For the first time in their history, the Philadelphia Eagles will start the season as the defending Super Bowl champions. Besides the enormous target on their backs as defending champions, they’ll have a few internal challenges to deal with as the season progresses.
Nick Foles looked shaky moving the ball through the air this past Thursday. Foles managed only 117 yards on 19 of 34 passing attempts, which is good for a pedestrian 55% completion percentage. He did throw one interception, although that was more Dallas Goedert’s fault than a bad throw by Foles.
The question remains, when will Carson Wentz be ready to play? Perhaps even more importantly, how good will Wentz be when he’s fully healthy? Will he be the same Wentz or will he be scared to take off and run and extend plays like he did last year? A trait that helped him become the MVP frontrunner before his injury.
If Wentz can’t return to the field sooner rather than later, will Foles be able to lead this offence in his absence? When Wentz returns, will he be in MVP form? Or if he suffers any setbacks, can Foles bring back his Super Bowl MVP form? Or will Eagles’ fans see more of the same 100-yard performances from Foles this year?
Philadelphia will face each of the five other NFC playoff teams from a season ago, fortunately for the Eagles, they’re already 1-0 against those teams. The Eagles will split the remaining games with two on the road against the Saints and Rams while getting the Vikings and Panthers at home.
After the big contenders, the NFC East could still have a surprise team that vaults their way into playoff contention. Although the Cowboys lost pieces in the offseason, they still barely missed the playoffs last year at 9-7, while the Giants will get a healthy Odell Beckham to pair with Saquon Barkley. The Redskins also showed off their new look roster with an impressive win to kick off the year.
Philadelphia will also have to go through the AFC South this season, including a game in London against the Jaguars. The Jags almost played the Eagles in the Super Bowl after a close defeat to the Patriots in the AFC championship game, while the Titans also made the playoffs last season and will be a hard test as well. The Colts and Texans are healthy and figure to be much more competitive than their identical 4-12 records indicated last season.
Last year Philadelphia got key contributions from rookies, most notably Derek Barnett ,Corey Clement, Jake Elliot, and Rasual Douglas. How will Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox and others improve this football team? Although not technically a rookie, Sidney Jones only suited up for one game last year due to an injury and will get plenty of playing time for the Eagles this year. Could DeAndre Carter make a Corey Clement like impact as a player who didn’t get drafted in his first NFL season.
Those contributions continues into the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, Elliot was able to connect on all three of his field goal attempts, although he did miss an extra point. Barnett contributed by famously recovering Brandon Graham’s 4th quarter sack that helped the Eagles burn some clock and take an eight-point lead. Perhaps the biggest contributor was Corey Clement, who exploded for 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The draft is the easiest way to acquire good young talent every year, and the Eagles rookies will have to contribute just like last years rookies did for a chance to repeat as champions.
The NFC Competition
Not only do the Eagles have to play the best NFC teams from a year ago, they’ll have to compete with them for a top seed in the playoffs. Philadelphia leaned hard on their home field advantage for the playoffs last year, and considering the Eagles have only lost two games at home under Pederson, they’ll want the NFC to have to go through them again.
Besides the strong NFC teams from last year, the Green Bay Packers will be another difficult team to compete with now that they have a healthy Aaron Rodgers leading the way. It remains to be seen how good other fringe teams will be, which could include a team that makes an Eagles-like jump from a sub 500 team, to Super Bowl contenders.
Did I miss any challenges facing the Eagles? Let me know in the comment section.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports