The Eagles lost on Sunday, but unlike a good number of the team’s losses this season, the one-point loss to the Ravens felt like a moral victory (I personally believe in them!) in many ways.
Here are three things I feel really, really good about after Sunday:
Sunday’s loss highlighted Jeff Stoutland’s worth
With a backup left guard, the fifth option at right tackle, and a right guard struggling with anxiety problems so severe he’s missed two games this season, the Eagles ran 38 times for 169 yards against a Ravens defense that ranked in the Top 5 in the NFL against the run before Sunday.
Is that a good sign for the backup, or the right tackle, or the running backs carrying the ball? Probably all three. And Stefen Wisniewski isn’t likely to be back in 2017, nor is Ryan Mathews, but Isaac Seumalo certainly is. Doug Pederson said after Sunday’s game that Seumalo was banged up early on, and soldiered through the game anyway.
The rookie was far from perfect, of course. But the fact that Mathews & Co. were able to pile up the Eagles’ second-best rushing mark of the season with Seumalo at right tackle, where he hadn’t practiced since training camp before this week, and against such a stout front seven seems to speak volumes, both to the rookie who played, and to the offensive line coach in Jeff Stoutland who has, through a litany of suspensions and injuries, somehow conjured up a viable line in front of Carson Wentz and the run game.
Through 14 games this season, the Eagles are averaging nearly 113 yards per game on the ground. For a team with no true lead running back, and a slew of injuries — including a season-ender — to their rushers and offensive linemen, that’s a great sign. Imagine what they can do with a true feature back and the correct man at right tackle.
Carson Wentz is the shooter who keeps shooting
By most, if not all, accounts, Carson Wentz had a rough go on Sunday. He missed early, throwing possibly his worst interception of the year on the Eagles’ first drive. He succumbed to pressure, launched off his back foot, and failed to see what was a fairly visible linebacker step underneath his hot read. Things didn’t get too much better for the rest of the first half; Wentz only threw for 43 yards in the first 30 games minutes.
But the rookie quarterback showed the kind of resolve he’s shown all year long, and by jove if he didn’t engineer one of the most impressive drives of his very young career to nearly win it all in the closing minutes. He marched the Eagles 59 yards in 95 seconds, making a crucial throw to Zach Ertz and placing a great ball to Nelson Agholor which, if not for the called pass interference, probably would’ve been a touchdown.
And then he did this, scoring six points and bringing his within one against one of the most stout defenses in the NFL:
That’s exactly what the Eagles hoped they would see from Carson Wentz when they drafted him. He stands in the pocket and surveys his options. No one has found space in the end zone, so he peels off and realizes, hey, I’ve got a blocker to the left here. He and I can beat two Baltimore defenders because, surprise, Wentz is really darn athletic. He makes the one-two step move in open space that he used so often at North Dakota State, and ducks in for six points.
It’s a perfect encapsulation of what makes him so potentially great: good pocket presence, good decision making, and great athletic ability.
And the fact that he reeled off such a great play at such a crucial juncture in the game is just gravy.
The Eagles could grab a really good player in the first round
I tweeted this out just a few minutes after the Eagles’ loss on Sunday:
Because the Eagles and Vikings lost, and the Titans won, the Eagles’ first round pick bumps to No. 15.— Adam Hermann (@adamwhermann) December 18, 2016
It could actually be as high as No. 13; I couldn’t find a concrete strength of schedule ranking, so I’ll wait for the NFL.com draft order to come out later this week. But the Eagles are at least at No. 15 in April’s draft, which is incredibly good positioning considering they would otherwise not have a draft pick in the top 32 if not for the Sam Bradford trade.
If you take a look at the sampling of mock drafts around the internet, there are so many good players available in the top 15 that it’s not even funny. And with the quarterback position locked up for the Eagles for the rest of the decade, at least, they should get a good shot at cornerbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.
Just a sampling of some players who are very often available at No. 15 in current mock drafts:
Washington WR John Ross
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Florida CB Teez Tabor
Any three of those players would be huge gets for the Eagles. Ross has game-opening speed, Cook is an all-facets running back, and Tabor is a swaggering, physical corner with CB1 potential.
So, yeah. Good job, Howie Roseman. With likely solid positioning in Round 1, and the Eagles’ porous record ensuring a good spot in Round 2, the 2017 draft could be a huge moment for the future of the franchise as long as Roseman hits on his picks.