The Eagles demolished the Steelers. It was a total beat down that showed us many things.
1 Carson Wentz is legit
“It was just the Browns.” Fair enough. “The Bears are bad too.” Hard to argue with that. The Steelers are actually good though, and three straight strong games by Wentz is impressive no matter who the opponent is. Pretty much every praise by the coaching staff of Wentz has rung true: Wentz has looked like an experienced quarterback, there hasn’t been a throw he’s had consistent difficultly making, and he seems to be learning from his mistakes. In his first two games he took too many hits, but today he wasn’t getting beat up. Some of that is a credit to the offensive line as well, they played better. Since hitting the ground running Wentz has only picked up speed. If there’s anything you can ding him on compared to the first two games it’s that he only had one “wow” throw, but it was pretty freaking good.
2 Doug Pederson is also looking legit
Three games, three excellent game plans and adjustments by Pederson and his staff. Pederson has done as good of a coaching job so far this season as anyone has. He’s prepared his teams extremely well, his play calling has been good, he’s been aggressive but not reckless and he has managed the clock well. Like Wentz, you could downplay the success against bad teams prior to today. But after three consistent games it is looking more and more like Doug Pederson is a good coach. With a good QB. Those are the two main ingredients for having a consistently good team.
3 The defense is ridiculous
We knew the Eagles would have a good defense just from the strength of the front seven, safeties and Jim Schwartz. But they’re exceeding even their own high expectations. They gave up 3 points to perhaps the best offense in football. They’ve given up just two touchdowns in three games, which is absurd. Even more absurd is that none of them have come in the air against a secondary that has yet to play a full game with everyone healthy. They have given up a few big passing plays, but the staff and the players have made the adjustments and cleaned up in the second half in every game.
4 The whole freaking team is good
Three games, three double digit wins, and one of them was a no doubt about it spanking of a team widely considered to be among the best in the league. Sure, upsets happen, such as the Bills blowing out the Cardinals. But the Bills were 0-2, because the Bills are not a good team. The Eagles are looking like they’re a legitimately good team. There are flaws and places to improve, but the Eagles have been strong in all areas: they pass the ball well, they are running hard, they stop the run and the pass, and special teams have been good. If there are smoke and mirrors, it’s a hell of a show.
5 It’s time to change expectations
In August, competing for an uncompetitve NFC East title was a realistic goal. When Sam Bradford was traded, those expectations were shelved and a season of growing pains was expected. No more. The Eagles have finished the first month of the season and it’s time to change our expectations for the rest of the year. A 6-10 season would now be a huge disappointment, as would merely competing for the NFC East. We should consider this team to be the front runner for a playoff spot. They destroyed the Steelers, who destroyed the Redskins, who barely beat the Giants, who barely beat the Cowboys. They have the best defense in the division, by a huge margin. And so far, they have the best quarterback and coach in it too.
6 Youth is being served
Carson Wentz is the mayor of Philadelphia, but he’s not the only rookie who had a good game. In the offseason the coaching staff said they see Wendell Smallwood as a future “#1” running back. Against a stout Steelers run defense, he looked the part. He gained 79 yards on 17 attempts, good for 4.6 yards per carry against a defense averaging 3.4. He had four runs of 10 or more yards, showing good speed and vision. If Ryan Mathews will be out for an extended period of time, the Eagles should be okay. And despite having a bad game, Jalen Mills continues to stand firm after getting targeted often and early by a veteran QB. Any rookie cornerback is going to have his struggles, especially one drafted in the 7th round like Mills was. But plenty of other young CBs would have cratered after his first half and been a liability all game long. Along with a stud in the first round, the Eagles might have a couple of good late round players.
7 Party like it’s.... *In The Year 2000*
When Doug Pederson was hired to bring back the Andy Reid era, we expected this year to resemble the 1999 season. Instead it’s more like the 2000 season: hot start, outstanding defense, great coaching and a QB coming into his own. Doug Pederson is quickly becoming his own coach but if you want to make comparisons with Reid and his teams, make them with an accelerated timeline.
8 But don’t party too hard
I know I just said that we need to change and raise expectations for this team, but there’s an off-script game coming sooner rather than later. In each game the first half was fairly close, and then the defense took over while playing with the lead and the offense ground the clock down. But that was with no offensive turnovers and no big plays for a touchdown given up by the defense. At some point they’re going to turn the ball over, and do so in the first half. At some point a team is going to score early on the defense.
9 Jason Kelce’s struggles are real
It wasn’t all roses though. Jason Kelce continues to play poorly, though he looked a little better this week. But Kelce’s struggles are now a multi-year thing, we’re past it being cause for concern and into it actually being a concern, particularly with a Lane Johnson suspension looming.
10 We’re running out of things to learn, and that’s good
The Eagles have been so consistent that there haven’t been too many surprises from a micro level. Carson Wentz is good, the skill positions players are better than last year but not confidence inspiring, the front seven is strong and the CBs are not, and the coaching staff continues to do well. And you know what? That’s great. Consistency is huge.
11 The Eagles are alone in first place
The Giants lost to the Redskins, so the 3-0 Eagles are your sole leaders of the NFC East entering the bye. Enjoy next weekend off.