As the last of the euphoria-ingrained dust, the kind that only appears following a long ardent journey to a first Lombardi trophy, finally settles on the streets of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love is once again quietly optimistic ahead of the new season.
General Manager Howie Roseman is proving to be notorious in utilising intellect and his acute perception of player value to compile a team complimented in age and youth with a common theme permeating throughout. Talent.
From the top of the roster to the bottom of the depth chart the Eagles have been built with, in dare I say it, a ‘Belichick’ panache with key areas on both sides of the ball exhibiting a dexterity associated only with teams preparing to take another shot at a championship.
The Eagles opened their free agency period with the announcement that Chicago Bears power back Jordan Howard would be making his way to the Lincoln Financial Field in exchange for a 2020 conditional sixth-round pick. The trade not only displayed Roseman’s eye for acquiring talent but also his endeavours in taking advantage of players still negotiating cheap contracts for the benefit of the Eagles holding onto integral cap space.
The move also signalled how the Eagles were imminently set on finding a solution to a run game humbled early last season by an ACL tear to British sensation Jay Ajayi, and one that proved detrimental to any chances of the team repeating their 2018 Super Bowl feat.
Roseman’s next move was to then bring an immediate conclusion yet respectable epilogue to the Wentz-Foles quarterback saga. One that had previously plagued terrestrial TV debates and DIY podcasts for months on end due to a Super Bowl run that saw back-up quarterback Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a memorable victory over a seemingly impenetrable Patriots team.
With the decision made, Foles pin-pointed his next destination to the similar green & black clad of the Jacksonville Jaguars whilst Carson Wentz received re-assurance from the Eagles front office when they delivered an extension to his rookie contract two years prior to its expiration date.
A move for former Eagle and deep-threat Desean Jackson also appears to be a complimentary addition to a wide receiver and tight-end core already collated with a mass of safe-dependent hands. Look for Head Coach, Doug Pederson to utilise him in almost a deep threat only role with the safety valves coming in the form of tight end Zach Ertz and the physical wide-receiver that is Alshon Jeffery.
On the defensive side of the ball the re-signings of Timmy Jernigan and Vinny Curry on team-friendly financial contracts help to solidify a defensive line already experienced and capable of creating consistent pressure against opposing quarterbacks.
Behind them, attaining experienced linebacker Zach Brown also adds much needed quality to an area which some have argued may prove to be the Eagles’ only Achilles heel entering the new season.
Philadelphia was once more coy and patient whilst waiting in line with the 22nd pick of the draft, and with teams scrambling to find potential franchise quarterbacks and obtain young athletic pass-rushers, the waiting game paid off with the 22nd pick used on tackle Andre Dillard. Dillard, a player widely-touted as being the best at his position within the 2019 draft class, has so far flashed an abundance of potential within the pre-season schedule. So much so that his drafting may see the inevitable departure of the ageing Jason Peters appear seamless upon the conclusion of the 2019 season or even sooner depending on his ability to stay on the field.
Eyes remained on the offence moving into the second round of the draft as Penn State running back Miles Sanders became the next rookie prepared to don the midnight green of Philadelphia and add a much needed alternative to the direct running of Jordan Howard. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield on wheel and flat routes also make him another headache for opposing defences to contend with.
The second of two second round picks then saw a move for Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a player who has so far demonstrated that he will provide competition in the wide-receiver room for the likes of Nelson Agholor, with his ability to catch the ball comfortably off the back shoulder and utilise his strength downfield to his advantage.
Day three pick and rookie edge defender Shareef Miller will play back up to the elite rushing abilities of Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham whilst Clayton Thorson will act as a ‘work in progress’ behind Wentz and the recently signed veteran, Josh McCown in the quarterback department.
Where could it all go wrong?
In all honesty…. Quarterback. I mean you could easily state the case for that being a potential downfall for the 31 other NFL teams I know. But in this case Carson Wentz’s ability to stay healthy and on the field will be critical to any Eagles success and GM Howie Roseman is not oblivious to the fact.
That is why he has constructed an offensive line the epitome of the word ‘protection’, prepared at all costs to ensure that their franchise quarterback avoids departing in parallel fashion to the recent shock retirement of Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck.
Too soon? Maybe. But Roseman, unlike former Colts GM Ryan Grigson, comprehends the need for big bodies; allow the quarterback time, let him extend plays and find targets downfield and most importantly keep him upright.
With all that said look for the Eagles to be a contender once again this season. They’re a team busting with talent in almost every area of the field with an unrivalled amount of depth on both sides of the ball. If Wentz stays healthy and rediscovers the form which made him a candidate for the MVP of the 2017/18 season a repeat of the Eagles/Patriots Super Bowl classic from the 2017 season is a real possibility.