The Eagles are officially halfway into their 2016 regular season campaign and it’s already been quite the rollercoaster. From huge wins and underdog tales to disappointing collapses and questionable decisions, the birds have seen it all in the opening eight games, not to mention a sprinkle of Off-field controversy. But what have been the biggest surprises so far?
With great power, comes great responsibility:
Howie Roseman and the Eagles invested heavily in the future of their franchise during the Offseason, signing cornerstone players such as Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins and Vinny Curry to long-term contracts. But halfway into the season..and production from those extended has been minimal.
Vinny Curry for instance has just seven tackles on the season, while Lane Johnson’s suspension speaks for itself. As for Fletcher Cox, his dominant 2015 season has naturally brought a lot of Offensive Line attention in 2016..limiting his explosiveness..and prior to his long awaited breakout against the Giants, Zach Ertz had been worryingly underwhelming.
With the birds being so intent on ensuring that Doug Pederson has firepower on both sides of the ball to act as a base to build his legacy upon, their production for the most-part has been completely overshadowed by others on the roster with the exception of Malcolm Jenkins..a huge surprise to say the least after all had such brilliant 2015 campaigns.
Brandon Graham’s emergence:
Most people knew how dangerous Brandon Graham was..but with Offenses focusing on the interior duo of Logan and Cox, the Eagles Defensive End has simply decimated in 2016.
26 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles simply don’t do his season justice. While the rest of the DE’s continue to flash, Graham has been a burning fire from the moment the season kicked off..and has easily emerged as a leading candidate for Eagles Defensive MVP en route to what could very deservingly be a Pro-Bowl year.
Even the most prolific supporters of Carson Wentz in the media prior to the start of the season couldn’t have predicted just how incredible his opening eight games would have been.
The stats only tell so much of the story. It’s easy to look at his accuracy percentage, touchdown to interception ratio or passer rating to define his level of play..but it’s the audibles, ability to rally a team that could very easily have fallen into fragments, lead it to a thunderous start and retain unity though hardship that really make Wentz so amazing.
Physically, he’s impressed. Although he’s shown rookie tendencies, it’s gotten to the point where errors are almost frowned upon because it’s so easy to forget that he is still only a rookie..and one that wasn’t intended to start until Sam Bradford was shockingly traded.
Wentz has outshined the wildest expectations placed on his shoulders and has already established himself as a vocal leader of this team and affirmed the views that the Eagles were absolutely right to move up and draft the future of their franchise.
Lack of backfield continuity:
The Eagles backfield was primed for a big season under Doug Pederson, or so we thought. After such a phenomenal committee effort with Kansas City in the absence of Jamaal Charles, the versatility in the Eagles backfield was set to help make life ten times easier for Carson Wentz during his rookie year..but it hasn’t.
Averaging just 4.0 yards per carry, the unit is averaging 23 carries and 37 pass attempts per game..which is anything but a healthy balance. It appears as though Darren Sproles has taken the reins as the lead back, which brings up its own questions..but the birds just can’t find consistency.
Some weeks, the screen passes are used heavily, others they’re rarely seen. Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood continue to vary in involvement while Ryan Mathews’ late fumbles have arguably hurt his standing in the backfield battle.
Whatever way you look at it, much more was expected of the Eagles backfield in the opening half of 2016..and all we can hope is that it delivers in the second.
Caleb Sturgis took over from Cody Parkey last season at the kicker position..but seemed to struggle, missing more than his fair share of conversions, leading to questions over his future. However, a strong Training camp secured his position on the roster, leaving Parkey out in the cold.
The birds missed a total of five field goals during the 2015 season. That may not sound like much, but when you realize the team attempted 26 and that those five attempts equate to 19% of their field goals missing the target, the weight of the situation begins to reveal itself.
The good news is that contrary to what many expected, Sturgis has been money in 2016. Making 20-22 Field Goal attempts with one miss being a block, the Eagles kicker has stepped up to the plate in every situation, making some of Pederson’s aggressive play-calls even more questionable.
Even more impressive, Sturgis is 3-3 from beyond the 50-yard line and 9-9 from between the 30-and-39-yard lines. The West-Coast Offense often needs a steady leg to be successful..and Sturgis could well be on the way to a Pro-Bowl year if he continues to excel.