It’s been a tough eight weeks for the Philadelphia Eagles. On the surface, one could call the opening half of the season a disappointment. It started by going 17-0 down to the Washington Redskins and signs to be genuinely optimistic were sporadic from that moment on. But when you dig a little deeper, being at 4-4 isn’t the worst thing in the world for a team nearing full-health and sensing a Bye-week. But before they get there, the Chicago Bears will look to get revenge for January’s double-doink playoff loss.
You don’t even have to mention the inconsistencies and problems on the field to realize how tough this season has been so far. All you really have to do is look at media coverage. Cuts, claims, controversy, you name it, the Eagles dealt with it. Anonymous sources, former players going on national television to spill some tea, conflicting reports of what’s going on inside the locker room, and this is without touching on injuries or the setbacks between the hash marks.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel…
Through all the tough losses, costly mistakes and infuriating play, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The all-important Bye-week.
The secondary was depleted going into the season and it’s only just nearing full-health. DeSean Jackson is set to make his first appearance since week 1 on Sunday, while other key players are also making significant progress. This is key for a team that chose to stay-pat at the recent NFL Trade Deadline, to the confusion of many.
“Obviously the first eight games, we’ve battled through injuries, as you guys know. You keep looking at that injury report and I keep getting those updates and guys are slowly coming back. We have [CB Ronald] Darby full-time last week. [CB] Jalen Mills a couple weeks ago in the secondary.Doug Pederson
Again, Timmy has been out there working. DeSean is coming back. Guys like that that are working themselves [back]. Avonte is working himself back.
So when you look at it and you look at where we are, and beginning I guess to get healthy, our bye is next week. That plays a big part in it because we are confident in the guys we have.
I just don’t think you go and make a change just to change. I think you have to continue to coach the players you have, knowing you have guys coming back. [CB] Cre’Von LeBlanc is still sitting there working and guys like that. Very comfortable and confident with the roster and where we are.”
With so many players on the cusp of returning at key positions of need, the Bye-week seems like it will present a huge sigh of relief. But before the Eagles get there, they face one more challenge.
“The personnel is similar.” Pederson said when asked about the Bear’s changes since January. “Same guys minus a couple. But in the structure, it’s relatively the same. There are some [Bears Defensive Coordinator] Chuck Pagano tweaks with this defense.
This defense plays fast. They play hard. They have a great front four. I feel like, again, this secondary is another good test for our receivers.
But it’s one of those defenses where they are not necessarily going to show you a lot of things or do a lot of things because they are so good and they just want to lineup and play football. It’s a really good test for us.”Doug Pederson
While the Chicago Bears offense may lack the same intimidation it presented in January and they haven’t beaten the Eagles since 2011, their defense is still a top-10 unit in just about every category. The threat of Khalil Mack lining up over Andre Dillard is a pressing one and most Eagles receivers have struggled to do anything of note this season and will now face a very aggressive secondary. Chicago presents an extremely tough matchup for Philadelphia, but if they can find it within themselves to push to a victory, the seas begin to soften.
After the Bye, the Eagles will face New England and Seattle, who are Championship-contenders in every sense of the word, but so are Philadelphia if fully healthy and playing at their best. Beyond that lie the Miami Dolphins and a spree of divisional matchups. To say that those closing games are easier on the eye than what we saw in the month of October would be an understatement, especially if the Eagles can spring out of their Bye in good health and with that recently-constructed identity galvanizing what looked to once be a fractured locker room.
If the Eagles can dig down deep and find a way to make a statement win over Chicago, potentially taking control of the division going into a week of rest, then the chances of this team igniting a second-half run would expedite. The ship is nearing land, there’s just one last storm to sail through.
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports