Super Bowl hangover. A term that no fan wants to hear, it’s almost like the ‘Voldermort’ of phrasing, you just don’t talk about it. After week one’s statement win over Atlanta, the consensus was that the Eagles would pick up exactly where they left off..but as time went on and the injury bug bit deeper, that vision became blurred.
Every Eagles game with the exception of Thursday Night’s win has been a one-score game. The Birds’ have experienced it all. The pain lingering injuries that were stinging Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery among others eventually spread into the veins of Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Mike Wallace, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jay Ajayi to name a few. The roster started to look weaker and weaker every week and the offense was coughing and spluttering its way down the field.
The offensive line was struggling to sustain blocks and as a result, have given up the second-highest amount of QB hits in the NFL, which considering your franchise quarterback is finding his way back into a rhythm after tearing ACL, is less than ideal.
But let’s forget the majority of that for the moment. Forget the core injuries, the depleted spots on the roster, the defensive issues and execution errors, I want to draw your attention to one man and that is of course, Carson Wentz.
Imagine this. In your place of work, you’re ‘the guy’. The one that carries the team on their back and pushes the business forward. You’re off sick from work for 9 months due to a sickness and when you get back, that company is doing the best it ever has and there’s another employee in your position. In your absence, your old teammates now gravitate to said employee and begin adjusting to how he runs things. Perhaps it’s in the way he leads, or sets out the day, or simply communicates throughout a shift. Upon your return, your best friend is still off sick and you won’t get to see him for a good few weeks yet. To make things worse, the Internet connection keeps dropping out and you can’t make your calls. Oh, and you have a new section leader. How would you really fare?
That’s exactly what happened with Carson Wentz. Playing in his first competitive action since the horrific week 14 injury, he stepped out onto the field against the Indianapolis Colts to the roars of thousands of Eagles fans. There was very limited training camp action for Wentz, no hits, no sacks, little in the way of pressure. It was a controlled environment. But now, without Alshon Jeffery, without Mike Wallace, without some key running back talent, he had to carry the team.
The first few games were inconsistent for Carson Wentz and it’s not hard to see why. But then things started to click. As a receiver, your relationship with your quarterback is vital. Understanding patterns, tendencies, the velocity in which his passes are thrown and the areas of your body he will reliably target. His ability to manipulate defenses can be your greatest asset or his inability your greatest enemy. You feed off of each other and Wentz and Foles are two VERY different quarterbacks.
Thursday Night’s win was the first real glimpse into the Carson Wentz of old. Drops shrunk dramatically and Wentz was able to pick the Giants defense apart, throwing 3 touchdown passes and completing 26/36 passing attempts. Agholor and Jeffery both made superb adjustments to the ball, while old security blankets Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews proved their very different values once again.
The most important relationship of all however, is that between a quarterback and his offensive coordinator. The Eagles lost Frank Reich to the Indianapolis Colts and it would be Mike Groh who stepped up to the challenge. The former WR coach has already left his imprint on the offense, but as we all know, the unit looks very different when Nick Foles is at the helm and if the team spent an entire offseason preparing with Foles as the starter, it’s not hard to see why misfires happened early and often. The relationship was bound to take time marinate but nothing worth having comes easy and the Eagles had to fight for every last yard with what little resources they had to start the year. But now, the seeds are beginning to grow.
The true identity of this team was never going to be discovered until mid-October because it takes time for so many changing cogs to gel and stop clicking into each other. Forget the injuries, forget the setbacks, forget the execution problems. Thursday Night was our first real insight into perception vs reality for this team.
Perception: The Eagles have a Super Bowl hangover.
Reality: Carson Wentz has had to overcome more adversity than you might think and is soaring higher than ever before.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports