2016 was a year of adversity and big strides for the Eagles

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) during pre game warmups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The national take of the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles season was that it was bad. From wins over the Browns that were downplayed to shock wins over the Steelers and Vikings, reactions varied throughout the year before abruptly coming back down to Earth in the last few games. But things aren’t as bad as they seem.

The Philadelphia Eagles 2016 season started off rocky. A week before the season, the team traded their starting quarterback. Josh Huff had his run-in with the law before eventually being released and then, ,just as Pederson has it moving in the right direction, Lane Johnson is hit with a 10-game suspension.

With Johnson out of action, Pederson wasn’t left with much to work with. A revamped Offensive line looked to protect a rookie quarterback who had played just 38 snaps in preseason due to a rib injury. A key part of that new front was a rookie himself, Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The former TCU product was thrown to the wolves against the Redskins and forced to rapidly adapt to the NFL. To make matters worse, opposing defenses had figured out that the Eagles wide receivers aren’t exactly the scariest core of players. A focus on stopping an already inconsistent run game partnered with all of the above, led to a lack of points, and obviously wins.

The Philly defense that had the look of the old Jim Johnson days to start the season, began to lose its legs as the year went on. Missed tackles, blown coverages and players playing out of position haunted the Jim Schwartz unit that simply struggled to find consistency down the stretch.

It didn’t help that NFC East rival The Dallas Cowboys ,whom were also being led by a rookie Quarterback themselves, were trending in the right direction. Here they were with a fourth round pick, at the most important position in pro sports, playing incredibly.

Dak Prescott lined up behind arguably the best Offensive line in the NFL during his rookie year. When healthy (and not suspended), the Eagles have the depth, and quality of a very good line. Unfortunately for Wentz and the Eagles, the suspension happened and a merry-go round of players circulated in and out of the line up.

To go along with the impressive rookie QB, was a rookie running back (drafted 4th overall) Ezekiel Elliott. The highly-praised back would go on to be the NFL’s leading rusher (1,631 on 322 attempts ,and 15 td’s). While the Eagles would rush for a total of 1,813 yards and 16 touchdowns between 6 backs.

Prescott had a future hall of famer (Jason Witten) , a true number one receiver (Dez Bryant), an ascending slot receiver (Cole Beasley) and a flurry of other weapons to help him dominate during his rookie season. Carson had Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz who battled injury, a a wideout learning the playbook in DGB, a troubled Nelson Agholor and a flurry of undrafted rookies. The comparison is startling.

The Eagles weren’t a very good team to begin with. The hot start the birds’ got off too, was a mix of playing other bad teams and defenses having no real tape on Wentz and Pederson’s offense. They aren’t one or two holes away from being champions. Every team has holes. The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles were in fact better then they were supposed to be. Going 7-9 is extremely impressive given the facts.

The good news is, they have the future of the franchise secure in Carson Wentz. The offensive line has some depth. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz are legit weapons. Wendell Smallwood, Trey Burton, Dorial Green-Bekham and Paul Turner, all seem like young talents that could have a real impact on offense next year. Doug Pederson’s play calling came into question almost weekly towards the end of the season and sometimes for very good reason. But what coach doesn’t do something we scratch our head at? Human beings adapt by nature, but for some reason head coaches in the NFL are expected to have it right from day one. There were bad moments, but also plenty of times to favor Pederson and his play calling.

Defensively, Players like Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Jalen Mills, Beau Allen, Brandon Graham, And Destiny Vaeo give good cause for real excitement in the City of Brotherly Love. Jim Schwartz made some real strides with this defense in 2016. It wasn’t always pretty, but the blueprint laid out pushed the team in the right direction. For the most part had them solid against the run and even with injury after injury in the defensive backfield, kept them competitive. What stood out most about Schwartz was the home field advantage the Eagles had been missing for so long, seemed to be back.

The Philadelphia Eagles of 2016 were a better team then they were supposed to be. The emotions brought on by the 3-0 start, coming off of a huge blowout win of eventual AFC North champs Pittsburgh Steelers, had the city high on praise of their beloved Birds. But the oncoming slew of bad play after bad play led to an overdose of negative media attention, causing the fans to believe “That the Philadelphia eagles are a bad team”. This was a team that played with character and battled adversity from the opening snap. At moments the locker room could have been divided, but unlike the previous era, the Eagles retained their Heart and kept pushing and pushing. When all is said and done, that counts for a lot given the amount of pressure and challenges faced.

In 2016 they were ahead of schedule, and as Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and their team of talent evaluators find and bring in more to talent to surround Wentz, the 2017 Eagles will only get better. The future is very bright in Philadelphia!

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