This offseason has led to great expectations for the Eagles. With talk on how talented and deep this roster is, the narrative at this point is Super Bowl or bust. Let’s be honest, if this team doesn’t make a run or at least a Super Bowl appearance, the Nick Foles clan will riot at the Line. It’ll be a crushing blow for Wentz and the front office, but does Wentz really need to win a Super Bowl to win back the heart of the Philly faithful? Yes, and No, but we’ll save that for another one of our talks. For right now, I’m giving you my unbiased opinion on what the Eagles need to do to make sure they make it to Miami in February.
Coach Pederson’s Play-calling
If the Eagles are to make it to the promised land once again, Coach Pederson needs to be the one to lead them there. Yes, I do agree that Wentz and the offense need to have that Philly magic but what’s magic without a great wizard?
What made the 2017 team so special was the free-flowing aggressive play calling for the offense. Coach Pederson did it all that year, he took necessary risks to lead the birds to the bowl. In 2017, The Eagles succeeded greatly in the red zone with a 65% succession rate. As for 2018, you saw the disappearance of that once glorified killer instinct diminish to a 57% succession rate.
Sure, it doesn’t seem like much but neither does the points per game drop off, right? The Eagles average dropped by one touchdown a game from 2017 to 2018. I know, I get it, they’re very minimal drop-offs BUT those drop-offs are game changers.
You’re talking about the possibly changing game-ending results of the Titans, Panthers, Vikings and even the Cowboys games. The team never truly looked like themselves with a constant revolving door on the injury list, plus their franchise QB never made it back to his MVP form. As for this season, Pederson gets a clean slate with so many players coming back from injuries including QB Carson Wentz. He also gets a fully reloaded offense to play with, highlighted by the return of Desean Jackson.
The return of Wentz
Speaking of players coming back from injury, Carson Wentz at 100% will be the biggest key to a successful season. Yes, I know I’m playing the role of captain obvious but hear me out anyways. Wentz will be officially more than a year removed from his ACL tear and as for his back, according to reports from camp, its as if he never had that back issue. This is a very critical time for him and his progression towards his MVP form.
Last offseason, he spent the majority of his time rehabbing his knee on his own. That time alone took very significant reps away from him. This year, he’s been on fire.
He’s already built a very quick rapport with DeSean Jackson that has everyone in Philly raving. The sky is the limit for Wentz this season as long as he can remain healthy. One thing he has to focus on is the fact that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker this time around if he wants to avoid any possible injury. Now that’s where Jackson comes in. Jackson provides the offense with a Swiss army knife type of distraction. Whether he’s taking the top off of the defense for a long haul or opening up the middle for an easy gain, Jackson will be very key to Wentz’ success and health.
The running game
Another way of making sure that Wentz stays healthy is through the running game. With both running backs, Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, in the backfield, the Eagles may finally have a core of backs that can provide consistent progression. This is a group that hindered the offense last year.
Sure, Josh Adams had a decent string of games in which the did more than what was expected. At times, he looked the part of a lead back for the team but after him, there was very little help. Smallwood is Smallwood, Boston Scott was in unknown territory for the time being and all the other backs were injured.
Now Sanders and Howard will provide the backfield with a much-needed jumpstart. Howard is known to be a very reliable workhorse back especially in short yardage while Sanders is a shifty back that can do it all. At best, Sanders can be the second coming of LeSean McCoy. At worse, he can be the change of pace back the Eagles need. Sprinkle in a healthy Corey Clement and the Eagles might have a triple threat weapon behind Carson Wentz.
Defensive End Depth
The defensive ends are one of the few unknowns for the team this year. After trading away Michael Bennet to the Patriots, the team also lost fan favorite Chris Long to retirement. In the draft the Eagles only selected one defensive player which shocked most experts, the team went after Penn State DE Shareef Miller to pair with a couple of their other projects in Josh Sweat and possibly Joe Ostman.
Ostman may be the biggest unknown if he does, in fact, make the roster. The coaching staff and even Howie have raved about Ostman throughout the offseason so you have to wonder what it is that they’re not telling us about him.
Alongside those three ends are Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, and Brandon Graham. If Graham and Barnett are back to full health then maybe there won’t be a reason to worry but as for now, one can only wonder what Howie has up his sleeve for this defensive group. If no outside player is added, it won’t be the worst thing to happen. The key player to focus on in all of this will be Derek Barnett. Barnett was looking like the player the Eagles hoped he would be before they lost him to injury. If he can get back to that and trend in the right direction then this group will be a bright spot for the organization.
Last but certainly not least, the Secondary. This may just be a make or break year for this cornerback group. The Eagles are banking it all on the likes of Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox progressing. They need these three players to press Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby for the tops spots.
‘Why?’ I hear you ask.
Because those two are in contract years and this season can decide on whether or not it’s time to move on from Mills and Darby or if they need to retain either or. Now, Why are they key to this season? Last season, teams averaged 366 yards per game against this group. Let’s not forget when Amari Cooper went off for 219 receiving yards against the Eagles corners.
While I understand yards may not matter much to most people, it’s still a pretty significant statistic. If the corners can not limit opposing offenses then how can the team win? You don’t want your secondary to be a liability this season. They’re all entering defining moments of their careers this season and it’s time to take it by the horns and back up Roseman’s investment.