The Eagles’ bye week is the same thing every year, that one week where we fans can take a deep breath from all of the chaos, but pick apart every aspect of the team with a fine-toothed comb, while also complaining about not having an Eagles game to watch. This year is no exception. We went into the year with extremely high expectations. The organization made a commitment to Carson Wentz, let Super Bowl LII hero Nick Foles head to Jacksonville, brought back speedster DeSean Jackson, and traded for former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard. Many pundits saw the Eagles returning to the Super Bowl, and I tended to agree. I’m biased, but I felt that the Eagles had a very similar team to the team that steamrolled to a 13-3 record in 2017 . I expected that a healthy Carson Wentz would return to MVP caliber form as he was before his injury in 2017, and lead this team deep into the playoffs.
Through 9 games, the Eagles are 5-4. It has been a bumpy ride to this point. The losses have been frustrating to say the least. Early losses to the Falcons and Lions could have been prevented with a few less dropped passes by wide receivers. A loss to the Vikings was proof positive that the secondary is nowhere near good enough to beat good teams consistently. A Sunday night throttling by Dallas made us all question the team’s focus and hunger. The wins have been largely unspectacular, except for the Thursday night win at Lambeau against Green Bay.
At this point, it’s become clear what the strengths and weaknesses are for this team. Carson Wentz has been great. Maybe not quite as great as he was in 2017, but still pretty damn good. He is playing well enough for this team to succeed, and the rest of the team needs to hold up their end of the bargain.
Another strength has been the running game. The aforementioned Jordan Howard as added a physical presence to the backfield, and has been a nice compliment with rookie running back Miles Sanders, who has taken more of the pass-catcher out of the backfield role. During the Eagles’ best games, the running game has been front and center.
The most troubling weakness has been the secondary. Sure, injuries have been a factor, but that still does not absolve them from blame. Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas have been disappointing. Avonte Maddox and Jalen Mills have been hurt for multiple games, and while neither of them are All Pro caliber, their absence has been very detrimental to the overall defense. The safety position has been solid but not spectacular. Malcolm Jenkins has been a steady presence, but is definitely losing a step.
As I mentioned above, the wide receivers have been disappointing. We’ve been talking about drops after every loss. After an explosive week 1 performance, DeSean Jackson has gone down with an injury and has not recovered. He is now on IR. A deep threat will now have to emerge, and it is unclear if there is anyone on the roster with that skill set. Another familiar face, Jordan Matthews, has been brought back once again. Rookie 3rd round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside has seen limited action, and has been basically invisible. What makes that more frustrating is that several picks later, Seattle took D.K. Metcalf, who has been awesome.
The wide receivers and Zach Ertz have to step up. No two ways about it. Alshon Jeffery has to be that guy from 2017 that the Eagles decided to pay like a star receiver. Nelson Agholor has to be better, and not look like the guy we had all labeled as a massive bust pre-2017. It would be nice if Arcega-Whiteside could show up and be the contributor he looked like he would be in the preseason. Jordan Matthews will hopefully add some production to the offense, but if the Eagles are relying on him as a key playmaker, that is a bad sign. Minus the lack of a deep threat, this group has the potential to be much better.
While Wentz has been really good, there are some things he has to clean up. At times he holds onto the ball just a little too long. If his supporting cast played to their potential, the pundits would be talking about him in a much different tone.
I am not as optimistic about the secondary. Even with this group being healthy, I’m skeptical about their chances against some of the better teams and quarterbacks in the league. The defensive front has been good, but they need to be elite for the Eagles to contain some of the better offenses. This current product works against the Bills and Bears, but needs to be better to have a chance against teams with more balanced offensive attacks. I certainly would have been all for selling the farm to bring in someone like Jalen Ramsey or Chris Harris Jr.
Looking ahead, we will know soon enough what kind of team the 2019 Eagles are. Coming out of the bye, the Eagles host the defending champ New England Patriots, and then the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks. We will see what this team is made of against two elite quarterbacks. Presumably, the birds will be an underdog in each of these games, and I would be extremely shocked if they somehow win both. The season will likely come down to the Week 17 rematch against those Dallas Cowboys. If this team is truly the Super Bowl Contender that we thought they were, they better be ready to show it.