The Eagles came out of Foxborough with a win, but if you look down the road a little bit, I would say that they actually came away with much more than that.
We all want to win a Super Bowl this year, and hopefully that will be the case, but there is also an argument to be made for keeping the Super Bowl window open as long as possible, and not mortgaging the future to go all in this season.
So let's look down the road a little bit and see how we stand.
We will start with the defense, because it entered Sunday with way more questions marks than the offense. Entering the season, it is fair to say that the team had major question marks about several young players who were put into larger roles for the first time - namely Carter, Dean, Davis and Blankenship.
Let's look at the two defensive tackles. Carter was obviously a stud, earning the highest PFF rookie grade and dominating the Pats backup guards. But Davis had a great day as well, racking up six tackles, a half sack and a forced fumble. More importantly, he played the highest snap total of his career and looked strong throughout.
Another surprising player was Marlon Tuipulotu, who had three tackles on six snaps, which is absurd. Milton Williams had 4 tackles in 33 snaps.
The Eagles had the second-best PFF grade against the run, and it came against a team that loves to run the ball. And it did it playing mostly four-man defensive fronts. In total our dline had 24 combined tackles. The last time they were on the field against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl? The dline had 9 tackles.
So what we are seeing is that the dline, using fewer five-man fronts, is making more plays at the LOS. More importantly, these are players who will all be under contract for next season. We bring back Carter, Davis, Tuipulotu, Williams and have Ojomo on the bench. Obviously its early days, but this group looks like it is deep and dangerous. And, most importantly, cheap.
At edge, Sweat and Reddick are obviously bedrocks at the position. Nolan Smith was only on the field for a few snaps, but I think that was more due to his injury than lack of talent. I assume he will see more work on Thursday. But it's hard not to be excited about this group for the foreseeable future, and the only question is whether or not they can keep Reddick if he has another big season, in light of what pass rushers are now making. Patrick Johnson seems okay as a depth piece, so they have four guys under contract for next year.
Linebacker is obviously a huge concern. According to PFF, all our LBs struggled in coverage, and the tape confirmed that. It was almost like the middle of the field was a vast sea of open receivers.
Nkobe Dean played well against the run, but he was horrible in coverage, and things only got worse when he went out. Zach Cunningham is a black hole. Christian Elliss seems like an okay depth piece. Personally I think Morrow getting called up on Thursday makes is better, as long as Cunningham isn't on the field.
This is a position that we know have more questions than answers at, and long term we need to address it.
Corner is set for a while. We have three good starters under contract, and multiple depth pieces. I am going to be watching Josh Jobe on Thursday, as the Vikings are going to go after him. If he holds up, that would be a massive win for the Eagles long-term.
At safety, we have one position set for a while with Reed Blankenship, who was everywhere on Sunday. And it is very possible we have our starting safety duo set with Sydney Brown. He remains the biggest question mark on defense, and I am hoping we get an answer to that question sooner rather than later. It should be noted K'Von Wallace had a nice debut for the Cardinals.
So on defense our only question marks heading into next year are at linebacker and possibly a safety spot. If Brown turns into an above average starter, we could have the luxury of actually using a premium draft pick on a linebacker.
On offense, the biggest concern has to be something that happened before the game, namely Tyler Steen being inactive. Not only did he badly lose the competition for backup LT, he also seems to be buried on the depth chart at guard as well. This is odd to me since he looked okay in the preseason, and Opeta is clearly a guy who could be stored on the practice squad. So something tells me the team is very unpleased with his development.
I would be a significant amount of money we draft an olineman in the first round next year, and possibly move up to get one.
At running back, Gainwell getting the majority of the workload was a surprise, and I am hoping he has a breakout year since he is the only running back on the active roster under contract beyond this year. The Eagles handling of the position has me confused, but I would guess that we add a guy in the draft next year, bring in a vet for peanuts and hope it all works out.
At TE, Stoll and Calcaterra had their usual, zero noticeable impact on the game, performances we have come to know and love. Albert O seems like a decent gamble for the short-term, and I look forward to him getting on the field.
At WR, Quez Watkins at least didn't make any heartbreaking mistakes, so that was a plus performance by him.
Looking ahead on offense, we have glaring needs on the oline, at third wr (Smith and Brown are the only two wide receivers on the roster who are signed beyond this year), at TE2, and whatever the heck is going on at RB. The good news is that we only have one or two holes on defense, and the holes we have on offense are going to be relatively cheap to fill if we go the veteran route.
Perhaps the best news is that we have a bunch of cap space. Overthecap has us at $54 million, and that number will rise slightly when contracts for Kelce, Graham and Cox come off the books. (The dead cap numbers for those players can be spread out, giving us more money for next season.)
Now, $54 million in today's NFL is a decent QB or a pass rusher and a backup tackle, but we also have three picks in the first two rounds of the draft (thank you Saints). That should be enough to potentially fill holes at LB, oline and WR3.
One question the Eagles have to answer is whether or not they would consider trading a second-round pick for a linebacker right now. If I were running things, and the right deal was available, I would absolutely do that. I think the safety position will work itself out. At the very least, if Jobe balls out on Thursday, we could shuffle the secondary to get him on the field, moving Bradberry to the slot and Maddox to safety. Or we could just play Brown and live with the growing pains, which is the most sensible plan in my opinion.
But there doesn't seem to be any answer at linebacker on the current roster, and with so many other positions set for the long term (especially after the opening day performances of our younger players), it seems like an easy decision to sacrifice a premium draft pick next year for a player who could have an immediate impact this year.