In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles finished in last place in the NFC East. However that was very deceiving being that the Eagles had a record of 7-9. Philadelphia won their last two games of 2016 which were victories over the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys who were each postseason bound. The Eagles used the momentum from finishing strong in 2016 to carry over to the current season and the results have been extremely positive. After six games Philadelphia is 5-1 which includes them being 2-0 within the NFC East. And just like each of the last four times in which Philly finished in the basement of the NFC East for the previous season, they’ve once again rebounded in a big way.
In 2015, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to dismiss Chip Kelly as the team’s head coach and in the process he decided to get his organization back to the basics. Lurie’s first order of business was to once again make Howie Roseman the Eagles general manager. Roseman had a good working relationship with former Eagles head coach Andy Reid as this duo help Philadelphia win the NFC Championship in 2004. Reid is currently the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Eagles sought out one of his proteges in Doug Pederson to be their next head coach.
Pederson had previously been an offensive assistant under Reid with the Eagles and he was brought back to the organization last year in order to get the ship righted.
Like most head coaches who take over a team, Pederson wanted to draft a quarterback to mold, and Philadelphia would trade up to the second overall spot in the 2016 National Football League Draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz.
Collegiately for the North Dakota State Bison, Wentz showed that he had the ability to operate a pro-style offense which included him being a member of five Football Championship Subdivision winners. Wentz was also a two-time FCS Championship Game Most Outstanding Player as this helped to make him a hot commodity as his National Football League career was set to begin.
Pederson didn’t waste any time as he named Wentz as the starting quarterback in Week 1 for the 2016 National Football League season, and the youngster was able to respond by helping Philly begin the campaign with a record of 3-0. Wentz would make all 16 starts as a rookie as he threw 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. But most importantly Wentz was never fazed as Philadelphia had found their next franchise quarterback.
Wentz has continued to assert himself this season as he has 13 touchdowns to just 3 picks. Wentz also has a pair of comeback victories under his belt which is due to his poise. At 6’5″. 237 lbs., Wentz is deceptively fast and agile for his size. Wentz has good scrambling ability which he uses to get out of the pocket when the play breaks down as this coincides with him not forcing the football down the field.
Wentz’s strong start is the perfect illustration to the commitment of Lurie, Roseman, and Pederson in regards to putting him in the best possible place to succeed. In a slew of key moves during the off-season the Eagles signed running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and defensive end Chris Long. All three players bring a veteran presence, while Long and Blount each helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl last year.
Last year the Eagles were 11th in the National Football League in rushing, but so far this season they are second with Blount leading the way as he is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Jeffery has the potential to gain 1,000 yards receiving, while his presence takes some of the attention away from tight end Zach Ertz who is currently Philadelphia’s best pass catcher. And in the case of Long, he might not be the pass rusher that he was during his prime which was spent with the St. Louis Rams, but he is a professional in every since of the word which resonates with the team.
It has not taken the Eagles that long to buy into what Pederson has been selling as he has been a breath of fresh air from Kelly. In the nearly three years that Kelly was the Eagles, the locker room became fractured with most of the team turning against their head coach. Now the Eagles are back to having fun while they have an emerging leader in Wentz to go with Long, strong safety Malcolm Jenkins, and left tackle Jason Peters as leadership is always key for a team that is eyeing a championship.
And after the Eagles came into 2017 expected to have to slug it out with the Cowboys as well as the Giants for the top spot in the division, things are clearing up for Philadelphia faster than than the traffic on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The Giants have yet to win a game this season and after they lost three wide receivers for the season last Sunday, you can stick a fork in them. The Cowboys who were 13-3 last season are just 2-3 so far in 2017. Dallas has been unable to stop the run on defense, while things took a twist for them as the National Football League was able to reinstate their six-game suspension on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot which changes the tenor of the season for them. The Washington Redskins shouldn’t be much of a factor in the NFC East either, and with the Eagles having already defeating them this season, they really have a leg up.
So now that the Eagles are on cruise control within the NFC East, they can look at the bigger picture which is potentially securing a first-round bye in the playoffs. Philadelphia’s 28-23 road win over the Carolina Panthers has to do well for their psych as the Panthers themselves are one of the top teams in the NFC.
Pederson is looking to join his former boss in Reid who was able to get the Eagles to the playoffs in just his second second with the team. But will Pederson be able to do something that Reid was unable to do which is to get the Eagles a Super Bowl Championship?