This summer, while we were reveling in the afterglow of the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, we took a look at some of the positional storylines for the upcoming season. After four weeks, here’s where we are with the 2-2 Philadelphia Eagles:
QB: Thanks Nick, but Carson Wentz is back.
After holding down the fort adequately for two weeks, Nick Foles took a seat in Week 3 and Carson Wentz took over vs. the Colts. Wentz shook off the rust and escaped the Colts game with a win despite 2 turnovers. Against the Titans in Week 4, Wentz was still shaking off some rust but looked better – largely thanks to the return of stud wideout Alshon Jeffery. Although he has yet to return to his dominant self, QB is clearly Wentz’s job to lose – although it is nice to know in the event of an injury that evidence exists that Nick Foles can have success with a healthy WR corp. Each QB is 1-1 through Week 4.
RB: Inconsistency limits an at-times promising squad
The law-firm of Ajayi, Clement, Sproles, and Smallwood have had flashes of brilliance but have yet to dominate. Separately, nobody has really stood out – Jay Ajayi is nowhere near his extremely productive 5.8 yards/carry last year, Clement and Smallwood have been explosive at times but have had trouble holding onto the ball, and Sproles is unfortunately injured again. My hope is that this unit finds some consistency in the coming weeks.
WR/TE: This unit goes where a healthy Jeffery takes them
After lackluster performances in the first three weeks of the season, the receiving corp took on new life with Alshon Jeffery in the fold during Week 4’s tilt with Tennessee. As the clear number one option, Jeffery’s size and speed opens up the rest of the field for Ertz, Agholor, and everyone else. Although the game resulted in a loss, a healthy Jeffery bodes well for the success of this unit as Carson Wentz rounds back into form.
OL: Jason Peters’ health woes continue
While Jason Peters hasn’t missed a game in its entirety, he’s been on-and-off the field a lot these past four weeks and something is clearly affecting him. While the rest of the unit maintains, Peters may have to sit and get healthy from whatever injuries are hampering him while Halapoulivaati Vaitai or Jordan Mailata step in for more stable reps. It’s understandable that the veteran and locker room leader wants to be in the fold in the title defense run after missing all of last year, but we may be at the point where it’s hurting both him and the team. Time will tell – hopefully we see Jason Peters hoist the Lombardi trophy at the end of this season.
DL: The best ability is reliability
The Eagles’ pass rush and run defense has been consistently strong and their saving grace on a defense that is struggling to cover the pass in the secondary. As hoped, Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata have been excellent support for an already dominant group of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Derek Barnett.
LB: Stay healthy, stay strong
Bradham and Hicks have been solid against the run, although pass coverage in general has been a weak spot for the Eagles. If they can remain healthy, this unit should continue to succeed in supporting the efforts of a dominant defensive line and a struggling secondary.
DB: Where’s the coverage?
As if Week 2’s exposition against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasn’t bad enough, Week 4 against the Titans was horrendous. Something needs to change with this unit and fast – whether that’s personnel, strategy, or overall execution is up to the wisdom of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Missed tackles and blown coverage by Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, and Sidney Jones have marked many of the low-lights of the first few weeks.
Special Teams: Aussie RULES
P Cameron Johnston has been fantastic, currently averaging 51.5 yards/punt and consistently bailing the Eagles out of tight spots when the offense sputters. Any concern in losing the beloved Donnie Jones has been assuaged.
“It’s the whole team.”
As the season moves forward, I can’t help but think back on Jason Kelce’s emphatic statement that a championship run takes “the whole team”. That means each one of these positions, some of which are struggling more than others, matters. The most pressing issue for the Eagles early on is their secondary – if they can’t figure that out, then they’ll be hard pressed to repeat the success of last season.