For most Super Bowl winning teams, the following season is almost guaranteed to be a setback. Reaching the height of a Super Bowl victory can turn an organization complacent and cocky. But in the case of the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles, I don’t know how anyone can argue they didn’t improve this offseason.
Without even considering their acquisitions, the players they’re getting back from injury alone will improve this roster. What Super Bowl winning team gets the league MVP back the following season? (Yeah I know Wentz didn’t actually win it, but we all know he would have had he remained healthy). And early reports out of training camp suggest that he is light years ahead of his rehab schedule and is essentially a lock to start week 1.
Obviously, Wentz isn’t the only player returning from injury. We have Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, and Chris Maragos all coming back this season. That’s one Hall of Fame left tackle, another possible Hall of Fame dual-threat running back, the quarterback of the defense, and the special teams captain. Each of these players will come out next season with something to prove. I’m sure watching their team win its first ever Super Bowl from the sideline was exciting, but there’s nothing like winning a Super Bowl while you’re strapped up and actually playing, and these players realize that.
Not to mention the addition of Sidney Jones, who missed most of his rookie season last year due to injury. Where exactly he’ll play in the secondary is still to be determined, but if the early reports about his athleticism this offseason are true, then I would be shocked if we didn’t see Jones starting on the field week 1.
The fact that the Eagles won it all last year without these guys is remarkable, I think we can all agree on that. There weren’t any major losses personnel wise or on the coaching staff either. Frank Reich did leave for Indy to be head coach once Josh McDaniels backed out, but I don’t see that loss derailing this team by any means. It’s still Doug Pederson’s offense and he’s still going to be calling the shots from the sideline. And I have faith that Mike Groh will step in and do just fine as Reich’s replacement.
With all the players returning from injury, it’s easy to overlook the free agents and rookies that Howie brought in. The most notable signings are Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, and Mike Wallace. Both Bennett and Ngata add depth to an already deep defensive line rotation. With those two now in the lineup, the Eagles basically have four starting-caliber pass rushers and three starting-caliber interior lineman. It’s by far the deepest D-line in the NFL.
The reason the Birds’ pass rush was so intimidating last season was because Jim Schwartz was able to keep everyone fresh by constantly subbing players in and out. The defensive lineman were just never tired, and every time they got in the game they were facing the same offensive lineman they’d been going against all day. I can’t imagine how gassed some of the offensive lines will be after playing the Eagles this season. They’ll never face a pass rusher who’s winded, ever. Just think about that for a second. Imagine if you were in a boxing match and every round you had to face a new fighter who was fresh and hadn’t even fought a round yet. That’s essentially what opposing offensive lines will be facing against the Eagles.
When you take a look at the offensive side of the ball, Mike Wallace will be a great addition to the receiving corps and will most likely replace Torrey Smith on the outside. Wallace wasn’t the only receiver that Howie brought in either; he also added veterans Markus Wheaton and Kamar Aiken. Both of these wideouts have had their ups and downs throughout their careers, but they’ve both flashed signs of talent. In Aiken’s best season with the Ravens he totaled 75 receptions for 944 yards and 5 touchdowns. In Wheaton’s best season with the Steelers he totaled 44 receptions for 749 yards and 5 touchdowns. So, clearly, they both have the ability to produce in this league. With these additions at wide out, the Eagles all of a sudden have one of the deepest wide receiver rooms in football. And I’m sure nearly all of them will get their hands on the ball in some way, shape, or form, and we all know how much Carson loves to spread the rock around.
I’ve already done pieces on how deep this team is, and honestly, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness. I’ve heard fans express their concern over the loss of Kendricks at the WILL linebacker position, but in reality it won’t have much of an impact unless Hicks or Bradham go down with an injury. Last season the Eagles ran three linebacker sets just about 25-30% of the time, and the other 70-75% of the time they ran the nickel and dime packages, which have become the new ‘base defense’ of the NFL.
I’ve also heard some fans complain about our corners — that the loss of Patrick Robinson will be a key loss this season. I don’t really buy it. I have faith that whoever replaces P-Rob, whether it be Mills or Jones, will do just fine.
If the Eagles could persevere through all the injuries last season to win a Super Bowl, I don’t see why they can’t do it again this year. I’m not trying to downplay how hard it is to win a Super Bowl, I mean I am an Eagles fan after all. What I am saying is that the championship window for the Eagles is still open, and after witnessing last season, I know this team won’t let a chance like that go to waste.