Eagles fans are no stranger to times of trials and tribulations. Over the last decade, they have been exposed to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Philadelphia fans are often lauded for their quick-to-judge, quicker-to-react, rough-and-tumble approach to their sports teams. The truth of the matter is, from head-scratching decisions to underrated and unexpected surprises, there isn’t a lot this fan base can’t handle. If nothing else, the passion in the City of Brotherly Love is never questioned.
The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles have been a test of that fervor. Global pandemic and Presidential election aside, it’s been a deflating year for the Birds and Eagles football in general. Rattling off the names on the extensive injury list and mentioning Carson Wentz’s struggles might encapsulate the problem to an extent. Contrasting the current state of affairs with the enticing hype surrounding the team this summer perhaps gives a better idea of the picture. Still, there seems to be just something more about this year’s team that is so truly – disappointing.
From the outside looking in, you may think this to be another one of Philadelphia’s overreactions. Sure, the team is terrible at times and just flat-out hard to watch at others, but they currently lead the NFC East and are primed for yet another playoff spot.
Aside from all the dumbfounding mistakes Carson Wentz has made, he has put together some periods of play that remind everyone what makes him so good. There have definitely been some bright spots on the roster: growth from young players scattering the roster, sparks from the new class of rookies. At the end of the day, it would truly be unfair to expect a stellar outcome of a roster so littered with injuries.
So, why is this team so difficult to cheer for?
Frankly, it’s because we don’t know what we’re cheering for. Coming into the season, the Eagles were tagged as Carson Wentz’s team — finally. This was the year that the team would go out and get weapons for their franchise quarterback, even if it meant forgoing upgrades at other positions. Howie Roseman wanted to get younger, faster, and take advantage of his QB’s best years.
The draft highlighted exactly that. Three receivers with blazing speed were added to the roster to take advantage of Wentz’s rocket arm. The offensive line, although missing Brandon Brooks, looked as stalwart as ever. Miles Sanders was hitting stride in his second year. Everything was primed for a big year from Wentz.
Then injuries began to take their toll.
So what? The Eagles have been there before. Frankly, the Eagles have been there at one point or another for the last half a decade it seems. The offensive line was decimated, the receiving corps took some hits and Miles Sanders was in and out of the lineup. Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz were lost to injuries. The list goes on.
Nevertheless, the team has been here before, just last year they strung together a handful of wins to sneak into the playoffs. Even with a shaky start, I think we would all have been up for a repeat of last year. Save for a bad hit on Wentz, the Eagles may have been fighting for a shot at the NFC Title.
Still, this year just felt different. Travis Fulgham tried his best to reiterate that never give up attitude that Greg Ward’s addition to the lineup last season sparked. Even Ward himself has looked more steady in his role at the slot position. That fortitude was apparent in close games against the Steelers and Ravens. Philly fans all over started to rekindle a hope that maybe we can compete.
Then came the Giants game — which the Eagles escaped by the skin of their teeth — and the Cowboys game — we don’t have to talk about the Cowboys game. Philadelphia came screaming down back to Earth. Yet again, it was important to understand that this is an incredibly injured team that is focused on getting younger.
The injury bug excuse has worked for the 49ers. The youth movement excuse has been coaxing hope from a lifeless Miami fanbase.
So, why don’t these excuses work for the Eagles? Should they?
The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and now have an offense in which none of the players that took the field on Thursday night touched the grass in the Super Bowl. It’s shocking. And yet, it’s not far off from what the Eagles have experienced this season. The Cowboys have given up on their season after watching just their quarterback get injured. That’s okay for the 49ers and Cowboys — but the Eagles never quit. It’s why we won the Super Bowl; it’s why Doug Pederson and Nick Foles have a statue outside the Linc. It’s why Pederson, Roseman, Wentz will never admit this isn’t actually a good team.
Kyle Shanahan has no problem saying beating the Green Bay Packers will be a challenge. His roster is in shambles — it’s understandable. The message from the Eagles brass is that they still expect to be competitive every week. Why shouldn’t they be? They’re currently in a playoff position, they are slowly getting pieces back from injury. They may just be a few key players away from a legitimate run at the Super Bowl, especially in the Covid-19 year.
Then the trade deadline came and went. There were no moves from the Eagles.
The message was sent that despite an injury-ravaged roster and some major questions about the actual makeup of this team, the Eagles expect to compete and they expect to do it with the roster they have. Even a casual fan can see Philadelphia is not in the same league as the Seahawks, or the Bucs or the Packers. Sure the Giants came close to stealing one from Brady, but he’s a different monster come playoff time.
This isn’t a team that can compete for a Super Bowl, barring a miracle.
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