11 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles — Best Record in the NFC Edition
Neither the Eagles nor Cowboys played. Minus hoping they don’t land a top pick to find a legitimate Eli successor, the Giants are largely irrelevant.
This may be the most stress free Sunday of the season, and at the same time, the Eagles seemed to pick up a few wins along the way. The Falcons lost. So did the Packers, and they may have lost the most dangerous quarterback in the league in the process.
About the only thing that didn’t go well was the Redskins squeaking out a win over the 49ers.
Previous posts are here. Let’s hit it like a seemingly healthy Fletcher Cox hit Cam Newton on Sunday Night.
- Am I crazy or does Nelly look even faster the past few games? Maybe it’s just having the ball more, but he seems to have another gear of speed.
Agholor was always fast. It’s part of what made him the 20th pick in the draft to begin with and gave him this sky high potential, but the past few games, his speed with the ball in his hands look otherworldly.
Maybe it’s just having the ball in his hands a bit more compared to the first two seasons, but he looked like the fastest guy on the field Thursday night — for either team — and that’s a helluva weapon to have late in the season when it gets cold and big plays can be at a premium.
To quote my dude Adam, “He looks like DeSean — and in more ways than just the celebration against Arizona.”
2. Is there an NFL Draft prospect you’re in love with early on? Assuming Saquon Barkley is unrealistic, my two are Dennis Guice and Malik Jefferson.
After largely deprioritizing it during the 2017 draft, running back will likely be an early need for the Eagles. Everyone loves Barkley, but Howie Roseman would have to get real creative for this to happen, and without a second and third round pick, I don’t see him being able to get up that high (especially if he has to go from slot 32 if you catch my drift 😎).
I think a more realistic option could be Dennis Guice from LSU. He reminds me a lot of his predecessor in Leonard Fournette, who is currently tearing up the league, and would make for a great backfield partner with Carson Wentz.
Jefferson is a guy who really interests me on the defensive side of the ball. With Mychal Kendricks’ future still up in the air and Nigel Bradham being somewhat inconsistent, linebacker is a spot the Eagles could look to add depth to early, and two Texas blue bloods in Jordan Hicks and Jefferson playing together would be a lot of fun.
3. It obviously doesn’t, but if the season ended today, Doug Pederson would be Coach of the Year, and it’s not close. @ me Mike Lombardi.
This obviously has over two months to play out, but I don’t think it’s a particularly hard vote right now.
The Chiefs were expected to be pretty good. Todd Bowles has worked some miracles, but he’s still only 3–3. Sean McVay would probably get my second place vote, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was some people’s first choice, but I think Pederson has him beat right now when you take into account some of the injuries he’s navigated and not having a running back safety valve quite as dynamic as Todd Gurley.
Can’t wait for the video, Mike.
4. Thought the 49ers were going to do it today, but that’s alright. The Eagles can bury the Redskins with a home win next Monday.
A victory next Monday would put the Eagles three games ahead of the Redskins, who currently sit in second place in the NFC East, but it essentially would be four games with a head-to-head season sweep.
I don’t expect it to be a cakewalk, but it’s hard to not feel good knowing the Eagles are coming off a mini bye week with reinforcements on the way while the Skins may be down two starting cornerbacks in Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland.
The elephant in the room is of course Kirk Cousins. The Eagles seemed to finally solve him in Week 1, but he’s played three very solid games at Lincoln Financial Field going back to 2014, winning two of them.
The Eagles have a chance to make another statement in front of national audience and in the process again show why they’re a different team this time around and exorcise some final demons.
5. If there is one potential achilles heel for the Eagles come January, it could be that experienced QBs will know how to exploit young CBs.
The Eagles as a unit have collectively way exceeded expectations here, and they should only continue to get better with the impending return of Ronald Darby and potentially Sidney Jones soon after.
Still, if I was to pinpoint a weakness on the team, I would probably still look to this group just in terms of being green. We’ve seen Rasul Douglas flash major potential at times and then have a few rookie baptism moments as well.
That’s very much understandable but unfortunately a quarterback with playoff experience still in their prime of their career could find ways to attack.
Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and even Cam Newton weren’t effective enough to, and that says a lot about how far this group has come. We just have to hope they can continue to grow.
6. Speaking of which, these are the NFC teams who currently scare me the most in this order: Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons, Packers**.
Let’s break down my rationale:
Seahawks: They have a recent history of starting slow and getting hot later in the season, gearing up for a playoff run. While their defense isn’t the dominant unit that it was in 2013, it’s still pretty good and able to physically wear down teams.
Panthers: I know we just beat them, but they’re a very solid team overall with a quarterback who’s been to a Super Bowl and could be more dangerous if they find ways to utilize Christian McCaffrey more. Have to feel pretty good when you’re putting a team you just beat on the road on a short week second, but I wouldn’t go trashing them. They’re legit, and the Eagles earned this win.
Falcons: Atlanta really has not impressed me much, and their loss to a pretty average Miami team exemplified that today, but this ties back to my original point. While mixed success, Matt Ryan has had plenty of playoff experience, and if healthy, Julio Jones is someone who could really throw inexperienced corners for a loop.
Packers**: They are the ex-factor right now as we await news on Aaron Rodgers. Would have been number one nine hours ago and will shoot back up there if Rodgers is able to return at any point. He hides so many deficiencies on their roster, and the goal prior to today — and very much still is — was to obtain a bye where we ideally wouldn’t need to see him until very late in January.
7. Where did Thursday Night’s version of Nigel Bradham come from, and where was this early in the season?!
Bradham may have been the best player on the field last Thursday, and that’s no easy task when you consider some of the other options and plays that were made.
He finished with 10 tackles including one for a loss, and not the type of tackles that are made because you give up a catch in coverage. Real, impactful tackles that prevented Panthers first downs multiple times.
I’m trying to think of the last time I saw an Eagles linebacker be that dominant. Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here is what comes to mind, but that’s not a fully apt comparison since Trot played in the middle and Bradham plays outside.
Maybe Mychal Kendricks against the Cowboys in 2013?
Either way, this isn’t a position group that the Reid regime often emphasized, and it remains to be seen how much Roseman and Joe Douglas do so, but it was great to see Bradham look like the player he was early last year after a slow September.
8. The Broncos game will be a great test for Doug Pederson as a play-caller. Probably the best defense the Eagles will face all season.
Through four games, the Broncos are currently holding opponents to an average of 16 points per contest.
Vance Joseph seems to be passing the test as a first year head coach as this unit looks as strong as it’s been in past seasons.
Pederson has been really locked in over the past month, and this should be an interesting chess match.
If you’ll recall, I picked this as a loss prior to the season not because I think the Broncos are a great overall team but because their defense is really good, and I thought it wasn’t a great set up with the Eagles home right before a bye week.
I may change my mind on this one before it comes around, but the defense is for sure still scary.
9. Kenjon Barner — Love him as a punt returner but a bit lukewarm as a running back. Too many snaps at the latter Thursday night.
If I have one criticism of Pederson from Thursday, it’s that his running back rotation felt odd at times. Along with being not that effective carrying the ball, Barner got blown up attempting to pass block on a few blitzes that nearly got Carson Wentz killed.
It’s a testament to Barner that he kept himself in such good shape while out of the league, but playing on a short week may have caught up to him.
This is part of what makes Wendell Smallwood important, and if Smallwood sits a few more games (hopefully not), it’s something I’ll be monitoring closely.
10. If Aaron Rodgers is indeed out for the season, I would consider Carson Wentz a top three MVP candidate.
Alex Smith and Tom Brady are probably the top two if voting took place today, and rookie running backs Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette would also enter the conversation.
Tough to put anyone else above Wentz though, and it’s hard to see one of these running backs edging out a signal caller.
Dak Prescott could of course got hot like last year, but it’s hard to envision him matching those numbers and record without Ezekiel Elliott. Drew Brees? DeShaun Watson?
Wentz has as good of a chance as anyone, and if the Eagles keep winning, the national notoriety will only grow.
11. I feel really good about the Eagles right now. If they win next Monday to sweep the Redskins, I will feel great.
Next Monday is a big swing game from a sentiment standpoint. While the Eagles would still have a lead in the division either way, this is basically the difference between a one game lead and a four game lead.
We’ll address it a lot in the days leading up both in posts and on Twitter, but this summarizes the feelings at a high level and how to bring our mindset from good to great.