Eagles

Eagles not ready to say they're back to Super Bowl form … yet

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Eagles not ready to say they're back to Super Bowl form … yet

The Eagles are back in the thick of the playoff race and coming off their most impressive win of the season, depending who you ask.

Just don’t get too excited yet. The Eagles aren’t.

“We're not there yet, but we're getting close,” Doug Pederson said when asked if the Eagles’ season was starting to turn around after Monday’s victory, their first back-to-back wins in 2018.

After beating Washington, the Eagles remain one game back of Dallas for first place in the NFC East ahead of this Sunday’s head-to-head. Suddenly, the wild-card picture is wide open as well, leaving two potential paths back to the playoffs.

It’s also how they won. The Eagles’ 436 total yards of offense were a season-best, and 28 points their second-highest total this year and most in six games. Similarly, Washington’s 235 yards were a season-low for the Eagles’ defense, and 13 points surrendered their stingiest effort in six games.

All good signs, but not nearly enough to convince coaches and players the team has rounded back into Super Bowl form.

“We’re a long way from that, I promise you,” Lane Johnson said.

Turning a corner, at least?

“I don’t know,” Jason Kelce said. “I don’t want to say that.”

Can you blame them? Much was made over winning back-to-back games for the first time, capped by the first comfortable win since October. Yet, look at the level of competition they’ve faced, and it’s easy to see why there is cautious optimism.

A come-from-behind win over the lowly Giants does not instill a ton of confidence. Beating Washington with a third-string quarterback and a patchwork offensive line — both units comprised largely of men who weren’t on NFL rosters a month ago — isn’t very inspiring, either.

The Eagles know this, which is why the true test awaits in Dallas.

“We’ll see after this week,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We understand where we are as far the season. No bigger game than this one coming up, so while we’re excited about putting two wins together, we don’t take care of business this week, it’s all for naught.”

None of which is to suggest the developments over the last two weeks aren’t promising. The Eagles were finding ways to lose situations like the Giants game earlier in the season and did exactly what good teams are supposed to do to damaged teams like Washington’s.

There appears to be a difference in confidence and demeanor, perhaps because the team is beginning to get healthy.

“You’re always playing nicked up," Kelce said, "but shortened offseason combined with the quarterback missing an entire offseason with the starting unit, left tackle coming off of an ACL injury, a bunch of guys coming off of late injuries, it’s hard from a chemistry standpoint.”

Kelce stressed injuries were no excuse, although it does seem to be a common denominator.

“I don’t know if we’re turning the corner, but we’re starting to run a little bit,” Johnson said. “I don’t know where we’re going, but I think we’re going in the right direction as far as we have guys coming back from injuries.”

Maybe the Eagles will revert back to Super Bowl form yet this season. All we know is the team isn’t there right now, with a huge game against the rival Cowboys looming.

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Eagles Mailbag: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

Eagles Mailbag: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

The offseason marches on with your questions. 

I already answered your first bunch, including questions on Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi and running backs in the draft. Now, it’s time for Part 2 of 3. 

Let’s get to it: 

I got a few questions about Nate Sudfeld this week and I certainly understand why. He’s now the Eagles’ backup quarterback and Carson Wentz has finished the last two seasons on the shelf. I think there are legitimate reasons for concern. From the time the Eagles got Sudfeld, I thought he was a possible QB2. The problem here is that he is unproven; we haven’t seen much of him outside of summer practices and minimal game action. It’s somewhat of a gamble for a team with Super Bowl aspirations to go into a season with an unproven backup, especially because of Wentz’s injury history. 

But, to be clear, I like what I’ve seen from Sudfeld. He seems to be pretty athletic and has a big arm. The Eagles have shown how much they like him at every turn. This is one of those situations where I’m skeptical, but just kind of trust their evaluation. 

I don’t think the Curry signing affects Long’s decision as much as it tells us the Eagles are preparing for the possibility Long isn’t back. You have to remember, Curry can play inside and outside, so he might not take as many reps from Long as you think. We’ll see what happens soon with the draft. Long has said he doesn’t want to return as just a locker room guy and a high draft pick would take even more playing time away from him. The Eagles should hope he returns, though. Even at his age, he’s still a productive pass rusher. 

This is one of the big ideas I want to ask Doug Pederson about next week at the owners meetings. The Eagles now have a bunch of different pass catching options. They have a really talented trio of receivers to go along with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Even though Goedert is a really impressive young player, it’s hard to imagine he would be left out at times. The Eagles didn’t trade for DeSean Jackson to sit him on the bench and they aren’t pay Nelson Agholor over $9 million this season to be a spectator. And Alshon Jeffery is going to play. 

It’s a good problem to have, but Pederson needs to figure out a way to get everyone involved. It might be a nightmare for fantasy football owners, though, because I think the game plan will change based on the matchups from week to week. Some weeks they’ll go heavy 11 personnel, but I wouldn’t rule out heavy 12 personnel with Ertz and Goedert on the field sometimes too. 

I don’t. I do agree that running back and linebacker are their two most pressing needs, but I just wouldn’t use a top pick on a linebacker. Maybe they’ll surprise me, but I think it’s much more likely they leave the first two days of the draft with a running back instead of a linebacker. I still believe the Eagles will use No. 25 on a lineman (offense or defense) and will then look at running back with one of their second-round picks. I think they use a Day 3 pick on a linebacker unless they really think they found tremendous value. 

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Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Taken individually, all the Eagles’ moves so far this offseason make sense. 

Taken as a whole, they raise concern whether the Eagles are getting too old. More specifically, whether Howie Roseman is committing too many dollars to guys on the back end of their careers.

Jason Peters got another year. He’s 37. Jason Kelce got another year and is now signed through 2021. He’s 31. Brandon Graham got a pretty big three-year deal. He turns 31 in a couple weeks.

DeSean Jackson got a sizable contract for a guy who’s 32. Andrew Sendejo is 31. Vinny Curry turns 31 this summer. 

I’ve got no problem with any of the moves taken apart from the others. But the analytics make it pretty clear that older guys are more likely to get hurt or see their production diminish dramatically. 

We saw it last year with guys like Peters, Darren Sproles, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. 

Now, young guys get hurt too, but the older you are as a team, the more you’re at risk. And when those older guys have high cap figures, it makes it tough to function when they start missing time.

According to pro sports salary cap tracker Spotrac, the Eagles had the 17th-oldest team in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, and the ninth-oldest team last year, when they advanced a round deep in the playoffs. 

Today — and obviously rosters are nowhere near settled — the Eagles have the fifth-oldest team in the NFL.

The Eagles’ nucleus is guys in that 28-to-32 range. Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce, Nigel Bradham, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Jackson, Graham, Malik Jackson. 

Who are their best players under 28? Carson Wentz is 26, Nelson Agholor is 25, their promising young defensive backs like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are all in their early 20s. Derek Barnett is only 22. 

But there are question marks about every one of them.

This is why Roseman, Joe Douglas and Co. have to nail this draft and the next couple drafts. This is a roster that really needs an infusion of young talent. 

When this current group of veteran stars moves on, who takes over?

Roseman has had only three drafts since being returned to power, and he’s taken only six guys in the first three rounds. Of that group, Wentz is a certified Pro Bowler and a star, although he still needs to show he can stay healthy. 

And Dallas Goedert certainly seems like a stud. 

But the others — Barnett, Jones, Isaac Seumalo and Douglas — are works in progress.

The Eagles have found one Pro Bowl defensive player in their last 13 drafts, and that was Cox in 2012. 

Their draft record has been better on offense, but the Lane Johnson/Ertz draft is now six years old.

The Eagles aren’t in the danger zone. Not yet. But things change quickly in the NFL and teams that can’t keep up in terms of young talent inevitably fall by the wayside.

The Eagles have three of the first 57 picks in next month’s draft, and as of now they have their own picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, plus two 5’s in addition to the compensatory picks they’re stockpiling.

So the opportunity is there to get younger. To get faster and more durable. To find the talent to remain a perennial contender for a deep postseason run.

Right now, the Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. I see them as a legit Super Bowl contender.

But in the next few years, the face of the Eagles will change dramatically. 

To remain competitive, to remain elite, they need stars to emerge once guys like Peters, Graham, Jenkins, Jackson and Kelce either move on, retire or experience a downturn in their productiveness.

All they have to do is find them.

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