Fading expectations easier for Eagles fans

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Fading expectations easier for Eagles fans

Carson Wentz's torn ACL has, for many observers, ended the Eagles' Super Bowl chances. That injury coupled with shaky performances from Nick Foles has many fans resigned to another January failure.

It doesn't take an expert to explain the logic there. But allow me to find a potential positive out of the Wentz injury: The Eagles are no longer the favorite to go to the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia struggles with the emotional toll of being a favorite. Having lived in this area my entire life, I can't entirely explain this phenomenon but I know it's an absolute fact.

Back in 2011, as the 102-win Phillies tore through the National League en route to a fifth straight divisional title, I remember wondering how the fan base was going to handle postseason games with the win-or-else expectations that had been placed on that season. 

After the Game 4 loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS, I remember my colleague Marshall Harris discussing the value of Game 5 being played at Citizens Bank Park. I countered that the Phillies would be better served to play that game at any other stadium on the face of the Earth. Fingernails were the primary dish on the menu that evening. The Cardinals scored two batters into the game and the ballpark that had been a carnival for the previous five years transformed into a morgue. Who knows how a fan base frozen in the fear of a dynasty derailed affected the final score but it sure felt like it played a role.

So what does that have to do with the Eagles in 2018? Now the Birds find themselves in the rare position of being the top seed and potentially having two home games to get to the Super Bowl while wearing the moniker of underdog. (Cue the Rocky statue shots on the national broadcast.)

With that in mind, Eagles fans should be able to put aside any nervousness concerning the playoff games. Wentz's injury and youth take the sting out of any defeat at this point. 

There should be many more chances ahead with the kid from North Dakota playing quarterback. (Save the Dan Marino-related pessimism for another time.) 

It's now time for Philly fans to be what they always claim to be. If you're going to the game, throw yourself behind the team completely. Be loud. Disrupt the opponent. If things go poorly, get louder. Keep cheering. Provide home-field advantage.

Wentz's injury makes the risk minimal. The reward, however, could be super. 

As a wise man once said, we're from Philadelphia and we fight.

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

USA Today Images

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings


Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the Eagles' Super Bowl rings. How does it compare to what Barrett got with the Steelers championship winning team in 2006? How will the players spend these coming weeks off? And the guys get you ready for the weekend.

1:00 - Eagles get their rings.
5:00 - Should Gunner and Barrett have gotten rings?
8:30 - What are those parties like?
11:00 - How hard is it to move on from last year and look ahead?
13:00 - This is when Super Bowls are won.
15:00 - Guys get you ready for the weekend with some weird news stories over this week.

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