To say that the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles has been a rollercoaster of emotions would be quite an understatement. The hype train was at an all-time high at the beginning of the season. The Eagles had some major studs returning from injury, such as Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Jordan Hicks. Alshon Jeffery was also able to get offseason surgery and recover from injuries sustained last training camp. Most importantly, Carson Wentz would be returning from a catastrophic knee injury. The team won the Super Bowl last year despite these key absences. Their return was certainly believed to make the Eagles even better and clear favorites to repeat.
There were certainly concerns about losing key coaching personnel in the offseason, but the city was still flying high from the shine of the Lombardi sitting in the offices of the Novacare Complex.
Skip ahead a few months and booooooy have things changed. Unfortunately, this season has currently not lived up to expectations. But Eagles fans’ hope has been reenergized. The team seems invigorated with an impressive upset of the Rams last Sunday night. With two games left, the Eagles can still make a late-season playoff push and contend for the a wildcard spot.
Regardless how the season ends, the Birds are in an intriguing spot this offseason and have to make plenty of critical personnel decisions in the coming months. Decisions that will have drastic effects on the chemistry and personality of the team for years to come. But looking forward, what steps does the team have to take in order to consider this season a success?
The most delicate situation that the team cannot mess up is the Wentz-Foles issue. Carson Wentz is the quarterback of the future and I have no doubt he is capable of returning to his MVP-esque 2017 form. I don’t believe that Wentz is an “injury-prone” quarterback, but he needs time to fully recover. His development and well-being should be the primary focus of this team. The Eagles have to make a decision in the offseason whether or not to exercise his 5th year option. If the team decides to exercise his option, Wentz will be owed around $23 million. Multiple reports have come out the past few days saying that Wentz would prefer to play through the injury as well. The future of this team rests on his shoulders and it’s not worth it to risk further aggravating an injury just to sneak into the playoffs.
The team also has a nice crop of defensive young talent that they need to develop further. The past two draft classes have yielded some promising talent in players such as Derek Barnett, Sydney Jones, and rookie Avonte Maddox. Unfortunately, Barnett was placed on IR for a shoulder injury right after the Panthers game disaster and Jones has been on and off the injury report all season while playing in only 9 games. But on a brighter note, Avonte Maddox’s emergence has been a pleasant surprise. He’s bounced all around the secondary this season and really came into his own when he played outside CB against the Rams, a game in which he played a key role in their win.
Even though their young defensive core has been battling injuries this season, they have still shown flashes of elite talent. If the team wants to sustain this success, they need to continue to cultivate talent amongst said core. To help do this, the Eagles’ training and conditioning staff needs to do a much better job of preventing and rehabbing injuries.
Recently, the team’s training staff has been under a lot of fire, and with 8 starters on IR, that heat is well deserved. I know that injuries are part of the game, but when former players speak out about the training staff, you know there’s a bigger issue at hand.
Former Eagle Emmanuel Acho recently came out and helped shed some light on this issue:
“It’s time for me to keep it real on the Eagles medical staff,” he said in a video posted to Twitter last week. “First things first, have to establish, I’m not bitter. If I never would have gotten released several years ago, I wouldn’t be where — one of the youngest national analysts on ESPN.”
“Why did I say they were suspect?” he continued. “I knew a guy when I was playing, he had a torn ACL. He got told he had a tight hip flexor. I broke my thumb, completely fractured. I was told that pop was probably just scar tissue. These are just a couple of stories. I’m not going to put too many names to it.”
The Eagles are currently 7-7 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt. The team currently has a 31% to make the playoffs. The easiest way for them to do so requires them winning out, and the Vikings losing 1 of their 2 next games. The Vikings next two opponents are the Lions and Bears, and it doesn’t look like the Bears will rest their starters week 17 because they are in contention for a first round bye.
When looking back on the 2018 Eagles season today, the Eagles have not met expectations. But there still is time to for the team to rebound and consider this season a success. If they don’t want to consider this season a throwaway, they need to do a few things. Number one is allow Wentz to recover for next season and allowing Foles to lead the playoff push the remainder of the season. Number two is continuing to develop this young defensive core.
If the team manages to prevent another major injury and sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard team, then we have to consider the end of this season a success. I know that it wasn’t the season that most people expected, but the Eagles are still in great position to be Super Bowl contenders for years to come.
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