Each Wednesday, the SB Nation NFL team sites explore a special theme. This week's theme is: “What I didn’t expect from the Eagles this season.”
Answer: almost everything.
Seriously, though, there have been so many unexpected things about this Eagles team this season. It’s impossible to just pick one.
With that in mind, here’s a list of unexpected things.
Doug Pederson — Pederson was ranked as THE worst coach in the NFL after being hired in 2016. Prior to this season, a former NFL general manager called him the least qualified head coach in the last 30 years of the NFL. Pederson has proved everyone wrong by becoming a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate and arguably one of the better play-callers in the league.
Carson Wentz — If Sam Bradford didn’t get traded prior to the 2016 season, there’s a chance Wentz wouldn’t have started until this year. Wentz did play as a rookie, however, and he showed reason for both optimism and concern along the way. Now he’s a freaking MVP candidate in just his second season. He’s joined Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as the only two quarterbacks to ever have 28 touchdowns (or more) and only five interceptions (or fewer) in the first 11 games.
Nelson Agholor — I thought it made sense for the Eagles to just trade him in the offseason for a conditional seventh-round pick in order to get his contract off the books. Whoops! Agholor has gone from being ... literally the worst wide receiver in the NFL ... to an effective slot receiver who has recorded six receiving touchdowns this season.
Running back — The entire running back position has been a pleasant surprise. They’ve been aided by a great offensive line, for sure, but the backs deserve credit as well. LeGarrette Blount was being mentioned as a surprise cut possibility this summer. Now he’s leading the team in rushing yards. Corey Clement looked like a practice squad candidate. Now he’s second on the team in rushing yards. Oh, and he’s scored SIX touchdowns. Even Kenjon Barner, who wasn’t signed until Darren Sproles suffered a season-ending injury, has been able to contribute to this team. He won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in his first game back. He also made a big impact in the Eagles’ game against Dallas despite only playing two snaps.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai — With Jason Peters going down, there was serious concern about his replacement. But Big V’s name has hardly even been called since he’s taken over at left tackle. The Eagles’ offense hasn’t really missed a beat. They’re still putting up a ton of points each week.
Stefen Wisniewski — After Isaac Seumalo struggled mightily at left guard, Wis stepped up (as part of a rotation, at first) and the offensive line has been fine ever since. It’s kind of crazy how simple of a fix that ended up being.
Jason Kelce — After two rough years, it looked like Kelce’s best football was behind him. There was talk the Eagles might cut or trade him. But now he’s regained Pro Bowl form. Pro Football Focus actually ranks him as the best center in the league.
Mychal Kendricks — Not unlike Kelce, Kendricks was rumored to be traded or cut. He didn’t play much in 2016 and even when he did, he didn’t play well. Now he’s been one of the team’s better defenders. Crazy.
Cornerback — This position was supposed to be the Eagles’ biggest weakness. For most of the season, however, the Eagles corners have held up just fine. In Patrick Robinson’s case, he’s been one of the best slot corners in the NFL. Robinson has also contributed on the outside as well. PFF rates him as the No. 1 overall corner, which is insane. Speaking of PFF, they rated Jalen Mills as THE worst cornerback in 2016. Now he’s proven to be a capable starter, at worst. Rookie corner Rasul Douglas has stepped up when needed. Ronald Darby was able to fight back from a Week 1 injury that looked like it could’ve ended his season (not to mention the Eagles’ season as well). This group has been such a surprise that Philly’s second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Sidney Jones, has kind of become irrelevant as far as this season goes. There’s just no reason to rush him back right now.
Vinny Curry — Couldn’t get on the field last year over an ineffective Connor Barwin. Always seemed vulnerable against the run. Now he’s suddenly a good run stopper as a starter for this team.
Jake Elliott — The Eagles only signed him off the Bengals’ practice squad because Caleb Sturgis got hurt. And then less than two weeks later he was drilling a game-winning 61-yard field goal. Incredible.
Kamu Grugier-Hill — Kamu went from being a hype man (one of the guys who dumped Gatorade on Doug Pederson after Week 1, and one of the guys who carried Elliott off the field in Week 3) to an emergency kickoff specialist. And he did it damn well despite having no previous formal kicking experience! How?
Again, this season as a whole has been a great unexpected surprise. I really felt like this was a 9-7 or 10-6 team this season. Now they’re already at 10 wins through 11 games. And we’re seeing projections like this:
Eagles chances— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 29, 2017
First round bye: 84.6%
No. 1 seed: 64.7%
Super Bowl appearance: 40%
Win Super Bowl: 24.4%@fboutsiders
It’s been a fun ride so far. Here’s hoping the Eagles can keep it going.