This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.
With the start of the NFL preseason only a week away, and then the regular season opener at Washington a scant 39 days in front of us, the strengths and weaknesses of the Eagles are becoming more apparent. Much will change when the games begin, but here is an analysis of the State Of The Eagles in early August …
- It’s clear to everyone watching that quarterback Carson Wentz has taken the leap the Eagles hoped he would take from Year 1 to Year 2 in his career. He’s been delivering the football with terrific zip and good accuracy for most of the spring and in the first week of Camp, he is better at reading defenses and at learning the nuances of the offense, and his place in the locker room is not questioned. Wentz is The Franchise and he’s extremely comfortable in that role. As I’ve said many times, Wentz is the complete package and he’s on the path for greatness. Wentz is, at this point in his career, the best quarterback the Eagles have had since I started covering the team in 1985 on a part-time basis and then in 1987 on a full-time basis.
- Having more weapons around him has certainly aided Wentz in his development. Alshon Jeffery is the real deal – his shoulder injury is not considered serious – and his ability to catch anything thrown in his vicinity helps a ton. Torrey Smith has looked explosive and he’s shown that deep-field speed the Eagles. There is some promising depth at wide receiver. The tight ends are really good. The running game, behind this good offensive line, could be punishing. The offense is way ahead of where it was at the end of last year.
- That said, the offense needs to be more consistent. That’s the challenge. Consistency and scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
- Yes, I’m buying that Nelson Agholor is a new man and a changed receiver. He looks very good in camp.
- Weaknesses on this team? I don’t anticipate a lot on offense. The defense, yes. There are some areas that need to step up. Cornerbacks, obviously. The Eagles are going to see how this plays out with the development of Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas and C.J. Smith and others. Jalen Mills has looked good in camp. Ron Brooks, the projected nickel corner, is making progress from his quad injury. Let’s see how the corners play in the preseason games. Then, the Eagles can evaluate around the league, weigh any trade options and be as creative as they need to be if they feel the need to add a corner.
- Depth at linebacker remains a question mark, but the truth is that when you only have one day of “live” action (there are three scheduled for all of camp) it’s really hard to evaluate the defense. Not just for me. Or for you. For the coaches and personnel department as well.
- A prediction: Wendell Smallwood will lead the Eagles in rushing yards and LeGarrette Blount will score 10-plus touchdowns. The feeling I get from the coaches is that they think the running game is going to have a very impactful season with an excellent offensive line in place.
- Vinny Curry is the key to the success of the defensive line. If he’s right, and he’s been fine in camp, then the Eagles have depth and energy and options at defensive end. If Curry is not right, the Eagles have Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. Steven Means is there as a situational pass rusher. Curry is the key between good and great with this defensive line.
- I haven’t seen enough from Joe Walker or Don Cherry to know who is the No. 2 middle linebacker at this point. The preseason games do have some meaning.
- If the Eagles want to make a trade at some point this summer, they’ve got some depth at … offensive line, for sure. Maybe even defensive line, depending on Curry’s progress. And, believe it or not, the Eagles are going to have some very tough decisions to make at wide receiver, which means, yeah, they have enough depth there to consider some options. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly the personnel staff, along with the coaching of Mike Groh, improved the wide receivers.
- Rasul Douglas is, predictably, so all over the place. He can look very good for stretches at a time, and then he can look like he was playing at Nassau Community College only a few seasons ago on the next play. He’s got a good upside and he’s improving, but in this league you have to be on point on every play and he’s working toward that.
- Early thoughts? The offense is ahead of the defense right now and has a chance to be very, very good. The defense has the obvious questions about the cornerback positions. The special teams should be excellent. The Eagles are going to be in position to win a lot of games this year. How they finish off those games in the fourth quarter is critical. The Eagles were 1-7 on the road last year and 2-7 in one-score games. Handle those key statistics and the Eagles are a playoff team.