rollercoaster for the Philadelphia Eagles. From the personnel changes, to the trading of Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell (who was recently benched by the Miami Dolphins) as well as DeMarco Murray, Roseman seemed intent on completely undoing the damage that Chip Kelly induced to the salary cap, in what was a period of uncertainty.
It’s easy to look at the departures and ruthless trade strategy of Howie Roseman and lose focus of some of the other moves made..most notably, the contract extensions. With a new Head Coach aiming to find continuity, Roseman and the Eagles believed that the best way to find it was through keeping cornerstones of the franchise contracted through Pederson’s tenure.
Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Vinny Curry and most notably Fletcher Cox were all signed to large extensions, which is a huge factor for the continued success of the franchise that Roseman looks to achieve. Not only are the players going to spend a large chunk and in some Celek’s all of his career as an Eagle, but the deals were structured in a way to lower the cap hit this year in favor of a slow rise..giving the Eagles some much needed breathing space. So not only had the impressive negotiator retained some of the most prolific players on the team, but lowered the cap hit in the process.
Continuity is such a huge theme..and also why Chase Daniel was signed and paid so handsomely as a backup. Daniel was there to help the at the time unknown “project quarterback” develop and familiarize with the system until he was ready to take the reins. As someone who knows Pederson’s system so well, Daniel was the perfect backup to sit behind Bradford, given his previous chemistry with Alex Smith and how much he helped the Chiefs Signal-Caller off the field.
The Eagles showed an attitude of building from the ball outward in the offseason. With Lane Johnson extended, the birds signed Brandon Brooks to a five-year deal. The later drafting of Carson Wentz and Wendell Smallwood paint a very clear picture. The team released the free agent wide receivers signed, allowing their current corps to develop as a cohesive unit..one they will add to during the draft instead of plugging in players that “should perform”, despite not living up to past expectations. It’s this patient approach that has given the Eagles such an impressive balance.
The Eagles began to climb up the draft ladder while bolstering their roster through free agency. Rodney McLeod, who has already picked off two passes and made 14 tackles, Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin have all proved vital to the Eagles Secondary..but the presence of Nigel Bradham as a coverage linebacker has been unprecedented.
Jim Schwartz wanted guys who play the style of football he embodies..and while Ron Brooks for instance is still going through a learning curve after playing in a special teams role last year, the Eagles decision to re-enforce the Defense with hard-hitting players has not only seen the aggression surge through the rest of the team, but helped turn potential weaknesses into strengths.
Then, there was the draft itself. The initial reaction to trading up for the second overall pick was one of disbelief. Howie Roseman lay all the chips on the table in order to get his man and take advantage of an opportunity he believed may not present itself again for quite sometime. With a lack of draft picks, limited cap space and a franchise quarterback in the making selected, the Eagles proceeded to begin their new era.
The draft also saw a new direction from Howie Roseman. The Eagles decided to aim for “low-risk, high-reward” players, often those with off-the field controversies in the past or injury concerns that have led to a slide down the draft board. This led to the drafting of players like Jalen Mills who have already shown their value and potential ceiling. This sentiment was echoed after the draft as well, when the Eagles acquired Dorial Green-Beckham from the Titans, giving up backup offensive lineman Dennis Kelly in return.
While Carson Wentz was the focal point of the draft, the Eagles continued to build from the ball outward, adding two versatile linemen who will both have key rotational roles to play in the depths of 2016 and a dual-threat running back who has already contributed heavily in the Eagles committee effort. Wentz will be developing with his fellow rookies as the season progresses, but nobody expected him to develop in the sense he currently is.
But finally, after the dust had settled and a recently extended Sam Bradford had realized his best chance of finding a long-term contract elsewhere was to shine in 2016 instead of missing voluntary workouts and voicing his displeasure at the team’s idea to present him with a battle he can’t win, everything finally seemed to be calming down.
Out of nowhere, disaster struck for the Minnesota Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrific injury and one of the most dangerous rosters in the league was without a capable starting quarterback. After a few days of negotiating with Mike Zimmerman, Roseman pulled the trigger on trading Sam Bradford less than a week before the regular season.
The Eagles had re-attained a first round pick that was given up to trade up for Wentz to begin with and while it seemed like they had opted to punt on the 2016 season..they actually did the opposite.
Another decision where Roseman lay it all on the line and was heavily criticized initially could well have caused a rupture in the Eagles locker room. But what many didn’t account for was the team’s communal faith in Carson Wentz and the amount of work dedicated to building a rapport that would have otherwise taken another offseason to establish.
Be it through extra work after practice or bonding through music, arriving to Training camp early or simply learning about his new team through drills, Wentz was able to learn a lot in his first Summer as an NFL quarterback..and if it wasn’t for the trade of Sam Bradford happening on the cusp of the regular season, Wentz would have probably faced a much tougher task with the pressure having more time to mount or simply stagnating for a year as Chase Daniel became the man to lead the Eagles in 2016.
Continuity has been the name of the game this offseason for the Eagles and as it stands, they’re 7-0 under Doug Pederson including preseason. The Eagles would not be in a position to build for the future without going through such a tumultuous period because there was never a sturdy base.
A complete coaching renovation, a change of heart and undoing the damage inflicted by Chip Kelly, Howie Roseman has not only given the Eagles a heart once again..but established a trust between the players and the front office, given a future franchise quarterback the chance to shine and if anything, increased the Eagles chances of immediate success while improving their assets to improve weak areas during the offseason.
It wasn’t pretty and at times it may have been terrifying..but an aggressive, all-in approach from Howie Roseman hasn’t just changed the landscape of the roster..it’s changed the landscape of the franchise for years to come..something that will often be lost in the energy as the Wentz Wagon continues to roll through the NFL.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports