I didn’t expect to be here.
I didn’t expect to feel encouraged about the Philadelphia Eagles heading into the 2021 NFL season.
Can you blame me?
Yes, you can, and you did when you asserted that I was being “too negative” about this team.
But I don’t regret the skepticism I had and still continue to hold to some extent. The Eagles lost the right to the benefit of the doubt following a mess of their own creation in the form of the 2020 season. And they have much to prove moving forward.
How bright this team’s future remains to be seen. It can’t be merely assumed they’re a year or two from being a legitimate Super Bowl favorite.
What’s undeniable, though, is that there are positive vibes surrounding the Birds heading into 2021.
What does that mean in terms of wins and losses, exactly? I don’t know. But I do know that you don’t want to be in a situation like the Eagles were in last year. The bad vibes were all too apparent.
Carson Wentz was coming off a low key bad training camp. Doug Pederson was getting burnt out. Zach Ertz was beefing with Howie Roseman in practice ahead of Week 1. Jason Peters was demanding a raise to play a different position. Injury issues caused seven of the starters to miss the season opener. COVID-19 was preventing close bonding.
None of that BS seems to be apparent this year.
Instead, the Eagles are coming off a pretty successful training camp. A number of young players (Josh Sweat, Jordan Mailata, Quez Watkins) took steps forward in their development. Jalen Hurts finished the summer strong. The Birds were the better and more energetic team in all four of their joint training camp practices. Major injury issues were avoided.
The preseason games were rough, to be sure. But it’s not like the Eagles’ starters were playing in those. If anything is to be taken from those, it could be that Philly lacks quality depth. Which shouldn’t be surprise coming off a 4-11-1 season.
On the whole, it just feels like this team has some positive momentum working in their favor.
Admittedly, this feeling can change quickly. Good vibes go out the window if the Eagles get soundly defeated by the Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
It’s also possible I’m just too hopped up on hopium after watching such a bad 2020 campaign. And the reality is the Eagles have a lower bar to clear with expectations being so low. If they’re not a great team, well, that much was expected. Watching them merely be “decent” will be a significant upgrade.
Staying true to my skeptical self, I’d be remiss not to mention I still have reservations about the Eagles’ long-term outlook even if 2021 ends on a positive note. Zach Berman previously made a good point that Howie Roseman has been good at building teams. 2013 and 2016 stand out as examples in his favor. The challenge for him, however, has been maintaining success. Not an easy thing to do in such a parity-filled league, to be sure. But this is the “gold standard” we’re talking about.
That’s a discussion for another day, though. We can cross that bridge when we get there. For now, there’s optimism in the air.
I don’t suddenly think the Eagles are going to be a double-digit win team. I do feel better about my 8-9 record prediction, which I originally felt like I went high on, that I made back in May. I could even see them topping out at 9-8.
Accepting that they’re likely not going to win a championship, the final record isn’t the only thing that matters this season. As Kevin Kinkead wisely phrased it, this Eagles season is a “fact-finding mission.” The team has a lot to learn about when it comes to Nick Sirianni, Jalen Hurts, and other young players who could be part of this team’s core for years to come.
How it plays out? That much remains unclear. But it could be fun to see, especially when there are positive vibes at the start.
A man once said “Hope is a dangerous thing.”
But another said upon to him: “Hope is a good thing. Maybe even the best of things. And good things never die.”