Saying that the Eagles 2020 season hasn’t gone according to plan might be understating the first 8 weeks of the season. In the opening game of the year, the Eagles played the 2nd worst team in the NFL from a year ago. Then 2 weeks later they played the worst team from last year. They emerged from both of those games without a win. Carson Wentz has been mistaken for Jameis Winston on the field on multiple occasions leading to the nickname Jameis Wentzton. What could anyone possibly be excited about in the 2nd half of this season? Why would anyone be optimistic? Well, I’m glad you asked…
The Eagles are a Historically Good 2nd Half Team
In 2018, the Eagles were 4-4 after 8 games. The 2019 Eagles were also 4-4 after 8 games. The 2020 Eagles sit at 3-4-1. Slow starts have been a normative experience for this team. And yet, despite the slow starts and injuries, this team always catches fire down the stretch. In 2018 the Eagles went 5-3 in the final 8 games and made the playoffs. In 2019 they also went 5-3 and made the playoffs. I expect more of the same from the 2020 Eagles. The bye week comes at an opportune time for the Eagles to hit the reset button, get healthy (more on that later), and hit the ground running again.
The NFC East Stinks
The NFC East might well be the worst division in NFL history. In fact, I think you could argue that 27 of the other 28 teams in the league would win the NFC East this year (sorry Jets fans, I don’t think even you could win this division.) The worst winning percentage for a division in NFL History is the 2008 NFC West which ended the year with a .344 winning percentage. Currently, the NFC East has a winning percentage of 0.279.
The Eagles currently have a 1.5 game lead over the Washington Football Team, who is now on their 3rd QB for the year in Alex Smith. Is it likely that a division full of teams so bad can overcome a 1.5 game lead? Eagles fans should hope for a victory over the Giants on Sunday and for a Lions victory over the Football Team that would cause their division lead to grow to an almost insurmountable 2.5 games with 7 games left to play.
Diomedes the Pirate
I know what you are thinking… What? I am a history nerd, so if you will indulge me momentarily (or skip the next 2 paragraphs if you simply cannot). In The City of Gods Against Pagans, Saint Augustine penned the following story that I think is a perfect representation of the Eagles 2020 season:
“A notorious pirate named Diomedes was captured by Alexander the Great and brought before him to be punished. Before passing his judgment, Alexander decided to question the pirate and asked him, “What could possibly give you the right to sail the seas, taking by forcing things that do not belong to you?”
Diomedes replied, “O Emperor, what could possibly give you the right to travel the whole world, taking by force things that do not belong to you? Who made you the king of Persia? By what authority did you invade India? Because I use my own boat I am called a pirate. However, you use your army and your navy, and you are called an Emperor. If you ask me who is the greater criminal, I cannot say. I do know, however, that if I had such weapons at my disposal, I would be an emperor too.”
What does this have to do with the Eagles? Everything! Can you imagine what Carson Wentz could do with the same weapons at his disposal as other QBs? Can you imagine what Doug Pederson could do if he could get any sort of continuity in player personnel?Fortunately, we may not have to imagine for long. Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson are set to come back this week against the Giants. Isaac Seumalo has had his 21-day practice window activated and should return within the next few weeks. Zach Ertz’s initial timeline would put him back in 1-2 more weeks.
The Eagles entered the season with a good offense on paper. Unfortunately, the games aren’t played on paper and that offense has rarely been seen on the field together. Can you actually even imagine an offensive group that looks like this:
That is an offense that could do some damage. Let’s hope we see it get healthy and hit its stride over the next few weeks.
It isn’t just the offense that has been plagued by injuries. The secondary has been banged up too. Avonte Maddox is expected to be back this week and should help provide some stability at the cornerback position. Maddox is, by far, the 2nd best corner on the team. He has proven productive in the past despite lacking ideal size. With Maddox back, Jalen Mills can never play cornerback again which is an obvious positive for the team.
The Pass Rush
If the season ended today, Brandon Graham would have the 3rd highest sack total of his career. Graham, who has never had a double-digit sack season nor made a Pro-Bowl, should easily attain both career goals this season. At 32 years old, Graham is playing the best football of his career and his impact on games can’t be minimized. Fletcher Cox hasn’t put up huge numbers (he never does), but he has been as disruptive as ever. Malik Jackson is set to come back after an early-season injury slowed down his dominant start to the year. Josh Sweat has had a breakout year and even Derek Barnett has had a solid season, albeit more quietly than his teammates.
If this defense is going to be able to play at a high level it is going to take continual QB pressure by the front 4. Through 8 games the defensive line has been fairly good in that department and I look for them to continue to improve as the season progresses.
Young Players to be Excited About
The Eagles have been banged up all season and it has afforded opportunities to some players who would have never seen the field otherwise. Chief among them is WR Travis Fulgham. Fulgham has been a revelation in Philly and truly looks like he could be a long term option at WR1. He should only get better as he continues to get more reps and garner more trust and chemistry with Carson Wentz. Jalen Reagor is back from injury and ready to make everyone stop talking about Justin Jefferson. Miles Sanders is coming back ready to hit the ground running.
For as much as we talk about how old and expensive the Eagles roster is, this trio of playmakers is only an average of 23 years old with an average cap hit of $1.2 million. Regardless of how this season ultimately ends, fans should be excited to have a nucleus of young talent at the skill positions to grow with Carson Wentz.
Was I able to get you out of a rut of negativity surrounding the Eagles? Do you think I’m crazy for having optimism about this team? Either way, I would love to hear from you! Hit me up on Twitter (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL), I would love to hear from you. And be sure you follow @ThePaintedLines for all of our top-notch coverage!