The Philadelphia Eagles could have lost half their roster from Super Bowl LII, and the City of Brotherly Love would not have missed a beat in entering 2018 with an unmatched level of hope.
That’s what a Lombardi Trophy does.
The Eagles didn’t lose half their roster, though. They just improved it.
Unlike the Los Angeles Rams, they didn’t have to spend this offseason making “Dream Team” moves to capitalize on a window in which money can be spent anywhere and everywhere — a hit-or-miss shot at winning it all before it’s time to pay the quarterback. That, of course, is because the Eagles already won it all, and they already made dream-come-true moves.
But while it’s fair to marvel at the Rams, it’s also silly to suggest that more than a few teams — if that — can go pound for pound with the Eagles just from an offensive perspective. Philly’s championship may have come in the 2017 season, but if you don’t look at the Eagles as presently built and think there’s a good — maybe great — chance that 2018 will be even better for their offense, you must be kidding yourself.
Position by position, they are absolutely one of the NFL’s best:
If QB rooms were rated solely on their character, this one would easily top the NFL. Depending on Carson Wentz’s health, it still might. You can nitpick his mobility because of its injury risk (but only if you do it for Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, too), and you can worry he’ll either revert to rookie-year mechanics or never be the same after his ACL tear. But what you can’t do is deny that, in the Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl-winning season, Wentz was anything but a true MVP candidate — a poised, polished and consistently dynamic leader with the looks and production of a top-five QB. And in a league where quarterback is valued above all, how is that alone not enough reason to maintain hope in another title run?
If that doesn’t suit your fancy, maybe Nick Foles will. Never before has a reigning Super Bowl MVP returned to the same team on the bench, but the postseason hero gives the Eagles unmatched depth. He’s nowhere near as athletic as Wentz, but his arm and toughness are dependable when it matters most. Even if No. 11 has hiccups in his return, a Foles-led team would be built to succeed considering the supporting cast.
Teams that might be better: Packers, Patriots, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers
This group might be the most underrated of the bunch. And it starts with Jay Ajayi, who, if not for some knee pain and a certain Dolphins coach blaming him for most of the problems on a 6-10, Jay Cutler-led Miami offense, might be getting buzz as a bigger NFC East home-run threat than even Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott — which he most certainly was in 2017. Including the playoffs, Ajayi averaged just 11 carries per game after arriving on Halloween, and yet, with his numbers projected over a full season, he would’ve just barely missed 1,000 yards. That means every time he touched the ball as an Eagle, he had a legitimate chance of breaking loose. Fumbles and durability are things to watch, but he’s Philly’s closest thing to a big-play RB since LeSean McCoy, and he’s got no shortage of help in the backfield.
It’s easy to overlook or cast doubt on Darren Sproles since he missed most of 2017, but that’s, well, foolish. If he’s even 75 percent of what he was before, he’s easily among the league’s better change-of-pace veterans — a tiny titan who should feast on short throws out of the backfield.
Throw in Super Bowl star Corey Clement, and you’ve got jacked-up relief for Sproles — a guy who, including the playoffs, averaged 6.2 yards per touch as a rookie.
The Eagles may carry a fourth back, but from No. 1 on down, there are probably already too many talented bodies to use, and that’s a dangerous recipe for a team that thrived off coach Doug Pederson’s creative alignments a year ago.
Teams that might be better: Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons, Rams, Saints, Steelers
Big-ticket acquisition Alshon Jeffery may have started slow, but if catching nine touchdowns and going off for 219 yards and three scores in the playoffs is considered “average,” then “average” is what every NFL wide receiver should strive for. He’s never going to blow past corners like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr., but Jeffery is, at worst, a mid-tier No. 1.
Barring an astronomical reversion to his mental miscues of 2016, Nelson Agholor might quietly be one of the game’s most explosive slot WRs, and if that sounds crazy, please re-watch the way he owned the red zone and glided through top pass defenses like Minnesota (19.7 yards per catch) and Seattle (141 yards) in 2017.
Besides being the obvious steal of the 2018 WR market, Mike Wallace not only fills the deep-threat role vacated by Torrey Smith but enhances it. He’s no longer in his prime, but he doesn’t need to be in an offense so deep, and his top-tier speed complements Jeffery’s possession game to a tee.
Beyond the top three, take or leave contributions from Mack Hollins, who was a reliable rookie and has all the tools to be in the rotation; and any of the names competing for reserve duties. Because even more elite receiving options can be found at tight end.
Teams that might be better: Chargers, Giants, Falcons, Lions, Rams, Saints, Steelers, Vikings
If Wentz only had Ajayi, Sproles and Jeffery from the previous groups, he’d still be working with enough talent to log Pro Bowl numbers. But one of his favorite targets is Zach Ertz, and truthfully, he’s probably the best of them all. Ertz “breaking out” was once a running joke because of the veteran’s penchant for early-season slumps, but now, there’s no doubt he’s on par with Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce — without Kelce’s penalties and without Gronk’s shenanigans. Throw him the ball, and he will catch it. No one except Ertz is working off three straight seasons with at least 74 receptions, and he’s only getting better.
Second-round draft pick Dallas Goedert is obviously unproven, but he was hyped as a virtual Ertz clone — with more acrobatic catches — coming out of college. If he’s anything close to what Ertz was when he was a rookie, the Eagles should have one heck of a two-tight end red-zone package.
Former Green Bay Packers backup Richard Rodgers may be a standard-level reserve, but he’s been there, done that with the red-zone role (8 TDs in 2015) if Goedert is slow to emerge.
Teams that might be better: Chiefs, Patriots
Remember when everyone talked about the Cowboys O-line, like, all the time? The real question, now, is: Have you seen the Eagles’ line? The Saints, Steelers and Falcons — and maybe even Dallas (just don’t lose Tyron Smith!) probably own some of the NFL’s steadiest trenches. But there’s just no way Philly’s maulers are far behind, if behind at all.
Left tackle Jason Peters may be old, and he may be returning from injury, but people assumed the perennial Pro Bowler was done before, and that ended with ... another Pro Bowl. Even if he’s again reduced to locker-room leader because of an unforeseen slip-up, Halapoulivaati Vaitai looked more than competent when the lights were brightest, keeping Foles upright vs. Minnesota’s vaunted defense in the NFC title game and then the Patriots’ pass rush in the Super Bowl. At worst, he’s adequate, a rare description for this group.
Stefen Wisniewski is about as solid as they come at left guard, and if his playoff push was any indication, he’s probably underrated from a national perspective.
Jason Kelce’s size and snaps were of concern after 2016, but he bulldozed his way back to Pro Bowl form alongside Wiz and right guard Brandon Brooks, who gives the interior some beef. When Kelce is on the move, in fact, there might not be more than a few linemen better him in all of football, and that’s not hyperbole if you’ve seen him outrunning RBs downfield.
And then, at right tackle, there’s perhaps the best of the bunch in Lane Johnson. The suspension history is dicey, but No. 65 has made a rapid ascent in the last two or so years. Elite edge rushers hardly dented his right-side wall, and like Kelce, he’s deadly on the move, making him among the consensus top RTs in the NFL.
Teams that might be better: Cowboys, Falcons, Saints, Steelers