Eagles' 10 most pleasant surprises of 2017
Try to name an Eagles player who was worse in 2017 than 2016.
Go ahead ... I'll wait. It's hard, right?
That — more than anything — is what led to them putting together a 13-3 record on their way to a Super Bowl a season after finishing in last place of the NFC East.
Some of those players were expected to be great. Most people thought Carson Wentz was going to make a big jump in Year 2, everyone knew Fletcher Cox was a monster, and there was a reason the Eagles added Alshon Jeffery.
But some of the Eagles weren't necessarily expected to have big years. These are the top 10 biggest pleasant surprises of the Super Bowl-winning team. (USA Today Images)
CB Patrick Robinson
It's hard to overstate how bad Robinson was during training camp. The 30-year-old journeyman came to the Eagles on a one-year deal after a forgettable and injury-filled season in Indianapolis. Without guaranteed money in his prove-it deal, it really looked like Robinson was a candidate to get cut. But then when the Eagles traded for Ronald Darby, the Eagles moved Robinson inside to the slot corner position and he began to thrive. He had a career-high four interceptions during the regular season and then he made one of the plays of the year when he returned an interception 50 yards in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent soon, so the Eagles might miss him. (USA Today Images)
QB Nick Foles
We all remembered Foles' magical 2013 season, but when Carson Wentz went down on Dec. 10, most people thought the Eagles were cooked. And Foles certainly didn't do anything toward the end of the season to alleviate those fears. But then he went on to have an absolutely magical postseason run, capped with a Super Bowl MVP. Simply put, the Eagles don't have the Lombardi Trophy if Foles doesn't play lights out like he did in the playoffs. He'll forever be a hero in Philadelphia. (AP Images)
WR Nelson Agholor
From the moment Agholor arrived at OTAs in May, he was a different guy. He was confident, he was poised, he was better. That didn't change when he got to training camp in the summer. In fact, he was even better. He was good enough for the team to feel safe trading away Jordan Matthews and handing Agholor the slot job. Those who watched him every day believed Agholor was poised for a breakout season, but it was hard to convince fans — and understandably so. Agholor became one of the Eagles' most dynamic playmakers in 2017, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. (USA Today Images)
RB Corey Clement
After going undrafted last year, Clement came to the Eagles and put together a nice spring and a better summer. He made the team and was supposed to have a minimal role during his rookie season. Instead, he had 444 yards from scrimmage to go along with six touchdowns in the regular season. And then he had four catches for 100 yards and a huge touchdown in the Super Bowl. What's amazing about that is Clement had just 279 yards receiving in his four-year college career. His biggest receiving game at Wisconsin was a 43-yard day. Then he has 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl! (AP Images)
LB Mychal Kendricks
Last offseason, Kendricks requested a trade out of town. He looked ahead to another season when he'd be part of a linebacker group that wouldn't allow him to see the field all that much. The Eagles were going to go with Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham in their nickel package and Kendricks was going to see the field only on base downs. Eventually this year, Kendricks ended up playing around 60 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps and had a really good season. It all worked out. (USA Today Images)
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Hicks went down on the same day as Jason Peters. After those two injuries was one of those down days in Philadelphia when many people began to doubt the Eagles again. You'll probably remember in the couple weeks after Peters went down how many fans wanted the Eagles to make a trade for a veteran left tackle. Duane Brown, until he was dealt to Seattle, was a hot name. But Vaitai more than held his own. Was he Peters? Nope, not even close. But he wasn't a complete liability either. Big V is the kind of player who needs confidence to be good. As he played better, that confidence continued to rise. (USA Today Images)
K Jake Elliott
I've said this a million times about Elliott, so here goes a million and one. If he missed that 46-yarder to tie the Giants game, there's a good chance he gets cut. At that point, he would have been 2-for-5 in his first two games with the Eagles and maybe they wouldn't have been much more patient. Instead, he drills the 46-yarder, comes back and makes the game-winning 61-yarder and isn't giving the job back to Caleb Sturgis. Pressure means nothing to this kid. (USA Today Images)
LG Stefen Wisniewski
Even after he signed a three-year extension during the offseason, the Eagles seemed hell-bent on keeping Wiz as a backup player. After Isaac Seumalo couldn't hold onto the job, the Eagles went with Chance Warmack and then started rotating Wisniewski in. It was pretty clear the Eagles were hoping Warmack would take control of the job, but once Wisniewski easily started to outplay him, they had no choice. Wisniewski earned the left guard spot and played a big role in solidifying the Eagles' great offensive line. It didn't seem to really start clicking until he was inserted. (USA Today Images)
CB Jalen Mills
In his second season, Mills' play caught up with his confidence. The Eagles absolutely loved Mills' confidence as a rookie and that's why they began rotating him in and letting him play a lot. But in Year 2, Mills came in as a starter and never gave up his role. In fact, when Ronald Darby went down, Mills took over the left cornerback spot and played so well that the Birds didn't want to mess it up and put Darby on the right side when he returned. Mills didn't have an interception during his rookie season but picked up the first three of his career in 2017. With Darby under contract and with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas waiting for their opportunities, Mills' future isn't necessarily clear, but if he plays like this again in 2018, he's not leaving the field. (USA Today Images)
HC Doug Pederson
Well, it turns out Pederson might not have been the least qualified head coach in NFL history. He'll soon have a Super Bowl ring to prove it. During his first season, Pederson's moves were under a microscope, but he never let it affect his aggressiveness and that eventually served him really well. Everyone will always remember his decision to call the "Philly Special" but there were so many other times he pulled the right strings during the 2017 season. (USA Today Images)