The Week 10 bye week is here for the Eagles and, while the timing might be a little awkward considering the two-game win streak, a banged-up team such as Philadelphia will surely welcome the 14 days off.
So far this season has been eventful at the very least. Maddening inconsistency, a myriad of injuries, disappointments, and breakouts unfolding right in front of our eyes.
In a vacuum, here are nine things we learned through the first nine weeks of Eagles football in 2019.
1) The receiving group was wildly overrated
In the preseason, the Birds’ front office was highly praised for restocking the arsenal of weapons for franchise QB Carson Wentz to use. With DeSean Jackson coming in to help shift Nelson Agholor to his more natural inside role, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside getting drafted in a lofty slot as a potential big target downfield and in red-zone situations, as well as the retainment of last year’s weapons, this team was presumably set to light the league on fire.
That is exactly the opposite of what has happened. Jackson played basically only one game before being placed on IR, Arcega-Whiteside was cast aside after dropping a would-be walk-off TD in Week 3, while roster mainstays like Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins have seemingly taken a step back.
TE Zach Ertz is also not having nearly as good of a season, but his situation needs other factors to be considered. The lone player with the arrow trending up is sophomore TE Dallas Goedert, who has emerged as a very good weapon over the middle of the field and in the red zone.
2) Running back by committee was the way to go all along
When Miles Sanders was taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, most thought he would immediately take over as, if not the workhorse, the team’s primary back for the year, fending off former back-to-back 1000-yard rusher Jordan Howard. The initial plan looked like it was set to feature Sanders a lot, but Howard delivered too many good results to ignore, and ultimately the team made him the primary early-down thumper with Sanders serving as a change-of-pace/receiving back and excelling in this role. With a line as good as the Birds’, a physical mauler like Howard was the perfect piece to help tire opposing defenses quickly, leaving Sanders to best utilize his speed and shiftiness in space.
3) Brandon Brooks is not human
Speaking of the offensive line, Brooks needs to be mentioned. What this man has accomplished since suffering an Achilles injury little less than 8 months prior to the start of the season is remarkable and should be praised at all times. He was a very good player prior to the injury, no doubt.
After suffering a tough injury that has ruined many careers before, he not only came back to form but also improved his play enough to cement himself as the best guard in football in 2019, with a whopping 93.4 grade from Pro Football Focus so far.
4) Carson Wentz is, by all stats and measures, an elite QB
Wentz has been embattled, to say the least, ever since the Eagles won a Super Bowl ring with Nick Foles at the helm. He suffers from no shortage of doubters, even within the Eagles fanbase. However, he has proven to be very much in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks in 2019, and his stats, next-gen stats and Pro Football Focus grade reflect that. The fact that he’s managed to put up lofty stats while dealing with subpar receiving play (13 official drops) should be universally acclaimed.
He has proven to be a franchise QB and, given better weapons and perhaps bolder playcalling, could return to his scintillating 2017 form.
5) The front-seven remains the heart and soul of the defense
Every single angle and stat category has been explored in order to denounce how bad the Eagles secondary is. It really has been delivering below-average play, with down seasons for all cornerbacks as well as star safety Malcolm Jenkins. However, in this scheme, everything starts upfront. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox have had amazing seasons, as has become the norm, but they haven’t gotten much help. Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett have shown development, while Vinny Curry has been solid and Genard Avery looked like a decent contributor in limited game exposure.
There has been a revolving door at linebacker, although the unit still manages to look competent on a weekly basis. Perhaps one of the younger players will step up.
6) TJ Edwards looks like he belongs
One of those younger players in the linebacker corps is undrafted rookie TJ Edwards. As a former First-Team All-American at Wisconsin, many were intrigued by his fit on a depleted linebacker room and, after Zach Brown’s release, Edwards earned the nod as the man in the middle of the defense.
He has absolutely not disappointed, earning a 90.9 grade from Pro Football Focus through his first nine games (two starts). It looks like he has the potential to be the man the Eagles have been missing on defense for a long time.
7) The specialists mean business
Jake Elliott, formerly a beacon of inconsistency, hasn’t missed a FG attempt so far this season and is 20/22 on XPs. He has been as reliable as they come and, as the league never stops reminding us, having a leg to count on is a great advantage.
Cameron Johnston, meanwhile, has built on his great rookie season. He currently ranks 5th in yards per punt and 4th in net yards per punt, with only two touchbacks in 34 punts.
Overall, this young core of specialists has shown that they’re here to stay and hopefully will remain at this level for a long time.
8) The coaching staff needs to figure out an identity
Playcalling has been spotty all season long for the Birds. The Lions and Packers games are great examples of how much the playcalling shifts on a weekly basis. Fans, media (and at this point probably players, too) go into the game without any idea of what to expect out of the Eagles. Unpredictability might be an asset on the right amount, but at some point, the coordinators – offensive and defensive – need to decide what they want this team to look like going forward.
9) The Philadelphia Eagles are a playoff-caliber team
Simply put, the Eagles are one of the six best teams in the NFC and one of the twelve best teams in the NFL. Talent-wise, there’s no question about it. Gritty, tough wins like the two just before the bye are the type of grind-it-out games we expect to see in January football, so it remains to be seen whether the team can put it all together and clinch a spot to take themselves there.
It looks more and more likely that only one NFC East team will be in the postseason, and the division race is wide open. The Eagles have to do their job and give themselves a chance to clinch it in Week 16.
Regardless of the outcome, all seven remaining games look to be a very interesting finish to a very entertaining season.
Featured Image: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune