The Eagles have stuck to the phrase, “Everything matters” all offseason. The team is down to its best 53 man roster, whether fans or media agree, this is the unit that Roseman and his staff believe can lead the Eagles back to the top.
What is it going to take to get there? Do the Eagles really need to replicate what they did in 2017? Yes and No. They don’t need to be the same team that they were in 2017 but they do need to do the one thing that they mastered in 2017: The ability to start fast.
The team struggled to find their rhythm on offense in the first quarter all season long in 2018. They ranked at the bottom of the league when it came to 1st quarter points per game. The only team that struggled even more in this area were the Jacksonville Jaguars, an offense that the Eagles should have never been comparable too. In 2018, the team averaged 3.2 points per game in the first quarter and that’s a metric that simply has to change.
“I’ve emphasized that quite a bit this summer with our offense, and being kind of open-minded but at the same time understanding that we have to start faster.” Doug Pederson explained earlier this Summer. “We scored 41 points in all of first quarters last year and it’s not good enough. That‘s something that we continue to talk about and address on a daily basis.”
In a league where the offense has become the top priority, the team played catch up all season long which at times caused them to stumble at the end. Sure, injuries played a huge factor. Their star QB was battling a back injury for most of the season while their running backs continued to fall one by one. The team also struggled to find a playmaker in the midst of their downfall, hence the Golden Tate trade.
Back in 2017, the Eagles averaged 6.4 points in the first quarter per game. At the time they were ranked 2nd in the league, just behind the Los Angeles Rams. In that season, Agholor broke out as one of the top slot receivers in the league, Wentz was on the cusp of an MVP season until his injury, and the running game was one of the most efficient in the league behind the trio of Blount, Ajayi, and Clement.
Fast forward to now, the team is fully healthy minus DeSean’s broken finger. Wentz has had a full offseason with his receivers and he’s looking better than ever right now. With the starters not having a preseason game under the belt, the team may have the upper hand on opponents. No one’s going to know what this team can bring until they meet with the Redskins in week 1.
But with an offense brimming with size, speed, and pro bowl potential after another masterful offseason from Howie Roseman, there’s no excuse for a lack of first quarter scoring this time around. Carson Wentz struggled at times last year, perhaps due to rust early on, or maybe even the fact he was still recovering from a torn ACL and then suffered a back injury. But regardless, the fumbles and occasional poor decisions will need to be eradicated now that the $129M man is fully healthy, and Pederson knows that too, going as far as to take some of the blame himself.
“I think sometimes you start a game; I know as a quarterback you want to hit that big home run throw right away andit’s just part of the growth process.” Pederson said. “I can do a better job maybe play calling. I still like calling shots in those situations, first quarter situations, but at the same time get him in a rhythm. Maybe call a little more of the quicker game, get the ball out, get him into a rhythm, kind of lather it up a little bit and then we take our shots. It’s kind of a give and take there. But it’s something we have to definitely get better at.”
They’ve covered their need for speed in DeSean Jackson, they’ve beefed up their need in running backs with Howard and Sanders, and they’ve also ensured that Wentz’ blindside will always be covered whether its Peters or Dillard. Now the next step is to step into every game understanding that “everything matters”, even starting fast.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports