Eagles Are ‘Very Close’ To Being Contenders, Says Doug Pederson

The Eagles believe they're not far off from being good.

Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

When the 2017 NFL playoffs begin this weekend, the Eagles won’t be one of the teams competing for a shot at the Super Bowl. Philadelphia was officially eliminated from post-season contention a few weeks ago.

The Eagles’ failure to make the playoffs serves as a reminder about the team’s lack of success. The Eagles haven’t made the playoffs since the 2013 season. They haven’t won a playoff game since January 2009. They haven’t won a home playoff game since January 2007. 56 seasons have come and gone since the Eagles won their last championship in 1960.

Heading into the 2016 season, no one really expected the Eagles to end their title drought. The Eagles were viewed as something of a rebuilding team after moving on from Chip Kelly. At the same time, the Birds openly wanted to be competitive in the short-term.

The Eagles came out of the gates stronger than anyone expected in 2016. They went 3-0 in their first three games, with their third win being a blowout effort over the Steelers. Then the Birds fell back to Earth and went 4-9 in their last 13 games.

Although the Eagles finished the season with more losses than wins, it’s hard not to feel like the schedule easily could have gone differently. The Birds were in a lot of close games in 2016. Let’s look back at the losses.

Week 5 at Lions – The Eagles win if Ryan Mathews doesn’t fumble the game away.

Week 6 at Washington – The Eagles didn’t play great in this game but they had a chance to tie in the final minutes.

Week 8 at Cowboys – The Eagles lost in overtime after blowing a lead to the eventual No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Week 9 at Giants – The Eagles had the ball in the red zone with a chance to win in the final seconds.

Week 11 at Seahawks – The game was competitive before Nelson Agholor committed multiple mistakes.

Week 12 vs. Packers – This Eagles loss ended up being the first win for the Packers on the hot streak Green Bay is riding in to the playoffs.

Week 13 at Bengals – Bad blowout loss to a team with a losing record.

Week 14 at Washington – The Eagles had a chance to win the game in the final seconds.

Week 15 at Ravens – The Eagles win the game if they successfully convert a two-point conversion at the end.

To sum it up, it’s not like the Eagles were getting blown out very often. And one must consider Philadelphia faced the NFL’s most difficult schedule in terms of opposing win percentage. It’s reason like these why the Eagles finished favorably in advanced metrics. The Eagles ended the season with the NFL’s 10th best point differential. They rank fifth overall in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA stat. The argument can be made the Eagles were a little better than their final record indicated.

Count rookie head coach Doug Pederson among those who believe the Eagles aren’t far off from being a contender.

“We’re very close,” said Pederson after the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday. “We’re very close. And when you talk to coaches around the league, they see it. They see it on the outside. Even though the win-loss and everything is not in our favor, I think we lost six games this year by a touchdown or less, and we’ve just got to learn to finish those games. We’ve got to learn to make more plays and finish those games, but I think we’re extremely close, extremely close to being a team that can compete each year for not only the NFC East but for the postseason.”

The margin of victory in the NFL is razor thin. One can say that good teams know how to win close games, but sometimes sheer luck is a bigger factor than some would like to admit.

In any case, the Eagles can increase their own luck by adding more talent and giving themselves more margin for error. It’s painfully clear the Eagles need significant upgrades at several positions, such as wide receiver, cornerback, running back, etc. This offseason will be critical in determining where the team goes from here.

The truth is there are plenty of positives to take away from the 2016 season. Pederson, while not perfect, showed some promise as a rookie head coach. The same goes for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who showed he has real franchise quarterback potential. Philadelphia’s defense wasn’t always consistent but they ended up allowing the fewest amount of touchdowns at home of any team all season. The Eagles have some legitimate reasons for optimism when looking ahead to next year.

At the same time, it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s important to realize the Eagles really aren’t a young team. Heading into the 2016 season, they had the fifth oldest average roster age of any NFL squad. Some of Philadelphia’s best players, such as Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, are nearing retirement. Once again, there will be a lot of pressure on Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, and the Eagles’ front office to replenish the team with talent this offseason.

Overall, it’s hard to be too critical of the Eagles’ performance in 2016. Going 7-9 with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback while playing the NFL’s toughest schedule isn’t a disgrace. Especially when one considers a number of those losses came in close games.

With that said, moral victories won’t be good enough in the long run. Patience will run out and the Eagles will need to produce hard results in the form of wins. Year one of the Eagles’ newest era is over and soon it will be time for the team to prove they’re as close to contending as they believe they are.


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With two interceptions against the Cowboys today, Jordan Hicks led the team in interceptions with five, and has also had a historic start to his career, from Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

Through two seasons, Hicks has seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He’s just the fifth player in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first two seasons of his career and the only linebacker to do so.

Hicks is also the first Eagle to have seven or more interceptions in his first two seasons since Eric Allen in the late 80s. And he’s just the fifth linebacker in NFL history to have seven-plus interceptions through two seasons; the first since Al Richardson in the early 80s.

So through two seasons, Hicks hasn’t just been good. He’s been putting up numbers we haven’t seen in decades.

And he still thinks there’s room for growth.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Hicks said. “No matter where you’re at, no matter what you’ve done, there’s always room for improvement. I think in the pass game, I’ve done well this year. I think my next goal is to get a little bit bigger, get a little bit stronger. My pec kind of set me back a bit. But moving forward, I have a great opportunity to do that and be more physical in the run.”

The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane was ejected from the Eagles’ press box on Sunday. More details:

Anne Gordon, the team’s senior vice president of marketing, media, and communications and a former Inquirer managing editor, said McLane violated the press box’s “well-understood code of conduct” while arguing with the Eagles employee.

The ejection brought a sharp rebuke from Inquirer senior vice president and executive editor Stan Wischnowski.

“We find the actions taken by the Eagles media relations staff to be extremely disappointing and unprofessional,” Wischnowski said. “Jeff has spent eight years covering the Eagles exhaustively in a fair, accurate and thorough manner.”


The Eagles will clean out their lockers later today. Players will be available from 9:30 through 10:30.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.