11 Things I Think About The Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles will not play a football game this weekend. The bye is here. The Birds are resting up before returning to action in their Week 5 game against the Detroit Lions.
Here are 11 things I think about the Eagles while waiting for the bye to pass by.
1 – The Carson Wentz criticism is silly
Wentz is off to an incredible start. The 23-year-rookie has been sensational while leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record. Wentz is breaking records with each passing game. He’s been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.
Despite all of this, Wentz is actually facing some criticism. Some have suggested he “dinks and dunks” too much. Others claim he hasn’t been as impressive as Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
Simply put, this criticism is ridiculous and way off-base. That’s not to say Wentz has been perfect. He hasn’t. There’s definitely room for improvement. His accuracy could afford to improve at times, for example. Wentz still has an issue with sailing some passes high over his targets. But to suggest he’s been less than stellar is misguided.
Despite what some stats might suggest, Wentz isn’t some Checkdown Charlie. Reporters who watched him in training camp could see he easily took the most deep shots of any Eagles quarterback. His downfield aggression has been apparent in the real games, too.
Ultimately, what a few select critics choose to believe doesn’t dictate reality. The truth is that Wentz has been impressive. He’s shown the makings of a franchise quarterback and the Eagles are very excited to have him leading their team moving forward.
2 – Doug Pederson has greatly exceeded expectations
Count myself among those who were very skeptical of the Pederson hire. The Eagles’ head coaching process just seemed so flawed at the time. They reportedly missed the boat on the candidates they wanted and it seemed like they had to settle for Pederson.
True or not, Pederson is the guy and he’s been great for Philadelphia so far. The play-calling has been creative. He’s done a good job of putting his players in positions to succeed, as his mentor Andy Reid would say. There have been no major coaching gaffes; no wasted timeouts or blatantly terrible challenges.
It’s not so crazy to think Pederson is an early candidate for Coach of the Year. Only Patriots boss Bill Belichick might be ahead of him due to how New England has been winning without Tom Brady.
Pederson still has a lot of challenges to face. He hasn’t been put in a real pressure situation yet since the Eagles have been blowing out their opponents. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles a moment like that.
3 – Howie Roseman deserves a lot of credit
Count myself among those who were also very skeptical of the Eagles’ plan to put Roseman back into power. Trusting the guy who lost his job the year before to fix the franchise just didn’t seem like the most inspiring option at the time. Even the Eagles gave the impression they were totally confident in Roseman given their initial search for a new player personnel chief. That search was ultimately delayed and Roseman was in charge of the Philadelphia’s offseason. It’s safe to say he did a good job.
No personnel maneuver was more important than acquiring Wentz. Failing to cultivate a franchise quarterback was one of the biggest failures of Roseman prior to his reinstatement. It now looks like he fixed that issue.
The way Roseman was able to move up in order to get Wentz was impressive. He traded away ineffective and expensive players (see: DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell) in exchange for assets that allowed the Eagles to trade up to No. 2.
And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, Roseman even found a way to restock some of the future picks the Eagles gave up for Wentz by shipping Sam Bradford to the Vikings.
I previously wrote the Wentz trade was the one that would make or break Roseman’s career in Philadelphia. So far, it’s more make than break.
4 – Jim Schwartz will stay in Philadelphia longer than one year
There’s already some concern the Eagles might not be able to keep Schwartz given the work he’s done with Philadelphia’s defense. I think this concern is premature. First of all, Eagles fans should just enjoy him while he’s here, even if it’s just for one season. Second, I think it could take some time before Schwartz truly becomes a hot commodity as a head coaching candidate. He was out of a job entirely in 2015. One good year might not enough to earn a new opportunity, and that’s assuming he even wants to leave.
If Schwartz doesn’t move on, that would be great for the Eagles. He could potentially be the Eagles’ new Jim Johnson to Pederson’s Reid for years to come.
5 – Brandon Graham is finally getting the respect he deserves
Enough about Earl Thomas. Graham is a very good player in his own right and he’s finally getting the opportunity to show that as a starting 4-3 defensive end. The 2010 first round pick has seven tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery through three games. Graham has been very stout in run defense as well.
Graham’s impact goes beyond the numbers. As Josh pointed out, Graham drew a ton of attention from the Steelers in Week 3. Pittsburgh chipped Graham quite often in an attempt to neutralize him. The extra attention Graham is drawing is making it easier on his teammates, such as NFC Defensive Player of the Month Fletcher Cox, to have success.
6 – The running back rotation needs an adjustment
I’ve mentioned this a few times by now, but the Eagles really need to consider tweaking their rushing attack. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles have not been running the ball efficiently (combined 2.98 yards per carry). The duo of Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner has been much more effective (combined 5.35 yards per carry). The suggestion isn’t for the Eagles to bench Mathews and Sproles completely. Rather, the Eagles should give Smallwood and Barner more snaps in the running back rotation.
7 – Lane Johnson should arguably only be suspended for four games
There’s no question Johnson’s suspension process has been a strange one. It’s been nearly two months since the news first emerged and it seems like a final decision might not come until after Philadelphia’s Week 5 game. Johnson’s appeal hearing is set for Tuesday, Oct. 4 but the final ruling could reportedly take up to seven to 10 days.
The expectation is that Johnson will be suspended for 10 games after testing positive for PEDs for the second time in his career. There’s an argument to be made Johnson only deserves to miss four games, however. Johnson’s first suspension in 2014 was enforced because he used Adderall, which is no longer listed as a PED by the NFL. While I personally wouldn’t count on Johnson’s suspension being reduced, there’s at least a case for it.
Losing Johnson will obviously serve as a big blow to Philadelphia’s offensive line. The Eagles will be forced to start Allen Barbre at right tackle and Stefen Wisniewski at left guard. That’s a downgrade at both spots.
8 – Bennie Logan deserves a new contract
Logan is one of only two Eagles starters set to be a free agent after this season. (The other player is Nolan Carroll.) Philadelphia would be wise to get an extension done with their 2013 third round pick sooner than later. Logan has made a nice transition from 3-4 nose tackle to 4-3 defensive tackle. The 26-year-old defensive lineman has recorded one sack, one forced fumble, and a blocked field goal through three games.
The Eagles might be hesitant to spend big money on Logan given how much they’re already invested in the likes of Cox, Graham, Vinny Curry, and Connor Barwin. But Logan is a key part of Philadelphia’s strong run defense and he’s a great locker room guy. Roseman stressed the importance of taking care of home-grown talent last offseason. Logan shouldn’t be an exception to the rule.
If the Eagles can’t get a deal done with Logan, they’ll hope to get a compensatory pick for him if/when he signs a big deal elsewhere in free agency.
9 – Rodney McLeod and Nigel Bradham were great additions to the Eagles’ defense
I’d tab McLeod as the Eagles’ best free agent signing. The former Rams safety already has two interception in three games with the Birds, which ties a career-high for him. He’s been excellent in coverage and he hasn’t been shy to hit, either. McLeod has recorded 13 tackles.
Safety was long considered to be a position of concern ever since Brian Dawkins left Philadelphia. The Eagles are fortunate to now have two very good players in McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins.
While McLeod was the Eagles’ best signing, I would say Bradham was their most underrated signings. The veteran linebacker, who excelled under Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014, has been quietly solid.
10 – Someone still needs to step up at wide receiver
Jordan Matthews has been good, as expected. Outside of him, though, the Eagles doesn’t have a consistent receiving threat. Nelson Agholor has been a little better than expected but he’s still struggling with drops. The Eagles tried to force feed the ball to Josh Huff in Week 3 and that didn’t work so great. Dorial Green-Beckham is an intriguing player whose role could continue to expand as the season goes along. In the short-term, he’s still trying to master the offense. Bryce Treggs is also a little intriguing as a speedy role-player. He’s yet to make the active game day roster, however.
The Eagles are fortunate to have quality pass-catching options at non-receiver positions such as Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz, and Trey Burton. These players have been able to take pressure off the receivers so far. Eventually the Birds could need more production from their wideouts. The opportunity is there for someone to emerge.
11 – The Eagles are going to win the NFC East
Even though I never felt like the Eagles were going to be a great team this season, I always felt like they had a chance to compete in the division by default. The NFC East isn’t exactly loaded with contenders.
The early indication is the Eagles are the best team in the division. There’s plenty of time for things to change, of course, but I do feel like they will get it done.
Washington’s defense is bad. They’ve allowed the fourth most points and the third most yards per play in the NFL. Kirk Cousins, who has never defeated a team with a winning record, appears to be regressing not unlike how Nick Foles did in 2014.
The Giants won their first two games by a combined four points. New York only managed to score nine against a very bad Saints defense while playing at home. The Giants’ supposedly improved defense then allowed a struggling Cousins to drop 29 on them.
The Cowboys just might be the Eagles’ biggest challenge to the NFC East crown. There’s no question Prescott has been impressive. But it remains to be seen how the Dallas quarterback situation will work out with Tony Romo aiming to return at some point. In the meantime, the Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been great. Dallas ranks 25th in yards per play allowed.
In a small sample size, the Eagles appear to be legitimately good. The Birds flat out dominated a Super Bowl contender last Sunday. Philadelphia has a young stud at quarterback and the head coach has been great. The Eagles’ defense is a unit to be feared under Schwartz.
It’s at least possible the Eagles’ early success is a mirage. Until proven otherwise, though, the Birds look like a legitimate contender. Philadelphia will continue to be very interesting to watch as they exit the bye and prepare for
their Super Bowl run the rest of the season.