7 reasons the Eagles will return to the Super Bowl this season

7 reasons the Eagles will return to the Super Bowl this season

Eagles players officially report to training camp today, with the first practice of the 2019 season set for Thursday.

It’s a time of optimism all across the league, though for this particular team, only a year removed from winning the Super Bowl, the feeling is legit. Here’s why the Eagles will be a trendy pick to return to the big game.

Carson Wentz is back

Questions about whether Wentz is injury prone aren’t going away until he makes it through 16 games, or at least finishes the season. He enters 2019 healthy — 100 percent removed from the torn ACL that limited him last summer and caused him to miss the first two games, and past the back injury that eventually ended his campaign.

Anticipate better mobility. Anticipate better timing in the offense and in the red zone. Anticipate a better rapport with receivers. Anticipate Wentz, now in his fourth year in the system, improving in multiple facets, one season removed from an MVP campaign, having completing 69.6 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt with 21 touchdowns to 7 interceptions while playing hurt last season. Then try to tell anybody the Eagles won’t be a better team in 2019.

No offense is more loaded

Does any offense in the NFC, nay, in the entire NFL possess as much talent as the Eagles? DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have all been named to multiple Pro Bowls. Wentz, Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery were each invited to one. Nelson Agholor posted back-to-back 60-catch, 700-yard seasons, Dallas Goedert caught five touchdowns (including playoffs) in his first year and Miles Sanders is considered a viable Rookie of the Year contender.

I could go on — Andre Dillard, JJ Arcega-Whiteside anyone? — which is a thought that should keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. They’re deep across the board, and they’re good.

Fletcher Cox has help

Quick, name an interior lineman other than Cox who played at least 40 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2019.

Can’t do it? That’s because said player did not exist. A washed Haloti Ngata was the closest at 35 percent, followed by Treyvon Hester (22 percent), who’s currently battling for a roster spot; Destiny Vaeao (15 percent), who’s already gone; and Bruce Hector (8 percent), a long shot to be here in September. Yet Cox managed to produce by far his most dominant season to date alongside that crew with 10.5 sacks, 34 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss.

The Eagles signed 2017 Pro Bowler Malik Jackson in free agency and brought back Tim Jernigan as well. After watching what Cox did pretty much single-handedly, imagine the level of pressure this trio can put in signal callers’ faces now.

Incredible depth on the back end

The Eagles turned their season around in 2018 largely with Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Cre'Von LeBlanc playing cornerback, and some combination of Tre Sullivan and Corey Graham in one safety spot. All return except for Graham (fortunately), as do Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rodney McLeod from injury. Not only did the young players get great experience, they can push the people who are supposed to be high-level starters.

Meanwhile, Nigel Bradham reclaims the primary linebacker role, but Kamu Gruger-Hill and Nate Gerry have company for the other spots in experienced veterans Zach Brown and L.J. Fort. Jordan Hicks is gone, but he was constantly in and out of the lineup anyway.

Injuries or no, both units are stronger now than a year ago.

Better health

True, the Eagles will be without Brooks and Ronald Darby when training camp opens — though there’s a “legit possibility” the latter is ready Week 1. Regardless, the absence of two players, maybe for only a portion of the summer, is a far cry from the list of players who were unavailable last summer. Wentz, Jeffery, Agholor, Peters and Brandon Graham were among the prominent Eagles who missed the entire preseason, while Wentz and Jeffery were out into September.

The team’s overall health didn’t improve much from there, with Jay Ajayi, Sproles, Mike Wallace, Lane Johnson, Derek Barnett, Jernigan, Hicks, McLeod, Jones, Mills and Darby among the many who missed games. Sure, horrible injury luck could strike again in 2019, but at the very least it’s unlikely to reoccur to quite that degree.

Coaching staff stability

Last year at this time, the Eagles were figuring out how to cope with the loss of not one but two great offensive minds. Mike Groh was finding his way as a first-time offensive coordinator in the NFL after one year as the club’s wide receivers coach, replacing Jim Reich in that role, while Press Taylor went from an inexperienced quality control coach into Jim DeFilippo’s shoes running the quarterback room.

Groh and Taylor both return in their respective jobs, with Groh in particular battling back from mid-season questions about his preparedness for the role. The jury is still out on whether either is better than their predecessor, though just having a year to get acquainted with their positions will no doubt help.

Of course, the Eagles do have a new wide receivers coach in 2019 in Carson Walch. Yet, that marks the fifth year in a row for a change there — and it wasn’t a problem during the run up to the last Super Bowl.

Tremendous leadership at every level

Naturally there have been departures, but the core of the team that brought a world championship to Philadelphia 17 months ago is still intact. Another year older, of course, but what the Eagles have lost in declining skill, they make up for with one of the best locker rooms in the league.

Kelce. Peters. Graham. Malcolm Jenkins. Ertz. Cox. Bradham. Sproles. Wentz. And those are just the names that stand out. In truth, the Eagles are blessed with leaders at every level of the roster — in most cases, multiple — guys who are vocal in the media, and guys who simply lead by example. And not only does this group know how to be professional and know how to build a family atmosphere, but they know what it takes to go the distance, too.

The Eagles have the talent to compete too, but come January, that experience is what’s going to be the difference.

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More on the Eagles

Ominous injury news for Alshon Jeffery

Ominous injury news for Alshon Jeffery

Updated: 4:20 p.m.

The Eagles’ wide receiving corps, already in shambles, is now without Alshon Jeffery, who reportedly suffered a season-ending injury in the win over the Giants Monday night.

The oft-injured Jeffery was carted off the field after suffering a non-contact injury in the ankle or Achilles area early in the second quarter.

Head coach Doug Pederson declined to specify exactly what the injury is at his day-after presser, but he did say it’s “more significant” than a week-to-week injury. At this point in the season, it's no surprise that this is a season-ending injury for the 29-year-old Jeffery.

Pederson said he was waiting for more test results later Monday before saying anything more definitive, but it didn't sound good.

He did allow that, “We have to do a course of action, a plan, with him here pretty soon probably,” which presumably means placing Jeffery on Injured Reserve and figuring out how to replace him.

Jeffery's season ends after he played just 10 games. He finished with 43 catches for 490 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

Complicating matters is the continued absence of Nelson Agholor, the Eagles’ other starting wide receiver. He missed the Giants game with a knee injury he suffered in the Dolphins game a week ago, and Pederson said there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to play against the Redskins.

“That one’s still up in the air,” he said. “We’ve just got to continue to work through his injury and where he’s at and continue to have conversations with him and see where he is prior to this week.”

With Jeffery out and Agholor’s status unknown, the Eagles have just two healthy wide receivers — J.J. Arcega Whiteside and Greg Ward, who have 19 combined career catches. Tight end Josh Perkins, who can also play in the slot, has 13 career receptions.

Things got so bad Sunday the Eagles were preparing backup quarterback Josh McCown to play wide receiver when Arega-Whiteside left the game. McCown played some receiver with the Lions in 2006. He’s now 40.

Most likely, the Eagles will add one and perhaps two wide receivers this week. Marken Michel, Marcus Green and Robert Davis are on the practice squad, and Jordan Matthews is always on Howie Roseman’s speed dial.

This late in the season it's difficult to bring in somebody from outside who hasn't been in this offense either in training camp or during the season.

“We definitely have a couple guys on practice squad if we have to make a move,” Pederson said. “Obviously, we could look outside the building if we need to. But we’re going to work through that today and try to get something in place here pretty quick. We’re back on the field (Tuesday).”

Jeffery has been in and out of the lineup with injuries for much of the last two years. The one-time Bears Pro Bowler had only 43 catches for 490 yards and four TDs in 10 games this year.

Pederson said right tackle Lane Johnson is week-to-week with a sprained ankle. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who finished the game Monday night at right tackle, will start against the Redskins Sunday. Pederson didn’t have a timetable on Johnson’s possible return.

The rest of the injury news was a little more positive.

Rookies Arcega-Whiteside and Miles Sanders, who both missed snaps Monday night, are “fine,” according to Pederson.

Cornerback Jalen Mills, who hurt his elbow, “should be OK,” Pederson said: “The only thing you’ll see probably is a brace on his elbow. Other than that he’s good.”

More on the Eagles

Carson Wentz reveals his baby’s gender in classic Carson Wentz style

Carson Wentz reveals his baby’s gender in classic Carson Wentz style

Did we expect anything less from Carson Wentz?

If you haven’t been following our beloved quarterback’s personal life, Carson Wentz and his wife Madison announced on Thanksgiving morning that they are expecting their first child. 

On Tuesday, Wentz posted an Instagram video from their gender reveal party, where the couple found out the sex of their baby in the most Wentz way possible — by throwing a football full of colored powder into the air and skeet shooting it down to reveal the colored powder.

The football doesn’t lie. It’s a girl! 

Baby Girl Wentz is due this spring and we can’t wait. Let’s begin the name guessing now.