The Philadelphia Eagles are 4-1 after defeating the St. Louis Rams (Recap). There is a lot to discuss.
1) The Eagles have the best special teams unit in the entire NFL
I don't think this is hyperbole. We've pretty much seen the Eagles' special teams unit do it all just through four games. They can cover kicks/punts, return kicks punts, make long field goals, block field goals, block punts, and, most importantly, score touchdowns. This is a legitimately good unit. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has earned his pay check.
Now it's clear why head coach Chip Kelly stresses the importance of special teams in practice. And why the Eagles spent the second day of 2014 NFL free agency signing two special teams players in the form of Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman. And why special teams play factors in to the final roster cut decisions. Special teams matter, people.
By the way, Maragos' blocked punt for a touchdown against the Rams marked the first time in Eagles history the team has had a special teams touchdown in three consecutive games. Further, the last NFL team to block punts and return them for touchdowns in consecutive games was the Baltimore Ravens in 2002.
Philadelphia's investment in this sometimes-overlooked unit has really paid off.
2) Cedric Thornton deserves a long-term contract
Cedric Thornton was signed to an exclusive-rights free agent tender this offseason, which made sense for the Eagles. Thornton will be a restricted free agent following this season. The Eagles could opt to just tender him but it really makes sense for Philadelphia to offer him a long-term deal. Thornton is a great run stuffer. The big man recovered two fumbles against the Rams including one in the endzone for a touchdown.
3) Trent Cole not done yet
The Eagles' veteran pass rusher may not be the pass rushing threat he once was but he's still a productive player. Cole has already forced three fumbles this season, which imatches his total from last year and is only one shy of his career high set in 2007. Two of Cole's forced fumbles has been returned for touchdowns this season. Cole has recorded 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his last 14 games.
It's Trent Cole's birthday, by the way. Happy 32nd, Mr. Cole.
4) Riley Cooper isn't completely useless
How about that? Riley Cooper only finished with four receptions for 33 yards against the Rams and he certainly could have been better. But he was not completely useless. He made a spectacular leaping catch in the redzone for a touchdown at one point. Cooper has value to this team as a guy who can win on jump ball throws. In past weeks he likely would have dropped that catch. Cooper still needs to be better but his touchdown catch was a moment of redemption for his poor performance so far this year.
5) Philadelphia's offensive line could be worse
The Eagles have only allowed one sack in the last four weeks. That isn't to say they've been flawless in pass protection; they've allowed their fair share of pressure and hits. Still... one sack through four weeks. That could easily be a lot worse. Then again, it could be a lot better once the full-time starters return.
7) Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy are still struggling
Two of Philadelphia's most important players on the offensive side of the ball are struggling. Some of it is probably tied to the offensive line struggles, yes. They can't be completely absolved of blame, however. Both players had really bad fumbles. McCoy has yet to play one good game through five weeks. Foles has really played only one good game on five tries. The Eagles are 4-1, sure, but that's simply not good enough. Philadelphia is winning in spite of these two, not because of them. Both players are just lucky the Eagles defense and special teams units have been stepping up during their slumps.
8) New cornerbacks are needed
This is far from a revelation but the Eagles need to upgrade at the cornerback position this offseason. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher just aren't anything close to resembling top-tier starters. Philadelphia needs more talent at this position. The Eagles could always opt to play Brandon Boykin on the outside but who am I kidding? They've clearly expressed no interest in doing that.
9) What's to make of this team?
The Eagles are 4-1. But are they as good as their record indicates? That was the question asked following their win over the Rams. It's hard to say. Philadelphia sure doesn't look like an awful team. They don't look like a dominant team, either.
Prior to the game I wrote that the Eagles needed to take care of business against the Rams and win comfortably.
While I'm sure the Eagles will be happy with a win any way they can get it, it's really time for them to show they have the capability to beat teams big. Truly good teams manage to crush inferior opponents; not just barely slip by them. It's time to see if the Eagles are a truly good team.
The Eagles almost came close to achieving this goal. They got out to a 34-7 lead and looked like they were going to run away with the game. But it didn't happen. Philadelphia allowed a quick St. Louis score and then Nick Foles coughed up a costly fumble. Then they almost blew the game. Until they didn't.
The Eagles still have a lot to work on. They're far from a finished product. Don't forget that it wasn't until late last year that this team got really hot. If Philadelphia is already off to a 4-1 start and they haven't played their best football yet, that could be a sign of good things to come. But only if they can find a way to reach their potential.
10) It's Giants week
The New York Giants (3-2) are up next on Philadelphia's schedule. It goes without saying that it should be a good game. The G-Men are riding a three-game winning streak heading into this impending Week 6 match-up. If the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Seahawks in Seattle next week (which certainly seems possible), this game will be for control of first place in the NFC East. A win for the Birds would put them at 5-1 (2-0 in the NFC East) heading into their Week 7 bye. That's pretty good.
So, who's ready?